How long does it take for dubiousness to be subdued?
Nobody asks me why I put Al Capone into the Chicago section instead of Law and Crime. They feel he belongs there. Nobody even asks why I do the same for Rod Blagojevich.
One customer, you’ll recall, demanded to know why Leni Riefensthal was in Show Biz. I never did find out where he thought she should go. Or where books about her should go, in any case.
Nobody seems to feel it amiss that biographies of Richard Nixon are to be found with other presidential biographies, in Biography. But whenever I have a life of O.J. Simpson, the Law and Crime category comes up. And that’s been twenty years, they tell me. How time flies when you’re sorting books! It was the crime of the century, as we were told many times, but it takes me a while to realize it was a different century than the one we’re in right now.
There was a brief flurry of concern about my putting Woody Allen books into Humor. “He’s not funny any more, since all those stories about his love life,” I was told. I am quivering a bit about what people will say next July when the books Bill Cosby wrote about family relationships turn up in Humor again. But maybe they will be distracted by that copy of “Getting To Know Bill Cosby” in Show Biz. But where do they expect the books to go, as I mentioned before? Women’s Studies?
It’s all a matter of time, see. No one raises an eyebrow nowadays when Shirley MacLaine turns up in Show Biz instead of New Age. And Eric Gill, one of the mightiest names in graphic design, illustration, typography, and who knows what-all else appears in Art. Nobody tells me, “His work isn’t beautiful any more” though his diaries have been printed with their details about HIS love life. Either everyone assumes he was making it up, or they figure everybody involved is dead by now anyhow.(He was a devoted family man; let it go at that.)
So I suppose all I need to do with this thick, glossy salute to Joe Paterno is set it aside for a while. After all, one day those copies (I have four now) of The Secrets of Making Methamphetamines will be charming period pieces. (Along with the two copies of How To Pass a Drug Test, and the copy of Making LSD.) After all, a lot of those old marijuana books are plain collectibles now. (Did I ever tell you about the donor who passed along her collection of “cigarette” rolling papers?) And those televangelists who turned out to have feet of clay have moved on or put on new shoes, and can go quietly into the Religion section. (Just had a new book on the achievements of Aimee Semple McPherson; it mentions that kidnapping which turned out to be a wild vacation with a boyfriend, but feels this shouldn’t negate her more important work. That’s the spirit!)
We move on to new scandals, and yesterday’s shocking headline is tomorrow’s yawn. The problem for the poor Book Fair manager, of course, is that once the customer is yawning, the price goes down. If I want to sell to the collector who will pay top dollar for villainy, I have to risk shock and disapproval from other passing customers.
Of course, the same customer can disapprove AND buy the book. But that’s a matter for THEIR diaries.