Bye Bye Borders

November 30, 2009 at 22:43 (1)

On my way to the airport today, I stopped in at my agent’s, to go for a meeting at Harper Collins with the publishing team of my adult books. At the tube station near my agent’s office, there was a Borders shop which is in the process of closing down. I normally popped in there whenever I went to visit my agent, as I usually get out to his neck of the woods a bit early and have a few minutes to kill. Today will probably be the final time that I get to look around there. I’m not sure if the store’s closure is related to the troubles which Borders have been having recently (they went into administration last week) or if it was scheduled for closure already. Either way, I felt oddly morose wandering around the store, looking at all of the money off signs, books going for sale cheap, and empty shelves where some stock had already sold out.

The thing is, I LOVE books. I don’t think I say it on here that much, as I kind of assume that most people reading this blog feel the same way I do. But, just to be clear, I LOVE books. I don’t read as much as I used to when I was younger, mainly because of the amount of time in a day that I spend writing or editing — I actually probably spend longer in the realm of the literary imaginative zone these days than I did even when I was reading a hundred books a year, but most of that time is now spent on my own books, whittling new stories into shape rather than simply enjoying the hard work of others. (And, no, it’s not something I really regret — it’s more fun being a reader than a writer, but to be able to create the sort of books I used to once only dream of being able to create… well, the trade-off is more than acceptable to me.)

Now, I love other things too — music, comics, movies (especially movies!!), art and so on. But I don’t work in any of those fields, so they don’t matter quite as much to be as books. I’ve seen way more movies than I’ve read books, and have stored away far more knowledge of the history of movies than I have of literature (I’d be a great phone a friend on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire if it was a movie question, but only an average friend if it was a question about books). Yet books remain my greatest love. I love the individuality of the reading experience, the way YOU get to imagine the world all for yourself, the way YOU get to decide how characters look and sound and smell and smile. It always bemuses me when fans complain about actors in a movie not looking like how they pictured them — because every fan pictures them their own way! It’s probably the best thing about reading — no two fans ever read a book exactly the same way, or put it together inside their heads the same way. And that’s so incredibly cool and unique!!! People interpret paintings and movies and computer games in different ways, but they’re all viewing them the same way, receiving and decoding the input the same way. That’s not the case with books — two people will read the exact same chapter, but put the words together in their own, unique, individual fashion. If you could take people’s thoughts and project them onto a screen, a book with a thousand readers would produce a thousand different interpretations.

I used to haunt book stores in my teens and when I was at university. Second hand book stores were my favourites — I’d spend hours trekking around the aisles every week, scouring the titles, looking for gems, sometimes taking a chance on a book I knew nothing about, simply because I liked the cover or title or book blurb or cheap price!! I remember selecting The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr one day because it had a picture of a topless woman on it, and I thought it would be fun to have such an explicity cover for my shelves!! I had no real expectations of the book — in fact, with such a lurid cover, I expected very little of it. To my delight, it blew me away — I’d probably even put it either in my Top 10 books of all time, or pretty damn close. I got that in a store in Limerick which has long since closed down. Most of the stores I used to frequent 15 or 20 years ago have closed, both in London and Limerick. They exist now purely as memories, having long since been replaced by bagel shops or cafes or hairdressing salons — places which are all well and good in the grander scheme of things, but when is the last time a bagel shop ever spun you off wildly into dreamland or made you feel like you’d lost a close friend when you walked by one day to find a CLOSED sign in the window?

I always feel a little pang of loss when the world loses another book shop, especially in this day and age, where it’s harder than ever for stores to survive. I think the internet will take the place of books stores eventually, as younger readers grow up reading from a screen, and form the same sort of attachment to digital books that readers of my generation (and all those who’ve gone before me) have for books in their paper form. Ultimately the words are all that matter — it doesn’t matter if a story is printed in a book, downloaded onto an e-reader, or carved in stone. But you can’t help feeling a close attachment to the form you’ve grown up with, and that’s why I always feel a bit down when one of the stores from my past goes the way of the dinosaurs — it’s like a block has been removed from the wall of my life, and from this point onwards, there will always be a hole whenever I look that way.

So, in short, Bye Bye Borders. You served the world well, and I’ll miss you. Even in death may you be triumphant!!!

4 Comments

  1. branmore1 said,

    I know I am petrafied of Bordrs going Away in USA I hate Barns and Nobel’s

  2. purpleduck560 said,

    When I saw the moive poster of The Vampire’s Assistant, I thought that Larten Crepsley is thinner in the book. But Darren Shan is just the way I thought when I read the book.

  3. Robbie said,

    I prefer paper books, but brilliant blog there Darren Shan, I thought. Please keep up what I view as good work by writing more soon please!!! Shanville Monthly up now- yay! 🙂

  4. Zoe said,

    Good blog Darren, as usual!

    I just got the book Hells Heroes. I am sooo exited to read it. I am a little upset that it is the last book, but i’m sure that I will get over it. I’m also reading ‘The City’ it is a good book too, but not as good as the Demonata series.

    Cirque Du Freak looks good, but you know what sucks? It stopped playing at the movie theaters in my city, I was going to go see it on my birthday but I was to busy.

    I see what you mean about the way that people see characters differently, My friend thought that Kernel was white but I kept telling him that he was not. It gets annoying sometimes!
    The same friend also thinks that you are German! How strange.

    Keep on writing Darren!

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