April 09, 2004

Week of Loathing (Day the

Week of Loathing (Day the Sixth): B. Dalton Bookstore

Already we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have spent part of our First Annual Week of Loathing (April 4th-10th, 2004) pillorying one mighty American company: Gillette. As such, we were hesitant to excoriate yet another business; after all, we don’t want systematically to alienate every potential advertiser for our “weblog.” Who will pay the bills? We, the crack staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have a hefty rent-check due in a few weeks, and those tepid “blogspot.com” ads aren’t exactly making us the Internet version of Warren Buffet.

Still, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” hold such intense collective antipathy for one retail establishment that we simply must rebuke it in the strongest language we can muster. That store? B. Dalton Books.

We don’t know what B. Dalton’s catch-phrase is, but we’ll be happy to suggest one (free of charge, no less): “B. Dalton, The Bookstore for People Who Are Suspicious of Reading.” After all, even the most casual perusal of your local branch of the chain immediately demonstrates that B. Dalton is a bookstore markedly bereft of, well, books.

In fact, B. Dalton makes Waldenbooks seem like Widener Library. It makes the book section of Tower Records seem like the Library of Congress. And it makes Barnes & Noble seem like the long lost library of Alexandria. In short, it’s an establishment that should be a cover for some kind of drug operation, but miraculously somehow isn’t.

We know what you are thinking, dear reader. You can pick up plenty of tomes at B. Dalton. To be sure, B. Dalton carries all the classics of the Western canon: Tuesdays and Alternate Wednesdays with Morrie, The Idiot’s Guide to Dating, the complete oeuvre of Judy Bloom.

But have you, dear reader, ever noticed how many of the landmark works of literature for sale at B. Dalton come joined with some sort of marketing gizmo, as if the book itself were not worth the price of admission? For instance, there’s the intellectually luminous Klutz’s Guide to Juggling, which offers a couple of square bean-bag balls, in order to start that klutz a-jugglin’. (Thankfully, the bean-bag balls are conveniently well padded, so as not to harm the sundry limited-edition Susan Lucci dolls and porcelain unicorns that usefully take up so much floor space. Or the enchanting display case of Elvis memorabilia: We wouldn’t want to harm that!) Then there’s Frisbee Fun with Your Dog, which comes complete, naturally, with a dog. Yorkshire terrier, we believe. It’s as if B. Dalton is telling its potential “readership”: “Come on, man, if the book gives you too much eye strain (or brain strain), you can always use it as a drink cozy. And who doesn’t want these sweet square bean-bag balls? This purchase is a no-brainer. Which is why we know you’ll buy it.”

And then there’s the B. Dalton magazine rack: Intriguingly stuffed with choices, it immediately proves disappointing to those who aren’t hankering to pick up the latest issue of Black Hair-Care, Details, or Highlights for Children. The only place where we, the crack staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have seen a more pathetic array of journals is the waiting-room of our parsimonious dentist: Ever shuffle through a copy of Newsweek magazine whose cover-story is “Spanish Armada Sunk: Somehow England Prevails”?

The remainder bin of B. Dalton, naturally, is no better. Who the heck wants a soiled copy of a ghost-written “autobiography” of Jesse “The Body” Ventura? Before he was governor! We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” say a collective No Thanks: We prefer our tomes to contain more than three words per page.

There is one section of your local B. Dalton Bookstore that is, however, revealingly full. That’s the “Self-Help” section. And this is no surprise: Anyone caught in B. Dalton has somehow gone astray.

Posted at April 9, 2004 12:15 AM | TrackBack