Are You Really What You Read?

At airports are the books Kinky Friedman once described as the “mandatory FAA-approved reading material.” Get on any plane, and you’re apt to see at least half of the passengers, at least the ones who can read, reading the latest Grisham. For some reason, hardly any are reading The Mile High Club. But for that matter, none of them are reading my book, even if it’s been a best-seller by some standards.

Bookstores are the pulse of any neighborhood. In Buenos Aires, if you’re around the law school, there are lots of books about law. In Villa Freud, lots of books about thinking about what we’re thinking about and trying to decide what it all means. Go to Boca Raton, and you’ll find Carl Hiaasen, Carolina Garcia Aguilera, Dave Barry, and Florida’s other finest writers. In Naples, the shelves are filled with romance novels. At San Francisco’s City Lights, you’ll find poetry. I should be concerned when I go to a bookstore that’s filled with true crime, but I’m usually too busy perusing the shelves there myself to care.

I can’t pass up a bookstore, even if it’s selling books I’m not particularly interested in reading. The culture and marketing are what count. It’s not what’s between the covers that counts, but how the book is positioned and sold. The most compelling prose means nothing if no one buys it.

So what have I seen on the front tables of almost every chain bookstore in Buenos Aires? Books about Nazis, Eva, Nestor Kirchner and his lovely bride Cristina, Evita, Che and Eva Perón, buttressed by stacks of The Secret and Victor Sueiro’s Cronica Loca.

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