Books

Borders Books: Corporate Media Heroin in Las Vegas, Part One

Moving into the next decade, we are being endlessly pummeled by journalists and pundits in the media attempting to sum up for us poor saps what the last ten years mean in the larger context – as if the last decade of credit markets gone mad followed by economic collapse needs a better academic summation than: we saw, we spent, we went broke.

A recent visit to a Borders book store in Las Vegas, Nevada, served as a stark reminder to me how much the collective culture has changed over the last ten years, and how the corporate media (and we, as willing consumers) have denigrated the art and craft of writing to the level of respect afforded to a perfume sample at a high-end department store, just another brand of corporate media heroin to be pushed.

Ten years ago it was not impossible or unthinkable to enter a chain bookstore and hunt down the rarest of beasts in the homogenized box store retail jungle: a cheerful and informative clerk who could prove helpful in discriminating between, say, a recognized Hemingway classic and a posthumously published work that contributes nothing significant to the author’s canon, surviving only as an ATM for the Hemingway estate. Such distinctions are important for a literary novice, lest they depart the store with a copy of True at First Light instead of Death in the Afternoon.

In the modern retail environment, with independent book sellers going the way of VHS video, the average book store clerk and cashier is little more than a slave to a corporate brand that hypes not only books but music, electronics, movies, and board games, as if all popular culture is interchangeable, housed under one deluxe, glass-domed roof for your shopping convenience (with the ubiquitous Starbucks or Seattle’s Best Coffee shop on-site for those clueless, caffeine-addled customers who confuse the functions of a book retailer with those of a lending library or a Beat-era bistro).

Las Vegas, where I have been exiled from my native California for the last three years, is a hell-bent, open-air insane asylum in the sand; any community whose revenue stream is primarily taken from the salt mines of vice is bound by any reasonable sociological measurement index to house more than its fair share of fragile and often violent egos.

It takes a certain moral flexibility to live here, a city built out of a mobster’s dream of a hedonistic playground for adults in the middle of nowhere. The failure of the city’s founders and future protectors to install some sort of fail-safe device in the face of a worldwide economic slowdown is reflected in the city’s current unemployment rate, hovering just above 13 percent as of this writing.

Like Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the inhabitants of the town he put on the map do not trend toward self-realization; it should therefore come as no surprise that “full service” massage parlors outrank book stores by a staggering ratio in Las Vegas.

The 2010 Yellow Pages directory for Greater Las Vegas – including the neighboring communities of Boulder City, Henderson, and United States Senator Harry Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, Nevada – lists five full pages of massage parlors, including one page of listings for those seeking what is passively classified as “non-therapeutic” adult massage (contrary to popular misconception, prostitution is not legal in Clark County, where Las Vegas is situated).

Flipping through the alphabetical listings in the Greater Las Vegas Yellow Pages, one happens upon the listings for retail book dealers on page 278, sharing the page with bail bondsmen and booking agents.

The first six book dealers listed are the last retail establishments one would patronize for a copy of Moby Dick unless it’s the gay porn version on DVD, which can probably be found at either one of two Adult Superstores listed as “book dealers”, as well as Adult Supreme on South Main Street, Adult World on Valley View Boulevard, A Showgirl Video on the Strip, and A-Action Adult Books and Video, located in a part of town I would not recommend venturing to without an armed escort.

Continuing through the slim listings for book dealers (three small columns), one discovers a sole B. Dalton Bookseller in Henderson; there are three Barnes and Noble retailers in the Vegas Valley and a Barnes and Noble College Bookstore at UNLV. The only other chain book retailer in the community is Borders Book Shop and Café, represented in Las Vegas by an impressive seven outlets, two of them Borders Express stores.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those box store haters. Barnes and Noble and Borders have their place in the retail market; in fact, many urban communities across the United States only have one choice for a book shopping experience: B&N, Borders, or stay indoors and take your business to Amazon or the aforementioned retailers in an online shopping mall.

This was the choice confronting me one Thursday afternoon in February when I urgently needed some reference books for several long-term projects I am working on (including my monthly literature column for PopMatters, currently on a short hiatus): order the books I need online and pay extra for expedited shipping or jump in a taxi cab and travel the three miles from my home to the local Borders Book Shop and Café in the Vegas suburb of Summerlin and have the much-needed material in my hands before sunset; opting for the latter choice sent me on an unexpected and remarkably unsettling journey into the heart of book marketing, new century style.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Music

Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.

Music

Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".

Music

Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.