So today, while she and Michaela perused the Young Adult section, which, if you haven't checked lately is almost exclusively packed with vampire and immortal romances, I sought refuge in the Literature section.
Sadly, though, my Literature section has been, long ago, combined with the general "Fiction" category.
Some of the great works, the ones I ache for Samantha to discover someday, are lost between so much dross. I started to keep a running list of the pain:
John Steinbeck is shoved in a little space amid Danielle Steele and Nicholas Sparks.
Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward snuggled up against the works of Sister Souljah.
Emma and the Vampires sits to the left of Ulysses.
Victor Hugo's masterpieces take up a small portion of a shelf mainly devoted to the "timeless" works of Stephen Hunter.
Annie Flagg (of Fried Green Tomatoes fame) precedes Flaubert's Madame Bovary, followed by shelves and shelves of Ian Fleming.
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, meet Bret Easton Ellis' Glamorama. I'm sure you two have much to talk about.
Kate Chopin would pitch such a wonderful fit to see her shelf space filled primarily by Tom Clancy and Mary Higgins Clark books.
And Michael Connelly's works probably don't realize how close they are to Conrad's Heart of Darkness, I suppose.
Charles Dickens, meet Eric Jerome Dickey. I'm sure 100 years from now one of you will still be on the shelves.
Here's a favorite run of titles: Get Lucky, Don Quixote, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay .
Jane Austen, here is David Baldacci. Jane Eyre, meet The Lucifer Code.
Yes, I am a literature snob. I want books that have stood the test of time, that speak beyond their own time and pull us back to images and meanings of humanity that change the way we think, to have a place of honor on the wall, grouped together for the curious reader who may not know, but wants to find out, what all the fuss is about without having to claw through so much drivel and flash.
I love modern fiction as much as the next person. Amy Tan, publish a new book of fiction already. Sherman Alexie, I still read you and think of the tongue-tied moment of stupidity when I got to meet you. Tim O'Brien, I can't go to the bathroom in a bookstore or library without thinking about that talk I attended -- thanks. Keep writing. I will keep finding you.
But even my modern fiction heroes would, I hope, agree that there is a profound difference between what bookstores categorize as "Fiction" and "Literature" and the mash of the two is jarring and a just a little painfully ironic.
Yes, we can get into all kinds of arguments over who will decide what should be classified as literature and what criteria we should use, but even that discussion would be a welcome distraction to things as they now stand, with no one any better than anyone else, because everyone is special (and beautiful in their own way. . .).