HELLZA GOOD BOOKS?
"Oh, the weather outside is frightful!" proclaims the tinny voice inside the ceiling speakers at the Southcenter Mall. "Lies!" I think to myself. It's actually not too cold outside (compared to yesterday). And I'm trying to read a fucking library book, so I'd appreciate less deceitful muzak.
Yes, I am reading a library book. At the Southcenter mall. And this isn't just any library book...it's "Guilty!" by Ann Coulter! The Witch's book! It was just sitting right there, and sometimes I like to hear the crap the other team is spewing (I inherited this off-putting curiosity from my father, whose idea of a good time is arguing out-loud with Laura Shlessinger).
Oh, there are other, less emotionally abusive books here, too. There are super-steamy black romance novels ("Drama 99FM," "Lies Lovers Tell") yawny Danielle Steele beach novels, Dr. Phil's simpleton screed on parenting and...is that a Pyncheon? The newest Chabon? What are these doing here?
The exasperating organization of reading materials at the Southcenter library sometimes lend the diminutive space a certain ragtag charm. Over in the news section, the folksy, afro-centric "Seattle Medium" shares space with heavyweights like the New York Times, Le Monde and the International Herald Tribune. Below are entertainment magazines from Vietnam and a major Phillipine Newspaper.
But, more often than not, the reading materials on hand at this baffling "mall library" are vapid American brain-drainers thrown together without rhyme or reason. A full wall is devoted mainly to romance novels with just a few serious books by Proulx and Lethem. The teen section is all Sweet Valley High and Nintendo magazines.
The diversity of the people of Southcenter has been discussed very eloquently by Charles Mudede who captured how the mall's mind-blowingly diverse patronage alters the way one sees Seattle. Mudede wrote, "your sense of who you are, of what Seattle means, is instantly obliterated by the cacophony of consumers who are seemingly from every part of the world."
But the diversity at Southcenter does not extend to the reading choices at the Southcenter library. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad there's a no-pressure, state-sponsored readerly respite for folks who need a break from seizure-inducing, corporate-sponsored mall spaces. I think it's great. I just wish they stocked a messier, more challenging collection of American literature, rather than mindlessly throwing together the scrawlings of some of America's simplest minds with a few adept American novelists and calling it a "library."