Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why bookstores are an endangered species

The Dallas Theater Center recently staged a production of Giant. You might recall the movie from the 50’s starring Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. It was based on a novel by Edna Ferber, one of the most successful American authors of the 20th century. I had mixed feelings about the DTC’s musical, not the least of which being I hate musicals. Hate musicals, love opera. Don’t ask me why-that’s just how it is. It seems I’m one of the few people alive that has never actually seen the movie, neither have I read the book. Since everyone I know was a bit incredulous when I told them about it--the general consensus being that Giant is not the stuff of which musicals are made--I began to wonder how it the musical compares to the book.

Giant apparently doesn’t exist as an ebook, but I found myself in the northern ‘burbs the next day and I decided to pop in to the nearby Barnes & Noble. I figured that there was a better than average chance they’d have it, since the Theater Center’s production has been getting rave reviews. Nope. So I trekked back across the frozen tundra to Civilization, stopping at another Barnes & Noble on the way. Nope. I had to go to four bookstores before I finally found it.

One hopes that the reason a major novel by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author was so hard to find is that there was such a flurry of interest that it caught bookstore managers all over town by surprise. Somehow I doubt it. It is, however, beside the point. The fact is, if there’s a book you want to read and it’s not the latest “Twilight” novel, you’ll probably have to order it online. This suits me just fine, as the brick-and-mortar stores don’t carry my book anyway. (They’ll order it for you, though, if you ask.)

There used to be a Borders in my neighborhood before they went under. It was within walking distance, but the one and only time I went there they didn’t have the book I wanted. They offered to order it for me, but if I’m going to do this, why not just order it from Amazon? It’s not their fault--they have room for a finite number of books. I’m actually one of the small percentage of the population that still shops at bookstores. Or I would, if there were any close to me and they had the books I want to read. No matter how much I love books, it’s just so much easier and faster to download an ebook, and that’s what I usually do.

Any thoughts on the future of brick-and-mortar bookstores? Real books vs. ebooks? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The parrot formerly known as Jethro

I have a parrot, a yellow-collared macaw named Jethro. When I got her almost 16 years ago, she was just a homely little baby. Astute readers might wonder how a female parrot got a name like Jethro. There's a perfectly good reason.

When I first brought her home, I had to hand-feed her with a syringe. The care and feeding of a baby parrot is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, and for a while it seemed like I was constantly mixing up parrot baby food. One day I was reminded of an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, an old 60’s sitcom that was in re-runs at the time, in which the Clampett family are in England. A snooty English lady says to Jedd, “I assume Jethro went to Eaton?” And Jedd replies, “Yes ma’am. I reckon he went to eatin’ about the minute he was born.” It just seemed too perfect, so the name stuck.

In most parrot species it’s impossible to tell a bird’s gender without a DNA test. But for years, I assumed I’d made the correct guess for the logical reason that the bird had never laid an egg. Then one day about a year ago my mom, who was birdy-sitting for a few days, called to tell me she’d found an egg in Jethro’s cage. Imagine my shock. We let her sit on them for a few weeks then took them away. The bird didn’t seem to be any worse the wear for her ill-fated attempt at parenthood. The only one that seems to be having a hard time with the sudden switch of genders is my mom, in spite of the fact that she’s the one who found the eggs. She continues to refer to Jethro as “he” and says she can’t be female because she doesn’t act like a lady, although what exactly constitutes ladylike behavior in a parrot I’m not sure.