There is a smell that lingers on the ground floor, seeping up from the basement below. As one descends down the stairs the source of the odor is clear.
Piles flat on their backs, prostrate, waiting.
Down in the basement people move and the crowds ebb and swell according to no pattern or fitting any theory. Around them, surrounding them, are the books. It is not a bookshop like other bookshops where books a carefully classified and technical books delving deep into the topological mathematics or modern algebras are rare if never seen next to the Proust and Derrida by even a bookshelf or a room if even in the building.
Here, the stars of the show are not Proust, Vonnegut, DeLillo, or Kipling. The stars of the show are the tech books. There is only one small book that looks like it could be consumed in a sitting, Walter Rudin’s little book, “Baby Rudin”, The Principles of Mathematical Analysis, sitting at only 342 pages, will taken an intensive year to complete and furrow out everything it has to give.
Thousands of books surround it, all waiting in deadly silence to appear unassuming and then bring pain, or just strike from the initial sight and grow in size like a puffer fish to make Freshmen quiver.
These books kill.
That odor that rises from down below, appealing to all who love books, is a false scent released by the most deceptive of books. But worst of all, they all tempt the few who do love books. These are the people that do not flinch from the size of a textbook, but instead rejoice at the amount that they will learn. All around is knowledge not found in an ordinary bookstore, knowledge that other people are paying thousands of dollars to learn, and if, only if, it was possible to do it alone, one could learn even more.
Hundreds of dollars pile on top of hundreds of dollars that quickly go to the credit card and the receipt slips into a protective cover with the warning, not reminder, that these books will only be returnable in a week for full price. There is never enough time in the first week of classes to really sit down and absorb what a monumental task was undertaken when selecting more textbooks to read so the books will forever be there. Sitting on the bookshelf they will forever stare at their owner with the audacity of proclaiming failure. Failure that could be erased if the owner would just read a little more, but that is asking too much.
A maiming is achieved.
The kill, that’s easy. Tiny font, serif that bleeds one letter into another, and so filled with jargon that notes have to be kept on terms but the terms slowly become contradictory when Derrida enters and starts introducing antonyms and positives and negatives and as the coffee is chugged at a greater rate at the final moments of the semester the reader can soon take a step back and look down at the pattern forming from the spaces and the letters outlining the final purpose of the books, a giant finger staring up off the page.