Seven Pillars of Bookstore Customers

The Book Geek: S/he can be counted upon to buy something obscure or with literary underground streetcred (like say Steve Erickson or Kathy Acker) and will spend at least 20 minutes displaying her knowledge in front of a clerk or whoever else will listen. Unfortunately, it’s the clerks who are often the victims, as they have to stand for 8+ hours listening to this. (Variation: The Laconic Book Geek, who is a terrible eavesdropper, often nervous, and will sometimes bail a New Literate/Book Geek out at the last minute. Bookstore clerks who hope to avoid needless conversation with Book Geeks are advised to have a Laconic Book Geek on staff.)

The Former Bookstore Clerk: Unable to find a new job or perhaps wafting in the nostalgia of younger and more idealistic days of starvation, the Former Bookstore Clerk is more concerned with a bookstore’s decor and staff, than the books in question. Former Bookstore Clerks often end up owning their own used bookstores, for lack of a better purpose in life, sometimes harassing other customers just because they can.

The Macker: A thirtysomething (or older) who spends evenings and weekends ogling over the opposite (or same) sex. Not necessarily bad-looking, but definitely missed out on a lot of good fucking during their twenties, perhaps because they spent too much time intellectualizing sex and relationships. Trying to make up for lost time. Has perfected art of pretend reading, which affords opportunities to check out interesting anatomy by peering over hardcover spines. Often equipped with basic knowledge of liberal arts to spawn conversation.

The New Literate: A bookstore customer who has rediscovered books the same way that born again Christians rediscover God. New Literates can be just as passionate in their conversation as Book Geeks, but since their knowledge of contemporary literature is close to nil, they can at least be persuaded to talk about something else. On the whole, New Literates are friendly and susceptible to remembering good book choices.

The Reader: This person will never buy a book and spends time in bookstores reading the latest hardcovers, hoping to remain in the loop on current titles. Often unemployed, sometimes deranged, the Reader is generally benign provided that they have several books and tables to themsleves. The Reader has strange dietary habits, which are timed with the opening and closing of the store.

The Solipsist: The Solipsist differs from the Reader in that (a) he does not read and (b) he doesn’t particularly care about books. The Solipsist often views the bookstore as a temporary Witness Protection Program, a refuge from the rain or the hard realities of existence. He is perhaps fleeing a lover, requires to be lost within his own thoughts, or is looking for an exotic locale to mask his momentary contempt for the human race. The Solipsist doesn’t spend as much time in a bookstore as The Reader, but he can be just as snarly.

Spoilsport Acquaintance: The acquaintance who doesn’t really like you, but who feels compelled to “run into you,” snubbing your reading choice by saying, “I read that YEARS ago” or “That book was OKAY” just as you are about to slide your credit card. Too cowardly and dishonest to acknowledge the truth, Spoilsport Acquintances pose no threat to the bookstore employee, but are considerably vexing for manic depressives. (And it is worth noting that Spoilsport Acquaintaces are often manic depressives themselves!)