Citizen Wausau

A Site About Life in Wausau, Wisconsin

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Movies, Video Games, Cell Phones, Et Al

by on April 23rd, 2011

[Editors Note: We want to welcome our newest contributor Ryan Mullen to the Citizen Wausau cavalcade of good times.  We hope you dig what he writes here about Al Post and his bookstore.]

I guess Et Al’s Read and Unread Books is closing shop.

I remember when this store first opened: it used to be across from the Public Library before it was remodeled- literally where the new parking ramp is. There was a tan brick building there and the upstairs neighbor kept hanging baskets of bright pink flowers on his porch. Pretty much all we had then was a Waldenbooks in the mall. So it was a pretty big deal to get a near mint copy of say, for instance, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of The Mind for $3.25. I purchased my all-time favorite book William Vollman’s You Bright and Risen Angels for $4.25 and have coerced many friends to read it. If you were a teenager with limited funds you would just kind of hope to find good books. And I found so many good books there- it was so exciting. The beautiful antique volumes, the muscle cars of books, were in a glass case by the clockwork cash register and it instilled a great sense of exploration. I felt there might be books in there somewhere that could totally change the way I think about everything, as Orwell’s 1984 had when I was a little punk. Wausau now has one less venue for the youth to obtain subversive text- I can think of no greater loss to our community. I remember when TV sucked and I would read until I could hear the birds.

To be honest, I haven’t really read for awhile. Sure, I’ve read stacks upon stacks of graphic novels, video game text, Facebook status updates, Google news, and anime subtitles…but I seriously haven’t really read an actual physical book, by myself, alone, for some time.  I think I should. I think we all should. Of all the ridiculous things we do merely because people have done them for hundreds of years I think this is an important one, maybe up there damned near the most important. I do realize there are still many, many people still reading. Frankly, I am surprised.

There have certainly been many periods of time where people have read less, but there have certainly been times where people read more- when children could recite poetry. Maybe it is the fault of writers, maybe it is the people, maybe it is technology. I don’t have any statistics, but I’m pretty sure the majority of people have always been pretty dense throughout history.  Look, I’m not going to knock anyone for reading Twilight versus Ray Bradbury any more than, as an avid gamer, I’m going to knock someone for playing “Farmville” versus “Fallout 3”- there is a level of appreciation there that is exactly the same. But I just gotta say that something is seriously wrong with the publishing industry if the best they have, the book that gets their AAA marketing, is a story about the emotional strife caused by a mortal loving a goddamn vampire. Haven’t they read any occult fantasy online forums online since 1991? I haven’t either, but people tell me it’s pretty much the main plot they are continually coming up ad infinitum. Just sayin’. Perhaps that is part of the issue here- but certainly throughout time there have been high and lows of popular creative genius. Unfortunately, even Tracey Morgan is getting work these days.

There are a lot of good books that have accumulated throughout our history, more than one individual could possibly read in a lifetime- and once printed they exist: free from external control and requiring nothing other than literacy to interpret. That is why I think used bookstores have a sort of hallowed role- they purvey and preserve the archives of the literary world. I can guarantee you there are books in that store you cannot order on Amazon. Wausau lost something great that we used to have- we got worse. Let’s get better.

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