Monday, April 03, 2006

Hell is a Bookstore on Broadway

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You know, religion is like a horse race. You can back the favorite, but what does it get you? If your god wins, there's no profit. And if some other god -- say, a long-shot deity from some forgotten pantheon -- cruises over the finish line, wow! Ca-Ching!

Imagine. This kind of opener on a day when Anne is weighing her possibilities of eternal damnation. Cheeky doesn't begin to describe it.

Okay. Another analogy. You get sentenced to prison, and then when you get to prison they throw you in The Hole.

That's kind of what happened to me on Saturday. I had to go to Manhattan, and then I had to go with my husband to The Strand Bookstore. (Our business meeting did not go as planned. Don't ask. It wasn't about goats anyway.)

I detest Manhattan with every fiber in my being. And "The Hole" in Manhattan is The Strand. Take an old, dark building, pack it to the rafters with books, fill the narrow aisles with snobby New Yorkers, and voila!


So I'm crammed underground in this gigantic bookstore's tiny little section on "Occult" (into which they lump UFOs, Tarot, goddess stuff, and Psychic Encounters with Fluffy and Fifi). I feel the predictable upwelling of panic. So out I go onto Broadway, shuffling through the prison yard so to speak. And I get to thinking.

Watch out when Anne gets to thinking.

Suppose Anne's personal hell is to be confined for eternity to The Strand Bookstore? Ooops! Anne didn't get her God-ticket punched, and now she's stuck forever with 18 miles of books and no windows.

Oh, sure, you could spend a pleasant millennium or more reading all those volumes. You might get 10,000 years out of reading each one four or five times. But then eternity sets in. You memorize each and every line in each and every book. You memorize them backwards. You teach 10,000 monkeys to memorize each and every book perfectly. And still you're in that monstrously stuffy store! What then?

I'll tell you what then. I look up in heaven, I see God and my mega-church sister weeping for me (but not dealing out any breaks), and I shake my fist at them and say, "You know what? I wouldn't do this to Hitler! How can you do this to someone, just for praying to a goddess and some turkey vultures?"

And if the Supreme Being rejects this appeal, I'll just sit down right there in that crowded, dusty store. I'll rest my head on my shoulder. I'll fold an arm over my eyes. I'll feel that arm sprout feathers and the floor turn to a tree branch on a Blue Ridge Mountaintop. I'll sleep forever balanced on one gnarly foot, because you'll never meet a buzzard that can't bear discomfort.

I'd like to thank the ghost of Albert Camus for assisting me on this post. Of course he is far more eloquent, especially if you can read French.


Photo: The Strand Bookstore. Many, many, many, many people adore the place, so don't avoid it on my account!


Hecate said...

If I have to go to Hell instead of the Isle of Apples, I'd rather Hell be a bookstore than, for example, a conference call or a settlement conference. Or a shopping mall on a busy Saturday in December.

buddy don said...

tiz one of my favert places only i dont go thar much no more: miz bd hates it too.

Paxton said...

I anti-vote for one of those concert halls where the soft drinks cost two dollars per little cup, and every other person in attendance is a past president of the United States, and the security is convinced that anyone not wearing a suit is a terrorist or will soon become one.

But even that would be infinitely less painful than shaking my fist at God for eternity. Especially because if I was stuck there, I could make fun of things without being thrown out (I think I could endure opulence if I could mock it).

Anonymous said...

Oh Anne, you have no idea of bookstore hell. Picture this: being sentenced to an eternity in CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE, with all that crap like "raising kids god's way" and "finding your spiritual gifts." By comparison the Strand would be freakin Nirvana.

Anne Johnson said...

Extreme logic in this last comment. I hadn't thought of that. SO TRUE! And that Christian bookstore would probably have all Dr. Laura's flapdoodle and Dobson's too. I'd rather do the Sartre thing than that.

Welcome, Paxton. We value your patronage.