I step into the Dymocks on George Street. I clutch the fifty dollar gift card in my pocket like a sidearm, ready to expel its purchasing power at the first glimpse of a Haruki Murakami novel I haven't read. Usually there are only two bookshops in Sydney I regularly go to: Abbeys, behind the QVB and Kinokuniya, in front of the QVB. I haven't set foot in Dymocks for a long time, but as I'm spending someone else's money I have allowed myself to indulge in a cautious optimism. Upon entering, at least fifty per-cent of my suspicions are confirmed: the Self-Help section is worryingly prominent, and stands carrying the new Dean Koontz book stands beside the entrance like the snarling guardian statues outside Buddhist temples.
Undeterred, I begin with a brief scan of the literary fiction shelves. It isn't good. All the literary bad-guys are here: from kitsch romance novels to the wannabe Clancys and Kings. Wait, what's this? Ursula LeGuin in the Children's Literature section? Oh dear.
Imagine my surprise then when I notice the Philosophy section. At first glance things are looking good: there's Hume, Kant, even Bertrand Russell. From here however the intellectual quality deteriorates rapidly: the following books border on self-help books, and at the bottom shelf (the middle shelf actually: the lower two are empty) are books on astrology. Astrology.
One book in particular catches my eye: Philosophy in Anime. I read the blurb:
Professor of Philosophy at Wisconsin State University James Douglas explores the deep philosophical undertones of Anime classics like Ghost in the Shell, Akira and Cowboy Bebop.
My amused disgust gives way to a familiar pang of regret. I really should have worked hard at uni. Then it could be me sitting in the Humanities faculty of an unremarakble university in the mid-west watching Anime and getting paid for it. It could be me writing a book about it that would delight Anime fans and piss off bitter graduates on the other side of the world with half-arsed Arts degrees. I slink away from the Philosophy section toward the safe haven of the Penguin Classics section. You win this round, Professor Evangelion.
I find some Hemmingway and some John Irving and call it a day. They're good books, but the people in charge here don't know that. All they see are stock lists, and all they think is we need to find space for that other metric ton of Dan Brown we ordered.
I get tired of shooting fish in a barrel, and set off toward Sussex Street for something greasy to eat.
2 days ago