I do not like chain bookstores. And let me say that I will not even consider pulling that punch, even though most of my own book sales probably came from chain stores (listen to me with the past tense!), even though chain stores can positively serve communities that otherwise wouldn't have bookstores. All that notwithstanding, they suck. I hate the dumbass uninformed booksellers, and the fussy little middle-class-friendly music section, and the DVD's, and the blended coffee drinks and plastic-wrapped pastries and pseudohipsters with laptops and cellphone yammerers and corporate-approved soundtracks. So okay, that's out of the way.
However! I like the remainders. Except when they're by me. And the other day I was walking past B*****s in the mall after buying six $1.29 12-volt VU meter lamps at Rat Shack, and I saw, on the dump bin outside the door, a heavily discounted copy of The Illustrated Directory of Guitars, a giant hardcover book that is really quite awful, full of typos, technical errors, and hideous lapses in taste, but which nonetheless I devoured last night instead of continuing to read a certain National-Book-Award nominated September 11th novel that I nearly threw across the room because one of the female characters was so obnoxiously shallow and cliched and generally phoned-in by the windswept chiseled-jaw author.
Anyway, what this guitar book is, is 480 pages of full color photographs of guitars. That's it! I have others like it, actually. I also have a (quite wonderfully written actually) synthesizer equivalent--The A to Z of Analog Synthesizers, in two volumes, by Peter Forrest. It's just a list: a big, long list. If you hang around in the oversize remainder section of a chain bookstore, you will find books of lists of airplanes, military weapons, cars, cats, china, jewelry, what have you--just hot hobby porno action for anyone and everyone.
Allow me to say that these books are freaking great. Even when they are terrible. There is something about the loving taxonomization of objects, accompanied by full color photographs, that just pushes my buttons. The world is full of interesting things! And here you go, take a gander at them! In my own case, I wish there was one filled with microphones, and one with reel to reel tape machines, and another filled with vintage computers, and hi-fi receivers from the seventies, and obscure insects, and different kinds of chairs. Also I would not mind a big thick book filled with hundreds of artist's renderings of extinct huge mammals. Mastodons aren't the half of it--man, these babies were way cooler than dinosaurs. The Oligocene kicked ass.
Anyway, there is nothing quite like the experience of knocking back a couple of brewskis and absorbing whole branches of human endeavor in photographic form, noting the subtle differences among objects, the "limited editions," the failed experiments, the popular and the obscure, the lovely and the ugly. I might have to walk slowly past a chain store again tomorrow.