Hong Kong Gets Its First Book SuperStore…

Just as this model of the “category killer”, the superstore that kills the small bookstore, dies a messy death in the USA, a Taiwan Tycoon has opened up a huge bookstore to anchor the newest mega-mall in Causeway Bay…esLite. It was a nuthouse…crowds of people looking for books.

About 60% of the titles are Chinese but the bookstore is comprehensive unlike Page One or Commercial Press, two bookstores that resemble the old Kroch’s and Brentano’s local Chicago chain, and Swyndon’s, an old and rather charming English language bookshop.

I found shopping in these old outlets rather refreshing after my years in the USA haunting Barnes and Noble and Border’s far more than was good for me.

But all things must pass, and Eslite passes the Adorno test with flying colors, for it has one and one half shelves of Teddie including the Muller Doohm 2007 bio and the Polity/Stanford Jephcott translations. The critic of consumerism must be represented.

Furthermore, I don’t choose to condemn. The People, as forgotten Illinois poet Carl Sandburg wrote, yes, the people make these megastores into Community in spite of Capital, and furthermore I’ll be God damned and walloped if I criticize this job creator. Parents sit and read to Children. The People yes the People, the Ren, listen avidly to a lecture on western classical music.

Just like the West Side and Waterbury Connecticut in 1995.

In fine, and you read it here first, 2015 will be another Tragic Boom. In 1973, with Britain experiencing under Wilson and Heath a series of phony mini-booms owing to manipulation of the dying Pound, a cover of the Economist showed a man recovering from alcoholic Excess captioned, “not another boom…please”.

I’m afraid for all our sanity since one is on its way. It will be 60% Chinese and 40% Western and focused on North American wealth created by tough SOBs extracting oil from rocks in Canada and the Dakotas, and really weird high tech including:

* Drugs for cancer that constitute Turing machines and as such are able to recognize cancer cell monkey-shines including some of the bullshit going on inside me (which according to one report includes “cannibalism” of all things).

* Three-dimensional printers for as little as the cost of scanner ink-jets today

* Time travel based on the use of historical and archeological data to reconstruct the past

Tragically, we have booms every ten years save in 1935 owing to the severity of a Depression, 1945 for that year was Jahr Null and 1975 because that decade was the apex of the welfare state, which dampened the cycle.

This is probably because as apes we think in base ten, and loan underwriting and countless other counting-house phenomenon bias the system to a simple ten-year cycle. Of course, this is just an unproven hypothesis. I suppose I could sell it absent any rigorous proof to gullible rich men and serve ’em right.

But it means that my “good” years, years in which I learn, are concentrated in the early years of each decade. I read the complete works of Shakespeare in 1962, in 1973 I added color to grisaille in my painting and met the lucky lady who became my wife, in 1983 I ran the London Marathon.

The 1990s were anomalous since I started off with a bang in 1991 with Outward Bound but made the serious mistake of leaving Princeton’s employ.

2003 saw a return to the pattern of raising my consciousness, and 2012 has been a banner year in that department owing to having to deal with aging and disease for a change instead of waltzing, as I indeed waltzed, for five years through Causeway Bay.

That mega mail with the new store was forever under construction during the time I worked in CB. There is indeed something grand and tragic, not only about Joseph Schumpeter’s overrated “creative destruction” but also about construction projects that start out and then go idle because of lack of capital, but then struggle back to life like monsters of the deep.

I sit for a minute, weary from shopping, and contemplate the damage. I’d budgeted 500 HKD and thought only two books, THE FASCISM READER and THE OFFENSIVE INTERNET (edited by mah homey Nussbaum) would leave some slack but no not at all…494.00. OK, it’s not as if I shall “never again” go to this district for that is madness. I shall simply get most of my books at the library which happens to have an excellent and scholarly selection: I am currently reading Robert Hanna’s KANT, SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE from the library and have just finished an excellent book on day to day Canton trade in the 18th century also from the library.

So why did I need more books? O reason not the need, said Lear. If it fits my Excel budget which projects earnings and expenses to year end and which empowered me to keep paying my helper and landlord during the depths of 2011 I try not to second guess myself, for my father once ruined my pleasure in a book he bought for me about big numbers … by cursing the expense.

No, the world isn’t coming to an end for the same reason Wittgenstein reasoned in the Tractatus that “the world has no end for the same reason the visual field has no limits”. The Roman Empire simply became Byzantium and then Byzantium became Turkish Islam. Besides, owing to our piggish sexual appetite, children, new and unspotted souls, keep getting born.

But where I sit is a TRUE public space of the sort that are soon colonized by smokers and cigarette smoking today, my delight in olden times, makes me sick. There is little of this space in Hong Kong.


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