A Wonderful Paradox of Choice at The Strand Book Store
When we walked into the Strand and saw the spines of multi-colored books aligned into the distance like the vertabrae of a Jurrasic fossil, I felt the regret of having traveled to New York with only carry-on bags: There would be no way to fit in the books we were about to buy. Luckily the Strand is well prepared and offers, for a nominal sum, handy tote bags emblazoned with cats and the store’s mantra: “Where Books Are Loved.” We now had our carry-on personal item.
I had mistakenly been led to believe that the Strand was a clearinghouse for books and had expected to find in it books piled on tables like clothes in a discount bin. What I found instead was a bright, well-arranged, multi-leveled store filled with a mix of new and old books and teeming with attendants in horn-rimmed glasses to help guide you to whichever book you desire. My problem was less one of search and more one of decision: I literally* did not know where to begin, the fortuitous paradox of so many good choices. I settled into the the well-stocked fiction aisles and made my way down into the basement to try my hand at enlightenment, picking up along the way a two volume out of print, library-ready, hardcover of The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham.
In the age of convenient online retail shops that promise delivery within two business days there is something that cannot be matched in the experience of walking out of a great bookshop with an armful of ready to satisfy books.