Friday, October 31, 2008

Categorize this!

There's a nice, very short interview with author Mary Roach over at Paper Cuts, the NYTimes' book blog. She tells an amusing story about contacting Borders after seeing her first book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, shelved in Medical Reference.

I call up Borders headquarters in Minneapolis and I ask to speak to Guy Who Decides Where Books Get Shelved. Of course, there is no guy. The receptionist asks for the title of my book, she checks a list, and she puts me through to Guy Who Deals with Medical Reference. What I don’t know at the time is that this man has taken a liking to my book. He spends his days with “Healing Your Sinuses” and “Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care.” “Stiff” is high art to him... I fill his voicemail box with a whingeing ignoramus request to be moved to, what, Sewing Craft? Gardening? A few hours later my publicist e-mails me. There is panic in the land. Damage control is underway. “Mary,” it concludes, “please don’t ever call Borders headquarters again.”

As far as I know, “Stiff” is still shelved in Medical Reference. I told this story to a Borders employee a while back. “That’s not so bad,” she said. “We put ‘The Perfect Storm’ in Commercial Fishing.”

Having worked at a location myself, this sounds about right for Borders. Even worse, I'm sure her new book, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, is getting put right up in Erotica. Many of these employees do not and some might not be able to read. That's what happens when you hire teenagers at $7 an hour. Now I know this is not true for all Borders floor staff, or the staff of chain stores in general, but sometimes... (This caused a flare-up recently at Shelf Awareness, so I should just let it go.)

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