Updated: Jun 24, 2018
Oxford World's Classics
Recently, I've been working on my novel The Bookstore Hobos, and I've amused myself by adding a minor, yet impossible, detail. There's a scene when two of the characters are perusing the James Joyce section. One of them, having previously noticed one of the B&N's giant posters for Ulysses on the wall near the bathroom - "The Modern Library's #1 Novel of the Twentieth Century" - takes a copy of the novel from the shelf. As he turns the thick paperback book in his hands, he notes that a quote on the back claims that "Ulysses is a novel to end all novels."
What's impossible in a scene like this? Well, I based the version of Ulysses that the character picked up on my own personal copy - a copy which came to me viaabebooks.com that was originally published in England. The scene in The Bookstore Hobos is set in Seattle, Washington, so it seems impossible, or at least improbable, that they'd be selling an English printing of the book in a store that only sells new books. There is an American printing of the Oxford World's Classics version of Ulysses, but it doesn't feature Harry Levin proclaiming it as "a novel to end all novels." The biggest quote on the back of that version is Gerry Dukes exclaiming "this is the one to buy."
If you'd like to find out more about my novel-in-progress, I posted a 23-word excerpt on my Twitter account. UPDATE - December 5th, 2010: Last week I was in a Barnes & Noble in Paramus, NJ and it was humongous. They had a large selection of used books in the store, which I had never seen in a Barnes & Noble before. It was so tempting that I couldn't resist buying a copy of Notes From The Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky for $3.50. After the experience, I remembered back to this blog post, when I commented that Barnes & Noble doesn't sell used books. Apparently, some of them do. Despite this fact, I'm still proclaiming the scene in my novel to be impossible. First of all because it is most likely that the Barnes & Noble in the novel is like 99% of the Barnes & Noble stores I have gone to and did not feature a used section; second of all because, even if for some reason Zaid fails to tell you about about the used book section as an unreliable narrator, that doesn't change the fact that they were upstairs in the fiction and literature section where they were selling new books and not old versions from England. On a related note, I read a 10-minute excerpt from The Bookstore Hobos at the "Writers on the Rise" event hosted by Centenary College and Warren County Community College (page_8) , and I appreciated the audience's laughter and applause.
Seven years after this blog post was written, The Bookstore Hobos was published in theEunoia Review. After numerous revisions, the 90,000 word novel was abandoned, only to be resurrected years later and recreated from scratch as a novella. Now for the first time, the world can read the story of story of Zaid Mohammed--novice philosopher, apostate Muslim, and, most recently, bookstore hobo. He quit his stable office job in too much haste and finds himself sleeping in his aunt's garage in New Jersey. The bookstore seems like his only haven, but New York City is beckoning him to experience the real world beyond his books, discover his future, and finally finish his philosophical treatise. If you're reading this blog, you've probably been a bookstore hobo yourself, so of course you'll want to read The Bookstore Hobos.