Sunday, August 3, 2008

Breaking Dawn Party

Last night we had a wonderful book release party for Breaking Dawn, the forth novel in Stephenie Meyers' series of young adult vampire romance novels. Honestly, I could care less about the books themselves. It's not my thing. I mean, nowadays, you have to be undead to be popular in a book. I like my main characters to actually be alive. And have some sort of a tan. But the girls all went nuts over it, wearing their costumes and t-shirts and the like. What impressed me the most was the individual efforts of all the employees at the Borders I work for. Everyone (it seems, except me) worked amazingly well to put on a party for the people that were there. I hope they won't mind me giving them kudos here, cause they deserve it. Everyone put the pieces in place. Brad thought carefully about putting a soundtrack together to put on the sound system, and did a great job in capturing teen angst with the romance that must necessarily come with it. Della deserves a medal, for her fortune telling skills that started at the Harry Potter events have carried over, and she had people waiting in line for her even after the book came out. She had to think on her feet for hours, giving "fortunes" out and counseling people. I've never been so impressed with an activity at any event I've been to than hers. We had our bouncers that could silence the crowd with a holler (and Stephen is used to doing that, having worked with church groups..etc..), and Jess and Stephanie worked those debates around subjects that could have gotten a little touchy. But also I was impressed with the corporate office, for planning a party that actually worked really well. I commend them for being able to know what events would draw the crowd into the event, making them as enthusiastic for a book as they would be for a Jonas Brothers concert.

A couple of things I'd like to note, as I was searching the internet this morning for ideas for the third Eragon book coming out this September (20th). A blog I saw noted that the hype for this book seemed manufactured, as if the book companies were trying to capture the essence of the Harry Potter phenomenon. She noted from people she talked to that the crowd was maybe 1/4th of the crowd from the last Harry Potter. And people got upset with her for saying it. The comments were highly critical. But when you look at the events through the eyes of a businessmen, those two things are exactly what you'd hoped for. Yes, there is a need to capture the essence of HP and bring it forward, to continue the love of reading and the event planning that goes with it beyond just Rowling's work. And while the crowds might not be as large, it makes sense, to have picked out 3 to 4 books a year that might garner 1/4th of the crowd of an HP party, and to boost revenue by that much. In these economic times, this is an essential part of the business done outside of the holiday season. It's what Gamestop does for the Madden games, or GTA4. And it works. Because if you can convince people that it's just not a book, but an event, then they will come, and spend money at the cafe, and spend money on other books, and nicknacks, and it will increase profits while getting children or adolescents to read, which will insure the bookstore profits for years to come. It's not a bad thing, it's good business.


I talk about a lot of things on here. Business, philosophy, books, etc... and I don't really go into my private life all that much (mainly because I don't have much of one.). I think that when it comes to what I've been doing recently, it's been getting up, eating, going to work, coming home, going to bed...repeat ad nauseum. And sometimes work gets me frustrated, that responsibility and happiness seem to always be at odds with each other. I sometimes feel that if I just stood at the registers and didn't make any decisions other than run the programs that are normal for a retail worker, then I would be happy . Because the peons don't have to decide, they just have to "do," like the drones on a Borg ship. But the goal in life is to climb that power pyramid, to attain responsibility, to become a part of something bigger than yourself. And that's what I want to do at Borders, to help people find joy in reading, to make a profit for a company I believe in (whether other people do or not), and to enjoy myself while I'm doing it. But sometimes it gets hard, for whatever reason, and I find myself wondering if just scanning groceries would be better. And I know that's not true. It's what the Buddhist monk said in the Monkees' movie Head "for where there is clarity, there is no choice...and where there is choice, there is misery." To be able to make decisions, to have any type of responsibility at all, makes it harder to just "do your job" and to not have any stress about it. But to just "do your job" is not enough, not for me anyway. I want to make the Children's section beautiful, an event, as it were, for families to shop and to enjoy themselves while they are there. I want to see the store clean and ready to have readers come in and browse the shelves with confidence that they can find the inspiration they're looking for, especially in these times. But all those desires cause stress, because often, in the reality that naturally comes with working a retail job in these times, nothing can be perfect.

Why am I saying all this? Because there has to be something more. And this is going to sound cliched, and goes back to time immemorial. I think of Voltaire's Candide when, at the end, they must till their gardens, and that true happiness can never be found. And while I see the logic in this, I have to reject it. If one must search the whole Earth over to find happiness, and fail in his attempt, then let it be so, for it is the journey that is important, not the end result. And further in Goethe's Faust where the doomed doctor wishes for knowledge, and in searching for power and happiness in every form, he finds that the one thing that tethers him back to reality is the love of a girl. We must work, we must search, and toil, and strive, and never yield (thanks Ulysses), and even if we never find happiness, if we never find love, then so be it. But it will be in the journey that we construct a life for ourselves. And in the love that we give, may we find that we have given someone else a moment of happiness to carry themselves on. We have to carry on. It's all we can do. But that is enough.

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