I meant to write a rant similar to this months ago about about this bullshit.
I am also just old enough to remember this world, which apparently s.e. smith is not.
Return to the phrase “cheap paperbacks.” This too is critical. The MMPB was meant to be inexpensive and disposable. It was meant to attract impulse buyers. It wasn’t meant to be printed on acid-free archival paper and passed down as an heirloom for generations to come. It was banged out cheaply to be sold cheaply… or pulped if it didn’t sell quickly enough.
These books were not status symbols of the “upper middle class.” They were dirt-cheap popular entertainment for all social classes, and all social classes were tempted by racks of the things nearly every time they entered a retail establishment. Remember that… these days the book aisle at Wal-Mart is a place you seek out on your own initiative. Forty years ago, cheap books were something the store would have tried to sell to you at multiple points, in the places you find now DVDs and candy bars and cut-rate video games. Cheap books WERE the DVDs and cut-rate video games of forty years ago.
Now, grandpa isn’t here to lament that time has moved on, kids. Grandpa likes DVDs and video games quite a bit. Grandpa just wants you to remember that books were targeted for sale to everybody, everywhere, and were not doled out of vaults at country clubs.
Yes. When I was a kid, books were available everywhere, commonly, and very cheaply. Drugstores, convenience stores and many other retail establishments had large and varied book racks. Hard world to imagine, I know, but it did exist.
I remember; I was there.
Now, my family was poor. When I was young, very, very poor. And yet we had hundreds of books. How? Used book stores, trade shops, library discards and similar. My mom somehow even had quite a few books with the front covers ripped off, which I believe were supposed to be returned to the publisher by the retailer.
How she got those, I don’t know.
But the point is that at least post-WWII owning a bunch of books was not some elitist, snobby activity. It was an aspirational and entertainment activity of the lower middle class and the poor as well.