So, OK, maybe it's a giant operation that implacably devours all that's good in small-town America. I get it. But, on the other hand, because of its prevalence and the ubiquity of gift cards, it can also be an oasis for a child-beleaguered bibliophile. I, thank goodness, usually get at least one gift card from BN when people are giving gifts. I request them. That way a parent living in Michigan or an in-law in Virginia can buy this poor man, who would buy books before he bought clothes or food (at least for a couple of hours), at their BN and I can spend it at mine.
In the past we used cash. That works as well. But the nice thing about the gift card is that I can't use it to pay for groceries or put it in the general budget for whatever we might currently be in need of.
And the nice thing about the gift card is that my wife is gracious enough to let me go to the bookstore alone with my gift card. (Ah, so many books and so little money.) And this is the real gift, this free browsing time. No child in a stroller pulling books off shelves or proudly screaming louder than anyone else in the store. No children running to the Thomas the Tank Engine play table or needing supervision as they browse through the children's section. The real gift in a BN gift card is this moment: Just me and a store-load of books. That's priceless.
My hour was spent yesterday and I left the juggernaut of a bookstore with The Divine Comedy (Everyman's Library edition, hardcover, with all three cantos [Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso], translated by Allen Mandelbaum) and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen (which is, unfortunately, only available at the bookstore with the movie jacket - something I loathe on all books and am therefore proposing a two-year cap [which is too generous] on stocking and selling such books with such loathsome jackets regardless of how nice said jackets look).
Anyway, I've cracked open The Divine Comedy and am currently enjoying the second circle of hell. C'est la vie. Or maybe, c'est la mort? Anyway, it's beautiful in spite of itself.