Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You can't judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it's a smart idea...

About a month ago, someone stuck a DVD and booklet into Miss Prothero's mailbox. The cover was sensationalistic, a roll of money in the cross hairs, a pool of blood, a graveyard. Psychiatry, death, and documentary were all part of the title. I put the package in the recycle.

Last week, the man behind the DVD came to the bookstore. He was an honest, hard-working sort. There was a little bit of plaster dust on his jeans. He wanted to know if I'd watched the DVD. I told him no. He wanted to know why not. I wasn't honest. I said someone got to it before I did.

Then the man explained himself. He had a son, a beautiful ball of energy, who had been diagnosed with ADD.

"They have him on ritalin," he said. "They don't think they can let me see him because they're afraid I won't let him take the stuff."

"My boy's life is ruined," he said. "Just because the courts believe the psychiatrist."

The man and I talked about how quick the world was to diagnose the worst, how pigeon-holed people too fast. We talked about drug companies, the latest anti-depressants and sexiest sleep-aids. We talked about health insurance and medicare and junk food and nutrition and taking control of your life.

The man gave me a new copy of the DVD and booklet. I said I'd put it on the shelf, but I didn't promise to read it or watch it.

Guilt did get the best of me. I opened the booklet, but couldn't get very far. This was not a documentary work. It was a systematic attempt to shape my views, my opinions, my behaviors. It was propaganda, hokum, brainwash, ritalin for the soul.

If the man comes back, maybe we can have another conversation. Something about reading between the lines. Isn't that what every good bookseller should do? Help people learn to read between the lines? Or should a bookseller just stand back and let people believe what they want to believe?

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