Earlier this week, a friend and I were walking the mall for a little lunchtime exercise, and I started getting nostalgic for a day long past when B. Dalton and Waldenbooks were my reason for regular mall visits. My first encounters with such Sherlockian treasures as The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana and Baring-Gould's two-volume boxed Annotated Sherlock Holmes happened in those stores, along with so many other pieces that remain in my library to this day.
Barnes & Noble came along and killed those two smaller booksellers, of course.
And even in this day of Amazon's two-day shipping, I still like to wander among the books there, just to see what chance might turn up. The new Sherlock Holmes and Henry James team-up was out, though still a little more than I wanted to spend this week. I spotted that in the new fiction section, and, even though I was there looking for a particular biography, I thought I'd wander back to the mystery corner as is my habit.
Only the mystery corner was gone.
Like the sci-fi/fantasy section before it, which gave way to "teen fantasy," the mystery section had been moved to smaller, less prominent digs. It its place?
Graphic novels and manga.
Now, I like graphic novels, a.k.a. comic books collected into trade paperback editions. And they still involve reading, so I wouldn't despair at the illiteracy of future generations. In fact, quite the opposite -- teen fantasy and manga both show that book-buying by younger consumers is stronger than ever.
But seeing both of the two genres, genres that I spent so much of my reading life in, starting to dwindle . . . especially that one Sherlock Holmes lives in, even at a time when he's more popular than ever . . . well, it's still a little . . .
I can't say "sad." Watching the world change with generations is fascinating. Bittersweet? Nostalgia-inducing? I don't know.
And the mystery section is still there. Just a whole lot smaller. Maybe it will make a comeback, once all those teen readers grow up. (Unless those shelves exist due to large numbers of adults with a tweener reading level. If that's the case, get off your lazy-reading butts, tweener-adults!)
And when it does make that comeback, maybe it will be a literary equivalent of BBC Sherlock leading that charge to take back the shelves.