My first trip to London was fun but bewildering. I got lost a lot. When in doubt, I went to a bookstore.
“London is full of Loebs,” I wrote in an email.
If you don’t know the Loebs, you are not a classicist, but anybody can use a Loeb, which is why they’re popular. The Loebs are a series of Greek and Latin classics with the Greek or Latin text on the left page and the English translation on the right. I have reservations about the excessively old-fashioned literal translations, but where else can you find an edition of Manetho, an Egyptian priest in the third century B.C.E. who wrote in Greek?
The Loebs would be superfluous at our house–we have a bookcase full of Greek and Latin books– but I know I’m in civilization when I find them. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw Loebs at Prairie Lights in Iowa City 10 years ago. Just to be in a town where people read classics…I was in a daze. Alas, the store’s stock has shrunk, and the Loebs have vanished. So now I go to the used bookstores, where I find more scholarly texts.
Not to get carried away, but Barnes and Noble could use some Loebs: just one or two to look classy. And that’s not all. My serious advice: the CEO and the Managers of Books (MOBs?) should take a trip to London bookstores. Why not copy the attractive display tables at Waterstones and Foyles? Some of them are even themed. I remember an alluring table of Booker Prize-winning paperbacks at Waterstones. B&N could surely do a National Book Awards table. Right now B&N is in financial trouble: it mostly pushes best-sellers, and, oh yes, they have what I call the Lord of the Flies table: you know, books you read in school. A little more quirky, a little less predictable–it could be win-win for everybody.
ANY OTHER IDEAS FOR IMPROVING B&N?