Monday, May 05, 2008
But A Gullible Parent Is Still The Worst Teacher

While at work yesterday, I got a call from a woman looking for a book for her young son. It's part of a nicely-done and very popular series, stuff I'd definitely get a kid if I had one.

Anyway, I'm talking to this lady on the phone, and she asks, "does it teach wizardry?"

This question could go one of a few different ways, but my immediate assumption is that the woman's a fundie who doesn't want her kid dabbling in the occult. (Of course, the next question would be, why is she even asking about a book called "Wizardology", then?) I answer that I think it has some little game to play, but that there's no actual, like, y'know, magic in it.

Her: "Well I'm looking for a book that teaches wizardry."

Oh, okay, some kind of Wiccan type. Me: "We have some books on magic in the metaphysics section... and then we have books on performing magic tricks..."

her: "No no, I want a book that teaches an 8-12 year old how to be a wizard."

Me: ...

There's a point in some calls when you realize that you can't help your caller. The most helpful thing you can do in those cases is often the very thing policy forbids you from doing. At that moment, the only thing I could think to say was, "madam, you do realize that wizardry isn't real, right? Wizards don't actually exist, magic doesn't work, there is no such thing as a book that teaches an 8-12 year old how to be a wizard. Because it's not real, there's no such thing. This is just a toy, it's make-believe, for kids to pretend to be a wizard. But it does not actually turn a boy into a wizard. We don't have any books like that, because it's fucking impossible. Sorry."

This is why I continually duck shelving duty in the religion section -- the whole concept makes me feel queasy. It makes me feel dirty. All those horrid Sylvia Browne books, the vile Christianist pap, and god, the Secret. Damn the Secret forever. One afternoon I sold a woman a book about magic wands -- which is to say, a purportedly "non-fiction" book about using a magic wand, that came packaged with a piece of wood that it claimed was, in fact, a magic wand. How am I supposed to feel good about myself after something like that? I wanted to grab her hand and force her to look me in the eye, and say, "you know this is bullshit, right? This whole section -- the astrology books, the tarot cards, the books about crystals and witchcraft and 2012 and the books about runes and all the bibles and korans and all of it... it's all bullshit. You can still buy them, you can even enjoy them and seek some meaning from them if you don't take it too literally or seriously, but it's all complete and utter bullshit. I wanted to make sure you weren't just blowing your money on a piece of cheap pine from China and thinking it would actually change your life. Because it won't. It's just bullshit."

Also, it annoys me that we refer to the section as "metaphysics." That's giving way-too-serious-sounding a name to what should be, to my mind, plainly labelled "hocus pocus." Or, even simpler, "bullshit." But then we'd also have to pull in all of self-help, most of the financial section, much of politics and government, all of the "whatever studies" sections, and probably roughly 50% of every other section in the store. And that would make it too hard to find things.

Speaking of awesome kids' books, though, can I just say that the kids' section has improved enormously since I was young? Some of the books are so gorgeous, and so well done, and just so fucking brilliant, I envy the little shits who get to be children today. In particular, the DK Eyewitness books for kids are so awesome that I want to have a kid just so I can buy them every damn one of these books. Whatever weird thing your kid has fixated on, DK has made the best kids' book ever on the subject. This library alone would put one's precious progeny well on the road to being the most awesome kid ever. I myself, as a well-educated 32-year-old woman of the world, want to read all of these books so that I can be a more interesting person. I've flogged at least half a dozen to aunties buying presents for nephews and nieces, and I'm proud of each and every one.

PS: I haven't mentioned the outcome of my big day last week because I still don't know exactly how it's going to end. It went pretty well. We'll see what happens. I promise I'll explain it all once I know how it's turning out.
1:18 PM ::
Amy :: permalink