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The Bookstore Strikes Back

Author Ann Patchett on opening an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tenn. at a time when brick and mortar bookstores are considered dead:

"I was starting to understand the role that the interviews would play in that success. In my 30s, I had paid my rent by writing for fashion magazines. I found Elle to be the most baffling, because its editors insisted on identifying trends. Since most fashion magazines 'closed' (industry jargon for the point at which the pages are shipped to the printing plant) three months before they hit newsstands, the identification of trends, especially from Nashville, required an act of near-clairvoyance. Finally, I realized what everyone in fashion already knew: a trend is whatever you call a trend. This spring in Paris, fashionistas will wear fishbowls on their heads. In my hotel room in Australia, this insight came back to me more as a vision than a memory. 'The small independent bookstore is coming back,' I told reporters in Bangladesh and Berlin. 'It’s part of a trend.'

"My act was on the road, and with every performance, I tweaked the script, hammering out the details as I proclaimed them to strangers: All things happen in a cycle, I explained—the little bookstore had succeeded and grown into a bigger bookstore. Seeing the potential for profit, the superstore chains rose up and crushed the independents, then Amazon rose up and crushed the superstore chains. Now that we could order any book at any hour without having to leave the screen in front of us, we realized what we had lost: the community center, the human interaction, the recommendation of a smart reader rather than a computer algorithm telling us what other shoppers had purchased. I promised whoever was listening that from those very ashes, the small independent bookstore would rise again."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 29, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4590 words)

Masters of illusion: The great management consultancy swindle

It's cost the NHS £300m and its practitioners are wielding the axe at magazine giant Condé Nast. But is it all just smoke and mirrors? Ex-management consultant Matthew Stewart recalls his career in the "efficiency business" – and reveals its dark arts
PUBLISHED: Sept. 17, 2009
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2942 words)

Deborah Orr: We feel sorry for abused children. But what about damaged adults?

Educational facilities for children like Sonnex have improved so little under Labour
PUBLISHED: June 11, 2009
LENGTH: 4 minutes (1206 words)

The dark side of Dubai

Dubai was meant to be a Middle-Eastern Shangri-La, a glittering monument to Arab enterprise and western capitalism. But as hard times arrive in the city state that rose from the desert sands, an uglier story is emerging. Johann Hari reports
PUBLISHED: April 7, 2009
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8766 words)

My Elf Self

A writer recalls his time working as a Macy's elf during the holiday season:

"Today was the official opening day of SantaLand and I worked as a Magic Window Elf, a Santa Elf and an Usher Elf. The Magic Window is located in the adult 'Quick Peep' queue. My job was to say, 'Step on the Magic Star and look through the window, and you can see Santa!' I was at the Magic Window for 15 minutes before a man approached me and said, 'You look so fucking stupid.'

"I have to admit that he had a point. But still, I wanted to say that at least I get paid to look stupid, that he gives it away for free. But I can't say things like that because I'm supposed to be merry.

"So instead I said, 'Thank you!'"
PUBLISHED: Dec. 9, 1995
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2921 words)