And Now, a Few Words From a Cat About Literature

To Whom It May Concern:

I am Dr. Lazarus Pinkbottoms, and I've been a shop cat for about 10 years. I'm writing today to inquire about working as your bookstore cat. I pass by your store on my nightly hunt for any scraps of pizza left behind by packs of Bar Cento bros on West 25th Street, and I've noticed you don’t have a sleeping cat in your window, nor any cats lazing on bookshelves for that matter. I hope this is an oversight or you're just waiting for the right cat. I believe I am that cat.

Before my current employer took me in, I managed the bookstore at 1921 West 25th Street. You may remember the store was owned by a bearded man who rarely looked up from whatever he was reading, but I assure you, the nitty gritty business of running the store was left up to me, so he could stare at anything but your face and everything would still run A-okay.

You have a nouveau chic bookstore look and while that's great for some hip youngsters that might come by late in the evenings before drinking craft beer all night, that look is likely scaring away people who can actually read.

I can, if you'll allow me to be so forward, give you tips on how to make your store better.

First, I've noticed your store is cleaner than the previous owner's shop and I'd gladly take the reigns as cat dander and dirt provider. A good indie bookstore should be covered in a light film of dust and the pages of books should be riddled with (my) black cat hairs. I think, with a concerted effort, my hair could cover the top of every book within my first month managing your store. This will add to customer’s sense of unearthing a hidden gem, like an archaeological dig for something that looks like something a smart person would have sitting on their coffeetable.

Second, the lighting: it's too bright. Sure, people want to read, but most people, whether allergic to cats or not, will be sneezing and coughing the moment they walk in. All the more reason for them to find the book they're looking for, buy it, and get out quickly without bright lights tempting them to read books inside the store. The lightbulbs now make people ask, "Why don't I just stay here and read?" while people in the previous store asked, “Am I in a BDSM chamber?” We don’t want people sticking around too long. People suck.

Third, the books are ordered too rationally. This isn't a library! We're not giving these books out for free, are we? We're not a public service letting a bunch of hooligans look at internet porn all day next to some well-sorted books! Get it together!

The books should be scattered everywhere and in no particular order. There should also be a few extremely specific sections where popular books can reside (in big chain stores these books would end up front and center on a table, the hacks!). The specific sections should have names like "21st Century Insufferable Travel Narratives" and "Things That Made The Managers Sad This Year." Now instead of just walking in, seeing a book that everyone's talking about and leaving with it immediately, your customers will engage in the joy of the hunt! A bookstore should look more like a maze than a Costco. People want a good challenge when they decide to shop locally. If it's too convenient, it won't feel like work!

I am ready to transform your store into veritable chaos.

My only concern is my starting salary (half can of tuna twice a day plus any small creatures I find on my own) and that you currently have no errant stacks of books on the floor for me to sleep on. I'm not calling you unprofessional. Don't misunderstand me, please! I'm just concerned that your store is not following the regular indie bookshop protocol. You need at least three stacks of unsorted books blocking aisles at all times. That includes impeding access to fiction, nonfiction, and reference sections. Poetry and religion can be left unblocked since no one will enter these sections.

Also, I'll need a few stacks of cardboard boxes blocking the bathroom and one person on staff whose only job is to pet me and ignore customers.

I've spent years of my life at the previous owner's bookstore, doing my damndest to make book lovers from all walks of life feel unwelcome.

My responsibilities at the previous bookshop included:

-Prohibited children (or anyone else) from touching adult fiction books (laid across books, have had paws-on experience, swatted at customers I personally deemed unruly)

-Optimized pee-per-page book ratios

-Pest Removal or Pest Killing-And-Leaving-It-Right-On-The-Register

Thank you for your time.


Dr. Lazarus T. Pinkbottoms

Dan Wilbur is a comedian and the author of "How Not to Read" (Penguin, 2012)

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