Posted on | August 9, 2012 | 2 Comments
Here are some finds from my amazing trip to Imperial Books this week. I am definitely in Hobart now: when the owner saw how many books I was buying, he gave me a discount and offered to walk me home carrying them.
On our wander down Collins St I was sad to learn that the previous owner of the shop has passed away. So the store itself has been taken over by some sea changers who have given it an overhaul. No more overflowing shelves and hidden middens of unmarked boxes piled on top of one another. Now things are much easier to access, partly because a second premises in the same arcade houses a separate section for music. I definitely recommend seeing this shop if you ever come to Hobart.
One of the reasons for my visit was to look for old business books. I found some doozies, including a couple of early ‘insider’ accounts of companies like Microsoft and Nintendo. Increasingly I am interested in these quasi-historical mythologising stories of tech-cos when they are slightly out of date. This will become clear with time. It will!
But the most exciting finds were these ones:
To start with, Letitia Baldridge’s New Complete Guide to Executive Manners is a 590 page manual to ensure that the executive is always ‘at ease’. Ms Baldridge was Chief of Staff to Jackie Kennedy in the White House, so her advice seems maybe iconic! This updated version of the book joins How to Improve Your Conversation and Public Speaking in the archive for the dream project I’m preparing on white collar subjectivity and affect. The working title is: “How we became professional”.
This project also explains why it was fun to find so many different versions of What Color is Your Parachute. I bought 3 – the early 90s version, and the 2008 and 2009 versions – to do a discourse analysis. Like the time management manuals I’m studying, with their repetitive, ahistorical tips, I want to compare the different experiences of recession that inflect the advice for job-seekers in each version (there are annual updates for many of these successful self-help manuals). There’s more to say about this, for instance recognising how business self-help continues the original tenets of Dale Carnegie over the decades. It may or may not be well known that his break-out book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, was the result of motivational lectures written during the Depression. As I say to my students, we are in the habit of convincing ourselves that being friendly will get us a job.
And I still can’t believe that I got a hardback copy of Ann Moyal’s Clear Across Australia for $20. This was the moment that I audibly squealed. At a time when the nation is in paroxysms about the costs of the National Broadband Network, this book is a vital record of the politics behind previous nation-building technologies – the telephone and the telegraph. I can’t think of a better antidote to the present.
I am experiencing time differently, returning home. Years ago when I was an undergrad I would go to the Imperial to imagine and explore – to try to discover more books like the ones I was encountering in my courses. This store was one of few that made me feel less lonely in a small town. It made me realise there was a whole world of ideas further afield – way before I had any chance to go anywhere. It’s so wonderful to be able to go back and have the same row of bookshelves make my heart skip with excitement at what I have found, and am yet to.