I detect no small amount of weirdness in the news that Starbucks will soon be selling Mitch Albom’s new book alongside its coffee and brownies and sandwiches and albums and inspirational spelling-bee movies and marzipan auto parts and precision-guided weaponry and personal lubricants and whatever else they’re hawking nowadays. “Our plan,” says Starbucks Entertainment President Ken Lombard, “has been to start with music, take the next step into film and add books as the third leg of the stool.” That’s the so-called “Stool Plan,” which appears on the agenda at every Starbucks corporate meeting under the heading “Rename Stool Plan Something Less Stool-Sounding.”
That Starbucks has become its own mini-mall/Istanbul street bazaar is something we’re all used to. That it would begin its foray into bookselling with a renowned sentimentalist is perhaps a little surprising — until you look at the demographic who’s actually lapping up those lattes: If you want to catch established, moneyed yuppies, bait your countertop with something they’ll take back to the nest. Who needs the Dave Eggers hipster junior league, anyway? They’re good for maybe one venti crackacchino a day, at best. And with the culture wars where they are, Albom makes a great DMZ: Starbucks can’t stock The Purpose-Driven Life, of course, but Albom can gather misty-eyed secular humanists and full-bore spiritual types under one big green coffee canopy. This country does have a center, after all, and it sells $9 biscotti.
No, what I find weird about this story are the details. It describes Albom’s new book, For One More Day, as “the story of a son reunited with his late mother.” Maybe I’m coming at this phrase a little necrotically, but doesn’t it make the book sound more Poe than Albom? And then there’s this quote from Albom, explaining why he’s decided to shill for the ‘Bucks: “Over the years, I’ve spent many hours myself reading in Starbucks.” Whatever, Mitch: I spend a lot of time reading in the subway, but you don’t see me paying my taxes, do you? But perhaps I’ve said too much.
I think this is a great idea. After I’ve had too much Starbucks, I often start crying. Now, with a Mitch Albom book in hand, I’ll appear to have an excuse. Barista, pull me a Lachrymose Latte, heavy on the Mope Foam.