Zion’s Babylonian Billboard

Every time I drive through St. George, Utah, whoever’s in the car with me gets treated to a rant spurred by this billboard.  It’s been there for years and it’s hard to miss: it’s almost due east of the St. George Temple, ironically.  My problem isn’t with Starbucks or Ralph Lauren specifically–I consider coffee and name brand clothing to be bad things only insofar as God has commanded us to abstain from them–but for anyone to use the name “Zion” to advertise them is a gross affront to that holy word.  Imagine a store called “Jesus’s Sporting Goods,” or an ad for a restaurant showing a sacred symbol of any religion as an attempt to promote that restaurant.  Anyone should see how wildly inappropriate that would be. 

And yet, here we are: the name of Zion being used to hock things that simply aren’t compatible with Zion.  Now, I’m sure that whoever runs this mall or made the billboard has the geographical designation of the nature park in mind, and may not even be familiar with the LDS Church; furthermore, they’ve probably heard this complaint from many others before.  Still, at least it stands as a reminder to those of us devoted to building Zion of what a careless attitude towards it may lead to: a watered-down mixture of Zion and Babylon, worthless and spiritual in name only. 

But the label game reaches its all-time peak of skill and effrontery in the Madison Avenue master stroke of pasting the lovely label of Zion on all the most typical institutions of Babylon: Zion’s Loans, Zion’s Real Estate, Zion’s Used Cars, Zion’s Jewelry, Zion’s Supermart, Zion’s Auto Wrecking, Zion’s Outdoor Advertising, Zion’s Gunshop, Zion’s Land and Mining, Zion’s Development, Zion’s Securities. All that is quintessentially Babylon now masquerades as Zion.            –Hugh Nibley, “What Is Zion?”

Whither the Classics In Mass Market Paperback?

51M7DGGWF0L._SL160_AA115_I own a mass market paperback copy of The Grapes of Wrath, but only because a teacher who was retiring a few years ago left it on a table in our work room with a note saying that his books were free for us to take. 

I own a mass market paperback copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls, but only because I found it left on the floor after a meeting once, and nobody responded to my email asking the rightful owner to come pick it up. 

I own a mass market paperback copy of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, but only because I bought it a year before Oprah picked it for her book club, after which it has only been available as a more costly trade paperback. 

That last one, I think, is the key to understanding why so many great classics are no longer 41AJfNSRUQL._SL500_AA240_available in mass market paperback and, indeed, haven’t been for some years.  The cheap, durable, accessible mass market paperback started going the way of the dodo, as I recall, in the mid nineties, just as things like $5 cappuccinos at Starbucks were becoming trendy.  See where I’m going with this?  As our society’s appetite for overpriced luxuries reached its fever pitch, we also acquired a tolerance–even a demand–for fancy, expensive versions of things that had previously been more common and affordable. 

Try this: go to Amazon.com and search for “Sound and the Fury mass market paperback.”  Look at the years next to the entries that come up.  Sad.  Continue reading