The story behind You’ve Got Mail was nothing new when it hit our screens in 1998.
The great Nora Ephron and her sister Delia wrote the screenplay (Nora directed the film) but it drew on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László. That, in turn, took inspiration from the 1940 play The Shop Around the Corner and 1949’s In the Good Old Summertime).
The Shop Around The Corner was, of course, the name of Kathleen Kelly’s (Meg Ryan) shop in the film.
Fox Books, the big bad wolf in the story, was a thinly-veiled cover for Barnes & Noble who had recently opened a big flagship megastore In Manhattan. At the time, it gobbled up all the small independent bookstores on the upper west side—a symbol of predatory capitalism.
It’s ironic then that the subject of the film itself – the Internet – gobbled up and (almost) spat out Barnes & Noble.
Amazon was once David but has now become Goliath. And Barnes & Noble was once Goliath and has now become David.
It’s ironic that the hedge fund that owns Waterstones – the UK’s B & N – has propped things up in New York and installed its own man, James Daunt as CEO. And given him the task of reviving the US chain in the same way he revived the UK one.
Giving stores more independence in the choice of books they stock.
Making them more distinctive.
Turning them into Little Shops Around The Corner.
What goes around comes around.