I’m currently reading a book called My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop. Published by Black Dog & Leventhal, edited by Richard Rice, and with an Introduction by Richard Russo, this fine book is a collection of essays by successful authors, all giving thanks to their favorite bookstores, while they celebrate real books (as opposed to ebooks), real bookstores (brick-and-mortar stores, not online bookstores; independent stores, not chains or superstores), owned and staffed by friendly, book-knowledgeable people. I recommend this book highly to anybody who can’t pass up any bookstore, and who loves the look, the feel, and the smell of books.
On the downside, I can’t help noticing that a fair percentage of the contributing writers are mainly concerned with bragging about their own careers. But authors tend to do that. But writers also tend to be original and entertaining, and there’s plenty of original entertainment in this collection, and plenty of story. Barry Moser gives us a love story. Les Standiford offers a noir detective spoof. Lisa See reveals fascinating history in the background of her Chinese immigrant ancestors. Tom Robbins is as goofy and funny as ever. Matt Weiland has contributed a long poem full of name-dropping rhymed couplets. Two bookstore owners, the wonderful Louise Erdrich and the wonderful Ann Patchett, generously brag up bookstores that are not their own. And so on. All these writers and dozens more show how much they love books and bookstores.
As do I. As do you too, I bet.
Between 1961 and 1983, I worked in eight different independent bookstores. My longest gig was from 1970 to 1977, while I worked as a clerk and for a while as buyer for Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, California. I’ve blogged about that experience before: http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=699981774111452762#editor/target=post;postID=4197990702757511295
Kepler’s Books is back in my mind now, because it was the model for my fictional bookstore, Maxwell’s Books, the scene of my forthcoming novel Hooperman. Yes, I’m being a self-promoting author now. Following the cover illustration below, I’ve pasted the first couple of pages of Hooperman. I hope they whet your interest.…
Hooperman Johnson, a tall, skinny, bushy-bearded man of few words, lived that spring and summer of 1972 in a rented room with a bed, a chair, a table, and no phone over the ’At’s Amore Pizza Palace on University Avenue in Palo Alto, California. It was convenient. Hoop worked downstairs as a pizza cook, earning minimum wage and all the pizza he could eat, which got to be less and less as time went by.
So on Monday, July 10, three months into the job, he wrote a letter of resignation on an ’At’s Amore napkin, put it in his pocket, and walked across the street to Maxwell’s Books. He’d been eyeing the sign in the window for two days: HELP WANTED. They knew him at Maxwell’s. He was there every afternoon, usually straightening and reading his way through the poetry section. He even bought the occasional book.
“Hey, it’s Hooperman!” Lucinda said from the bull pen, a corral of counters where the staff could handle the register, greet customers, talk on the phone, and gossip with each other. Lucinda Baylor was a substantial brown woman with a generous smile and a topiary black hairdo. Like Hoop, she was about thirty years old. She was as tall as Hoop if you counted her Afro, and unlike Hoop, she was hefty. Not fat, zaftig. Tall and pillowy. “Haven’t seen you here since yesterday,” she said.
“The deh,deh,day’s young yet,” Hoop said. “How you dud, how you dud, how you duh,duh,dud…oing, Luce?”
“Day’s young yet. So far so good. You?”
“That sign in the window. You guh,guh,guh,guys guh,got a juh,dge…ob for sale?”
Lucinda shook her head. “Yes, but you wouldn’t want it.”
“Are you ki,ki,ki,kidding?”
“Not this job.”
“Who do I tuh,tuh,tut…alk—”
“Elmer,” she said. “He’s in his office. But really, Hoop, you’re not the type.”
“What does it teh,teh,teh,take to sell bub…bub…bub…b—”
Lucinda rolled her eyes heavenward. “Elmer doesn’t want a clerk, Hoop. Elmer wants to hire a cop. A pig.”
Hooperman grinned and said, on the first try, “Oink.”