On a recent afternoon, I went to the neighborhood bookstore. It was very hot outside, and I had intended to bicycle downtown to the library, but I biked to a nearby bookstore instead. (Less sweat.)
I was the only one there, as usual.
I seldom find interesting books at this diminutive indie, but I struck gold with four paperbacks: Richard Powers’s Orfeo, Ross MacDonald’s The Zebra-Striped Hearse, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures .
I put the books on the counter. The tweedy rail-thin employee, one of several who take turns frowning beside the cash register, looked askance. Was she thinking, Is she crazy to buy all these books?
But no, I often binge on books, as some of you know. I went ALMOST cold-turkey in July and August and am making up for it now.
“We don’t take debit cards,” she said.
“This is a credit card,” I said pleasantly.
Some people command respect. I don’t.
Oh well, at my age things won’t change.
Although I expected her to go down on her knees and thank me for buying, she took a phone call in the middle of the transaction.
I’m a polite Midwestern woman, and I waited. I must say, there is one very good employee at this store, who obviously was not there that day. Eccentric curmudgeons often work here, and once a very earnest woman tried to talk me out of buying a book she didn’t like, which I thought was sweet. Over the years, I’ve seen the whole spectrum of bookstore personalities: super-polite-to-effervescent-to indifferent-to-melancholy to-impertinent.
The thing is, when I’m ready to buy, I just want to pay and get going.
But I was very happy with my loot, because this is my Unintellectual Autumn, and contemporary books are easy to read. Plus the Betty Smith and Ross MacDonald are supposed to be very good.
And Richard Powers’ Orfeo is on the Man Booker Prize longlist. I’m a big fan of the Orpheus myth, so I look forward to seeing what Powers does with it.
By the way, they’re announcing the Man Booker Prize shortlist tomorrow. Stay tuned…
You’re remarkably tolerant – I would have been having strong words with that counter assistant! But enjoy the books – will be interested to see what you think!
Karen, at times like this I miss Borders. The staff were friendly and helpful, but efficient. I think this particular indie is staffed by a group of friends, and not all feel a strong inclination to be of service! (But there is the one very good one!)
Read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It will take you to another time and place, inhabited by real people, some good, some not so good, but all worth knowing.
I’ve been meaning to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Of course I also have your highly recommended Clayhanger on my nightstand. Which will I get to first?
You will be happy with either but, as an American, you will find that Brooklyn and its people are more familiar territory.
I probably should read Smith.:) I do enjoy Bennett’s books, though. We’ll see… I was very happy to find my old copy of Clayhanger. Since I can’t find anything else around here, perhaps it’s Fate.
Orfeo may be a little too highbrow for Unintellectual Autumn. Luckily, books store well, so maybe you can save it for Wintellectual Winter.
LOL!!! Can’t I call it an “Orpheus cozy”??? I do like Richard Powers, so perhaps I’ll sneak it in anyway. He didn’t make the Booker shortlist, I see. Too bad.
Well, if you’ve got Clayhanger on your tbr pile I would definitely go with that. Apart from anything else there are two other volumes to follow if you love it as much as I did.
I love Arnold Bennett and it might be just what fits my mood. I’ll have to toss a coin.