I’m sitting in a hotel in Corvallis, Oregon and looking forward to the bookstores I might find. I’ve had luck in the state before: Powell’s, in and around Portaand, the Book Bin in Salem, and the Village Bookstore in Medford.
I crave a new bookstore. It’s been a while since I’ve had a really amazing bookstore experience. I mean, like a super good find, like the library of old Phillip K Dick books and awesome book club edition of A Clockwork Orange I found in Billings at A Few Books More, or the first edition of Rosemary’s Baby I found in Bookman’s (Flagstaff). The Roaul Duke (Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego) Rolling Stone magazines from the antique store in Salem, Oregon. Ahhhhh….I love books.
Most recently I spent 3 weeks in Idaho Falls, Idaho. On the bright side, unlike Lubbock, Texas where the only bookstore I could find was a Hastings, I found a handful of bookstores in Idaho Falls. Unfortunately, the best of the bunch was Hastings.
I have nothing against Hastings. When I was in high school and a Hastings opened up in my home town I was psyched. It was like Media Play, books, movies, music…everything I loved. Now, with iTunes and Netflix, Hastings isn’t as exciting. They do have books though. (side note: my Kindle has way more dust on it than my books do….I am quite attentive to my bookshelves).
I roamed the aisles of bound paper and searched for Lolita. I had just finished The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald and in that way where a good book recommends another book by reference, Lolita was recommended to me.
I walked up and down the aisles and found a small variety of books, the most notable a neat edition of Dracula (I have four copies of Dracula but am always looking for a better edition).
Hastings wasn’t enough. I asked a local where I could find the best bookstores in town. She recommended two: Book City (she showed me her very hole-y punch card) and The Bookstore on Broadway. As soon as I could I searched them out.
Book City shared a parking lot with another bookstore, Seagull Book. I noted this as I walked into Book City.
Shopping carts in a bookstore. Promising. So were the rows of books.
I wandered the aisles searching for a short list of authors and novels. Bret Easton Ellis, Anais Nin, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kusher (I have no idea how I heard of this book, or what it’s about, or why it’s on my list, but it is. NPR?) What I found was a lot of non fiction and a fair amount of crap. Hobbies and crafts and religion and mystery and lots of genre fiction. Scrabble dictionaries. Romance, mystery, but all those trade paperbacks that look alike. Like soap operas or “reality” TV.
I found the fiction wall, but struck out on every author I looked for. I browsed the three or four shelves of classics. Clearly, I was in a college town, obvious from the numerous copies of certain classics, like Old Man and the Sea and Tender is the Night and The Tempest.
On the other side of the store were more books. Determined to wrap my brain around the layout and selection, I walked every aisle. I found an entire quadrant of the store dedicated to LSD.
In a matter of seconds authors flashed through my mind: Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe….I went through a period of reading a lot about Sixties counter-culture. Why would this store in Idaho have a bunch of books on acid?
I took a closer look at the sign. LDS. Ohhhhh…that made a lot more sense. I had been told I was in mormon country.
I don’t know much about mormonism. Actually, I know very little, and that very little comes from a South Park episode, so I’m not too confident in this knowledge. I was surprised there were enough books on the topic to fill almost a corner of a large bookstore.
At the back of the store were a few shelves of “antique” books. There were really great looking old books, but search as I might I didn’t find much of any real substance. Really just vintage books. I did find a first edition of The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was the best find of Idaho.
I purchased my book and exited Book City. Immediately, I went next door, to Seagull Book.
Talk about confusing. I entered the store and found a variety of merchandise, in retrospect I remember random clothes (Carhartts?) and a display table adjacent to the counter full of books about Mitt Romney. It might have been by Mitt Romney. I went down an aisle are realized I was actually in an LDS store. Having never been in an LDS store before and not even realizing they existed, and feeling slightly misled by the store’s name, I felt like I had taken LSD.
The Bookstore on Broadway, my last hope for a great Idaho Falls bookstore find. I was early. I waited outside for the store to open. I walked in to the narrow and older looking building with anticipation. At first sight, I held back disappointment. While the store was small, the selection was smaller. I stayed optimistic, though. It’s not about the quantity, a good bookstore is all about quality.
I walked the store in minutes. Again, I struck out on the authors I searched for: Shirley Jackson, Roald Dahl, Jim Thompson. I found plenty of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but just over-published trade copies, no exciting editions. I looked at The Funhouse by Koontz, a book I loved when I was a kid (maybe thirteen) and I thought about buying a copy, but not when I have to pack it and fly home.
The store had a shelf of vintage books, but again, no real quality. I did find a section of LDS books.
Idaho Falls bookstores:
Meh. Might have found fluff fiction to take a chance on. Maybe you should rent a movie instead. Or see if the local coffee shop has a give a book/take a book shelf.
At least I’m back in Oregon. Corvallis, do you have an amazing bookstore?