Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Livin' in a Book Nerd's Paradise

If there is one place in the world that feels to me like Disneyland for grown ups (but without the restrictive rule to keep "cast members" wholesome looking), it has to be Powell's Books . We Americans are all too prone to speak of everything we do in superlatives - it's always "the biggest" and "the best" with us. And, frankly, often when we say these things, we're just talking out of our asses. In the case of Powell's, however, I can quite honestly say that Powell's City of Books , the company's 68,000 square foot flagship store in downtown Portland truly is hands down the best bookstore I have ever visited, which is saying a lot, considering my affinity for such vendors. When I was younger and travelled more, it was my policy to always buy a book as a souvenir, so I don't think I've ever travelled anywhere without checking out a city's bookstores. So far, however, I haven't found any that can hold a candle to Portland's beloved Powell's.

Open 365 years and staffed by people who not only know, but love books, Powell's has just about everything a person could want in a book shop -new books, used books, rare books, books about books, authors talking about books, and a cafe where you can take the books and read or conduct the inevitable reckoning, that comes when you realize that you've amassed a dozen or more irrestistable tomes in your basket and can really only afford to take home a few. What more could a person ask for?

The only thing that would be better is if they'd just let me live there. I promise I'd be a good roommate - not at all like that crazy roommate I had in grad school who was diagnosed as borderline psychotic (and who I might add had a gun) or the other weird one who would take my milk and eggs out of the refrigerator and just leave them on the counter in the summer heat in order to make room for her giant vats of kimchee. I wouldn't do that to you, Powell's. I'd buy my kimchee in small containers so there would plenty of room left for your stuff, honest.
I think I could be quite happy having over 1,000,000 books at my fingertips whenever I wanted, but do you think the Powell's people would even offer me a cot in the corner? No!

Oh, well, I guess it's for the best. I'd probably be so giddy with literary glee that I'd stop sleeping and develop insomnia brought on by my nerd brain constantly racing to figure out which of the jillion books to read next. So I guess I'll just settle for visiting, otherwise I could end up OD'ing and find myself strung out on Kafka and Nabokov as I sleeplessly wander a lonely Blue Room late at night muttering memorable passages to the air.


Anne said...

The only place I can think of that could challenge Powell's in a literary death match is the Strand in New York- although, truth be told, I haven't been to either in a few years. Thanks to estate sales, I got some fancy Rilke books when I was in college in NY which I have carried with me whenever I moved. Thanks to Powell's, I found a new favorite author while strolling around in aimless glee: Karel Capek (War with the Newts). I also saw a woman with a Powell's bag in Boston and wanted to talk to her about how great it was, but the bus was too full. I can't figure out why Boston doesn't have anything like it.

Martina said...

Ok, how big of a nerd am I that if there were a show called Literary Death Match, I would TOTALLY watch (even despite my general disdain for reality t.v.). Oh, literary death match! That almost takes me back to the days of Kevin and Derrida duking it out on the Humanities Office Building bridge as they pummel each other with opposing copies of Grammatology and Critical Theory Since Plato.

I have never been to The Strand or NYC (except a few hours in JFK once), but knowing it exists makes my desire to visit the city burn that much brighter (as if it didn't have enough interesting sounding stuff, even without being home to the East Coast Literary Death Match rival!

Karel Capek, huh? I will have to do some searching. You've traditionally been a good source for fun stuff to read!