Bookstores on my mind

Bookstores on my mind | Mary Lee Writes
Bookstores have always been a place of awe for me. Perhaps it’s the representation of the thoughts and dreams of so many writers, the philosophical differences represented, or just the pure joy of perusing titles and deciding on my next choice. In the days before digital books, I seldom left without four or five selections.

I visited our son, John, several times when he lived overseas, and I would take along several books for the flight. I wanted to avoid the panic of finishing one and not having another to begin reading. Once, landing in Atlanta after a flight from Paris, I was approached by a man who asked if he could speak with me. He commented that he had observed me throughout the flight. He had been seated behind and to the left of me and said he had never seen such a voracious reader. I had never thought of myself in those terms and have not forgotten his words. The chilling part was that I had been totally oblivious to the fact that I was being watched. I thought if he had been that bored he should have taken a nap.

I was first introduced to the work of Ian McEwan by John in a bookstore in London. I never see his name or read one of his books that I don’t remember the pleasant day with our son. The book I purchased that day was one of his early ones, The Child in Time.

Being an only child raised in a household with four adults, reading was my salvation from loneliness. I don’t really understand how I acquired the habit, as I don’t recall my parents reading to me and certainly not my grandparents. I remember my mother having subscribed to the “Book-of-the-Month Club” and my father reading a lot of Saturday Evening Post magazines; however, I don’t think of either as serious readers.

When I first visited the Rizzoli Bookstore, then located on 57th Street in New York City, I felt a sense of reverence for the beautiful building and displays. I went upstairs to look at the CD’s and selected a recording by a favorite female opera star. It was nice to have the reminder of that lovely afternoon. Rizzoli has now relocated (to NoMad, as the neighborhood in the mid-20s around lower Broadway and Fifth Avenue is now known) and is open once more. They closed after their lease ran out and were told the landmark building would be demolished.

When I visited John in Menlo Park, Calif., he introduced me to Kepler’s Books, a comfortable place to visit and a friendly atmosphere. Chairs are always a welcome sight as an invitation to relax, and I went there often during my visit. They had a posting of staff’s favorites that never failed to entertain.

The Booksellers at Laurelwood, formerly Davis-Kidd and located in Memphis, is a favorite place for lunching alone and taking a break from the day’s events. One particular evening, our daughter, Mary Kathryn, was invited to a party during the holidays. It was the same evening John’s flight was due to arrive. There were a couple of hours between dropping her off and meeting John at the airport, so I spent my time at David-Kidd. It was a safe haven on a cold rainy night in December.

My friend from childhood, Mary Ann, was very ill, and I wished to visit her. I was in Los Angeles with a Charlott Jones travel group, and I decided to miss the trip to the wine country, rent a car, and drive to Newport Beach where she lived. Her husband, Sam, had given me the best time to arrive, and I was way too early. I remembered Fashion Island from a previous trip. I stopped there where I found a bookstore, lingering there until time to go to their home. It was a Barnes & Noble, long before we had one in Jonesboro.

Just this past April, three college friends and I were in Kansas City. We were in the Country Club Plaza area, and I tired of shopping. I spotted a Barnes & Noble across the street from our parking garage and told them to text me when they were ready to go to the car. I had a great cup of coffee and enjoyed my time – with a book for company.

I have joined the digital age as I read a lot and, when I downsized, John and his husband, Arif, took hundreds of books to the Library. I had already given away sacks upon sacks and moved some favorites. I tend to buy one that I want to keep and the rest I download. Mary Kathryn loves to read, though lately she doesn’t have much time, and we share the digital library.

This idea for a posting occurred to me on Friday as I was reading a hard copy of On the Road with the Archangel by Frederick Buechner. And that book prompted me to call Lalla Mellor, the widow of Ernest Mellor who introduced me to Buechner’s work. And it goes on – because of that phone call, I drove to Memphis on Saturday and met Lalla for lunch. We had such a great time reminiscing about our shared memories of our husbands and the great times the four of us had together. We laughed about the way we celebrated Ernest’s fortieth birthday by meeting at the Travel Air Motel in Marked Tree for “dinner,” and realizing we had been there four hours just enjoying talking with one another. Books can be uniting.

The new Rizzoli in New York.