I’m currently filled with nostalgia, for something that was never quite mine, anyway.
I spent yesterday and today in Washington, D.C. While there, I snuck away for an hour to Kramerbooks at Dupont Circle. I’ve been there multiple times on various occasions in the last dozen years. It’s that kind of eclectic bookstore that was pretty rare in the age of big-box-bookstores. And if I saw my local Borders go bye-bye with a bit of a lump in my throat, walking up to the familiar neon sign was accompanied with an unexpected pang.
There are stacks of books. Fiction, travel books, books about writing. A business section. The mystery shelves, of course. The actual smell of piles of paper. It reminds me of the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver (LoDo). It’s not slick, it’s comfy. Kramerbooks has a whole standing bookshelf titled “Philosophy,” so I called my husband to see if he had any suggestions – I wanted to buy my son a present, and he’s a philosophy major. But, as my husband pointed out, it’s very difficult to buy a philosophy book for someone else, and he could get anything he wanted for himself. On Amazon. “Is there anything I can get for you?” I asked. “Not really,” he said.
So that’s something that’s changed. I’m used to calling people up from bookstores. “They have a great Art section,” I said to Husband, by phone, the last time I was in Denver. “Can I find something for you? They have a big Cindy Sherman book.”
But of course, there’s nothing he was hankering for, nothing he had wanted but hadn’t been able to find. Same for my younger son’s sheet music – he can get it all online. What’s missing is the sense of discovery, the great find, the bringing home of offerings to others. Maybe that’s what I miss.
But some things don’t change. Kramerbooks is paired with a Cafe and coffeebar, so I was able to sit with a cup of coffee and a piece of peach cobbler while I read my new book. Yes, the Best American Mystery Stories of 2011 are out. Editor: Harlan Coben. Series editor: Otto Penzler. So, nostalgia aside, it’s all good.
It’s true, my love of physical bookstores is more about wandering and spending time but seldom spending money. I spend lots of money on books but almost always online.
I’m guessing we have this conversation again in ten years about movie theaters.