I went to an old fashioned bookstore the other day in Santa Barbara. I’d gone there to visit my cousin and taken Henry because, unlike here, they let dogs on the beach in Santa Barbara. Chaucer’s Books – what a place it is! They have new books and used books side by side. And what a selection. Everything from the complete works of Betty Smith to practically everything William Burrows wrote. They had John O’Hara, Upton Sinclair, Oscar Wilde, obscure English mystery writers, how-tos written in 1913. I bought a little book on tips for wives first published in the early twentieth century and one for husbands, too. I’m writing a book about a woman who writes an advice column and maybe they’ll inspire me.
I also bought a set of haiku dice with complicated directions that I know I’ll never use. But I couldn’t resist it. There were lots of people in the store buying lots of books. And the sales people knew about books, too. I felt like I was in the freaking twilight zone.
I have a long standing fantasy which is to be in a room with all the books I’ve ever read, on clean dusted shelves in alphabetical order and in the original edition I read them in. And it seemed in Chaucer’s Bookstore this might be possible. I saw a shelf with every major literary journal and many I had never heard of. Not that I read literary journals, but I’m glad they were there casually, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, instead of the rarer and rarer sight.
Perhaps I’d stepped into a time warp. Yes, so other worldy was this experience that I thought for a moment that I’d maybe died and gone to heaven. Henry started barking his head off, so I figured I was still alive. God Bless You Chaucer Books. May you live on forever and prosper.
Mary Marcus is the author of The New Me and is hard at work on her next book, Lavina, which will be published in 2015.