I'm in Palm Beach. At the end of my workday, I'm ususally too tired to do anything more than forage for food and head to bed. Last night was no exception. I drove just a mile from the historic Breakers Hotel I'm staying in, just to get a break from the formal feeling here.
The hallways are marked with high golden arches and mosiacs that rival the Sistine Chaple in Rome. There's going to be a Hindu wedding here tomorrow, and tonight the guests for the 3-day event spill into the lobby in dresses that capture the rich mood of this hotel. Their jewels send sparkling designs darting across the tapestry walls. I watch as three women, hands freshly painted with ornate henna designs, giggle near the lobby door, their arms filled with gifts wrapped in giant, red velvet bows. I feel underdressed and bolt past them to my car.
I round the corner of the palm-lined avenue and am delighted to see a small restaurant whose street-side tables beckon me. It takes a moment to find parking, but a space opens up and I slide into it. I am a block away from the restaurant and make my way down the sidewalk, taking my time to paruse the shop windows I pass.
The Palm Beach Book Store captures my eye, it's big windows beckoning me inside. A quiet woman, with a wide, inviting smile greets me and apologizes for the emptiness of the small store. The room does seem as though it were inventory season. The remaining books stand lonesome, white space framing each book individually as though they were treasured pieces of art. And they are. It's off-season, she says. In the winter the bookstore is filled with people who stop for reccommendations and buy these wonderful books from the kind of people who know good literature. We chat for a time, about books and Kindles and publishing. The woman echoes the owner's fears of what seems to be happening with books. I hear in her voice that they feel bookstores may disappear altogether and I am saddened by the thought.
I own a Kindle as well. It's convienient, but I still have a NEED for the feel of a good book in my hands. I paruse small book stores to find the kind of literature that is appreciated by these owners. Sure, they carry the bestsellers, but usually I find the owners and staff to be so well read that they can reccommend books I will like, if I share with them the kinds of books I have come to enjoy! They are not teenage, non-readers collecting a paycheck at some mega-bookstore. They are true lovers of the written word.
When our conversation ends, I am lifted, hopeful, that people like me can move forward with the help of technology, but never abandon the richness or the knowledge of the people in these wonderful little bookstores. My hope is that other readers and writers will keep these stores alive, as they do in Palm Beach, by supporting their local bookstores.
Do you have a favorite bookstore, large or small? Why is it special to you?