Just like fashion that recycles back if given enough time – you didn’t throw away those bellbottoms, did you? – small bookstores are making a comeback. Author Ann Patchett suggests that bookstores may go in cycles – like the cicadas, that buggy scourge that returns very 13 or 17 years, with their shrill sound, falling out of trees onto unsuspecting children’s backpacks as they walk home – adding more shrill screaming. Patchett’s reassuring essay confirms that those small independent bookstores are still here – and maybe better for the departure of their larger competitors. In her essay for the New York Times, Of Bugs and Books, Patchett recalls her recent book tour for her new novel, The State of Wonder.
Patchett visited some familiar names: Powell’s in Portland and Prose and Politics in Washington, D.C., and more – all doing well. As a mark of her faith, she is opening her own bookstore – Parnasus Books – in her hometown of Nashville.
Maybe Patchett will ask her visitors to follow the habit of patrons at Frank Shay’s bookstore in Greenwich Village, open for business from 1920 – 1925, and have users sign her door. Shay’s bookstore door just resurfaced in an exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center in Texas, displaying famous signatures on both sides of the door: Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, and Sherwood Anderson, among other authors who liked to browse there. Jennifer Schuessler’s essay for the New York Times Sunday Book Review noted that Christopher Morley wrote about the small bookstore’s closing…
“It was too personal, too enchanting… to survive indefinitely.”
But, maybe the time for small enchanting bookstores is back.