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Let Me Introduce to You: Kevin Sampsell

Just had a good conversation with writer (also Powell's employee/small-press-room curator) Kevin Sampsell.

I told Kevin about the dream I had last night in which he read from his forthcoming novel (This Is Between Us, Tin House Books, November 2013) at a shopping mall to like hundreds of people, and his reading was very very funny and darkly poignant, and I teared up as he finished, and then we walked part of the shopping mall TOGETHER as I told him how much I admired his work and the numerous, numinous ways Kevin supported other writers and small-press endeavors from not only Portland but from all over the country.

Kevin Sampsell

I ask Kevin if he thinks it's weird how frequently I come into the bookstore.

He says: "It's much better to be a regular at a bookstore than a regular at a bar, strip club, gun shop, office supply store, or emergency room."

I will sometimes recommend books to friends, students, and, well, total strangers, and I will follow it up by saying, "Powell's Downtown has three used and two new copies available. Hawthorne has a used copy, and if you're out in Beaver-tron..."

A friend once told me perhaps I go to bookstores so frequently because I'm unconsciously looking for my own book (which, at the time, didn't come close to existing).

I go into Powell's five days per week to be in touch with The Other and myself at the same time. All that revelation of other writers, all that inside skin, those inside faces, my Dreams of The Other made manifest, those stiff spines and crisp edges and clean white pages uncut, deckled, or perfectly cut, her hands touching and lifting those spines, wrapping her fingers around those spines that I, soon after, wrap my fingers around, one person whispering to another: "I want to share this inside-self with your inside self. I want to gift you with what lies inside the hearts and minds of The Other."

I also shop at Annie Bloom's.

I also shop at Elliott Bay in Seattle.

I also shop at Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee.

I also shop at Malaprop's in Asheville.

If I could spend the night in Powell's, I'd put my sleeping bag in Aisle 213, the very west end of the Blue Room nestled between Poetry, L to Z, and Classics.

My favorite bookstore in the entire world: Open Books, A Poem Emporium, run by poets John (J. W.) Marshall and Christine Deavel. Next time you're in Seattle, go there, go to Open Books, and don't ask them if they carry anything other than poetry.

Open Books
Open Books

This just in: plastic cowboys, indigenous peoples, and soldiers have been spotted in front of Barry Hannah's Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories and Gertrude Stein's Three Lives. What kind of American conflict gives way to a shootout in front of Barry Hannah and Gertrude Stein? Perhaps these plastic peoples in the Blue Room seek out exquisite sentences? Wondrous digressions? Idiosyncratic American idiom? I like to imagine Barry and Gertrude in heaven, riding in Barry's Ford Fairlane, smoking Cuban cigars and sharing swigs of SoCo and discussing the effects of the single simple-sentence paragraph or how certain adjectives (like "snowy" and "freckled") tickle the chin.

More from Jay Ponteri on PowellsBooks.Blog:

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Jay Ponteri directs the undergraduate creative writing program at Marylhurst University and Show: Tell, the Workshop for Teen Writers and Artists. He is the founding editor of both the online literary magazine M Review and HABIT Books. Wedlocked: A Memoir is his first book.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Wedlocked: A Memoir Used Trade Paper $12.50
  2. Three Lives (Penguin Twentieth... Used Trade Paper $5.50
  3. Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected... Used Trade Paper $7.95

Jay Ponteri is the author of Wedlocked: A Memoir

One Response to "Let Me Introduce to You: Kevin Sampsell"

    Heather April 4th, 2013 at 11:14 am

    My favorite bookstore (apart from Powells, of course) is McLeod's Books in Vancouver BC. It's something out of a film, books stacked everywhere in messy, threatening-to-collapse columns. Dusty volumes haphazardly arranged on tables, the cashier desk and on the floor. If you have a particular book in mind, it may take awhile to find it; organization and alphabetization aren't prioritized as much as randomness and curiosity. If you're feeling ambitious, book shopping becomes a hunt. If you're in a leisurely mood, you can simply peruse -- and often you'll find books you might not have otherwise come across. Thanks to the beautifully messy and chaotic McLeod's, I now have a first edition copy of The Pocket Book of Science-Fiction (1943) and Haussmann, or the Distinction, by Paul La Farge.

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