Just to make things super-meta-confusing, today I'm including in my post a letter from my husband, Bruce Barcott, who is in Portland right now working on an article about a runner who's currently training at Nike. He spied on my new book at Powell's. This is what writers do: we spy on each other's books, check placement, surreptitiously move them to a better location.
If you are a writer and you are not doing these things for your friends or for writers you admire, you should start immediately. It means you're a nice person. The novelist Jonathan Evison says every day he does one thing for another writer before he does something for himself. And everyone, I mean everyone, loves that guy.
Anyhow, Bruce writes from Portland:
Yesterday: Toggling between two extremes of Portland, the clean superfit world of the Nike World Headquarters campus (like a really fancy college campus, for athletes and shoe designers), and the "Dream of the 90s" funkiness of Powell's and the Pearl. One block from Powell's I swear I saw a couple that just stepped out of the Fred Armisen video, shaved head and facial hair and chunky glasses and Beat Chick top-n-skirt and all.
Your book is the front window next to Steve Martin's novel (heartily endorsed by 92nd St Y!) and Bill Bryson's latest "Let Me Tell You About the World Because I'm a Funny Funny Man" book; all are part of some Powell's 30% off Great New Books We Love or some such program. So it's there in the window, and on the entry room display shelf, and again near the back door cash registers. Usually when you see your friends' books (or, ahem, your own), they're small and spine-out and you try to do some good in the world by turning them face out and thereby defeating the entire commercial system that has arisen around endcaps and coop and such. So I did a little work there. Then I went and found one of Emily White's books and gave it pride of placement as well. I couldn't bear to even look at my own forgotten darling. (I think it's in "Pets.")
Anyway. It's still by far the best bookstore in the entire world. Somehow it manages to house all those millions of books and yet not give a writer extreme depression at being but one of a million brighter stars. It's more like a library than a bookstore, somehow, probably because so many people actually are using it as a library, sprawled or squatting in the fiction aisles brazenly reading reading reading. And there are so many people and the place is so simultaneously laid back and buzzing with activity that it's like the perfect coffeehouse where you buy a two-buck cup and find a cubby in the back and stay there all day and nobody gives a shit.
So that's the word from Portland. I hope he remembers to look for old George Booth collections in the comix section. That's always my first stop. Then I head to fiction, where I like to turn the Laurie Colwin novels face out.
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Claire Dederer's essays, criticism, and reporting have appeared in Vogue, the New York Times, Slate, Yoga Journal, Real Simple, and the Nation. She lives on an island near Seattle.
Books mentioned in this post
Claire Dederer is the author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses