How would you describe your job to someone you just met?
I spend my day around books. For the shelves, I curate stock, create art, and prevent chaos; and I act as matchmaker between pages and patrons.
Last book you loved:
Her Body and Other Parties
by Carmen Maria Machado. Some writing seems to capture feeling and thought so earnestly it ceases to be a culmination of parts, becoming some kind of experiential gestalt. Her stories do that; each was like a forest fire that ripped through the old growth, charring what's exposed and clearing space for something new.
Where are you originally from?
I'm a Portland native. I've been told that makes me some kind of mythical creature, like a unicorn (or maybe Bigfoot). Really, what it means is I now work in the store I would go to as reward for being an especially obedient 8-year-old.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Really, I wanted to be a miner — to roll up my sleeves and explore caves for veins of minerals. I would sit in gravel driveways for hours, picking through chunks of limestone and granite for the odd quartz and agate. I told Grown-Ups that I wanted to be a gemologist, though, because it had more financial gravitas.
Share your favorite customer quote.
"I'm so sorry! We're from the mountains!"
Share a memorable experience you've had on the job.
A good book thinks of an interesting way to get at something human.
This 10-year-old kid rolls through the front door on Heelys.
He does not have an adult with him. Coasting to the counter, he digs his fingers into the box of Magic cards, pulls out as fat a stack as will fit in his small fingers. He lets the uncounted fistful clatter onto the counter between us. While I ring them up, he's rooting through his pockets.
"So, do you like Magic?"
He shrugs. "It's an interesting game."
On the counter he piles a crumpled wad of ones. I count them out, they almost perfectly meet the cost, with three cents difference. "Keep the change," he says.
Stuffing the cards into his pockets, he glides out the door.
They say there's always someone cooler than you.
Why do you think bookstores remain so popular in the digital age?
When I want to know someone, I look at their bookcase. In few other places can you find a better cross section of selves — interests, passions, and escapes jammed jacket to jacket. Going to a bookstore, then, gives readers a chance to be reflected in the shelves. Books, physical books, fulfill an aspect of identity that just isn't touchable by their digital counterparts.
Walk us through your favorite route when browsing books at Powell’s.
Beeline through for the Gold Room. Every time. It's got science fiction, horror, and board games, not to mention the intoxicating eau de café, and graphic novels right around the corner.
What makes for a good book in your eyes?
Matte cover, thick paper saturated with color that gleams under our florescent lights, an abyssal-black Old Style serif font… Oh. Right, yes. Content. A good book either whisks you far away from reality, or takes you so close that you can see every wrinkle, crease, and pore. A good book thinks of an interesting way to get at something human.