I’m sitting in a Barnes & Noble, sipping a coffee and browsing through Paula Guran’s BEST DARK FANTASY AND HORROR 2013 while I wait for my son’s baseball practice to finish. Yes, even in the midst of The Winter That Never Ends you can play baseball, if you’re dedicated enough. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Inevitably I become distracted. By the tantalizing danish in the display cabinet next to my table? By the college kids at the table next to me babbling about some mathematical formula I don’t remember and probably never learned?
No, I become distracted by my fantasy of owning a bookstore.
Given the state of bookstores these days, you might equate this fantasy to a death wish. And you probably wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s my fantasy anyway. A boy can dream, can’t he?
My imaginary bookstore is somewhere warm. Somewhere where life is slower, where people have time for a cup of coffee and a good book. Not a tourist area, exactly, but a place where there are summer people and winter people. A place to lay down roots.
My imaginary bookstore is an old shop, with nooks and crannies and character, with dark hidey-holes to hide your favorite book and bright windows with window seats in which to read it. There’s no restaurant in my imaginary bookstore, but there’s a coffee pot and hot water for tea and free muffins if my wife was in the mood to bake that morning. No movie section, just a shelf with a sign that says “If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book!” so that fans of Peter Jackson might actually read THE HOBBIT!
In my imaginary bookstore we have used books and new books, best sellers and oddities. We have a local legends section, and literary fiction, and yes, genre fiction, unabashedly on display. We have local authors and genre authors doing readings and selling books, and we sponsor book clubs for women and men and kids. We open at 9 and close when we want and sometimes after closing you can find me still there, maybe writing, maybe browsing through my own inventory, like a farmer admiring his livestock.
My imaginary bookstore has a big porch, with a glider and overstuffed pillows, where you can while away the afternoon reading books you just bought or maybe just watch life go by, little by little, second by second. And a picnic table on the front lawn, where you can eat your lunch. In my imaginary bookstore we never tell kids to be quiet, as long as they’re enjoying and talking about books, because children are future book buyers. My imaginary bookstore has a great chidren’s section, stuffed with classics and great new finds, Patricia Polacco and E.B. White and Rick Riordan, and every tenth purchase entitles you to a free book. ‘Cause that’s how we roll.
Does my imaginary bookstore make money? Is it viable? Damned if I know. Because that would be too close to being my real bookstore, one that would have to feed me and put my kids through college and somehow fund healthcare and housing. All the things that have killed bookstores throughout the country, even big chains like Borders. In my imaginary bookstore people love books and reading and talking about reading and that’s enough for me.
It doesn’t hurt to dream, does it?