City of Books

I was in Portland last week visiting Eva and Jim who happen to live just a few blocks from Powell’s, the ultimate in bookstores, known for good reason as the “City of Books.” Room after room of books–new and used together, the feature I love most–encompassing a full city block (68,000 square feet) and that’s just the main location; there are several others around town. The Blue Room (literature) is where I head with my list, but I’m overwhelmed–it’s like Santa’s workshop to a kid, Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village to a mouse. I roam up and down the aisles, reading titles, plucking them off the shelf to fondle covers and leaf through pages, making notes.

I limit myself to three books–the new Paul Auster for Don’s birthday, a collection of Margaret Drabble’s stories, a 1926 novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner–and a couple of literary journals, which can no longer be found in San Diego. Judy Reeves says of Portland: “Envy their bookstores. Don’t envy their weather,” but I don’t know: what’s wrong with a little rain, ok a lot of rain, if you have enough books to read?

 A book I would have snapped up immediately if they’d had it is Toby’s Room by Pat Barker, but it won’t be released in the U.S. until October. In addition to being an avid fan of Barker’s work, her new one has strong connections to Virginia Woolf. Here’s more about it and it’s prequel, Life Class, which I did read, in my latest post on Blogging Woolf.

About Alice Lowe

I am a freelance writer, avid reader and Virginia Woolfophile in San Diego, California. My personal essays have been published in more than 90 literary journals and can be followed on my blog: I have published essays and reviews about Virginia Woolf, including two monographs in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series published by Cecil Woolf Publishers, London: "Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction," and "Virginia Woolf as Memoirist."
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