Sunday, July 23, 2006

An Emily Sort of Afternoon

This past week while I was flipping through Pages (a magazine about books) during one of my bi-weekly trips to Barnes & Noble, I happened across a profile of a bookstore and happily discovered that it was located in DC (and has been for 20 years). So yesterday afternoon, Jeff and I sought out Chapters: A Literary Bookstore. It was a small shop, one that perhaps might be overlooked since it sits within the shadow cast by a nearby two-story Barnes & Noble.
(Hmm . . . I'm beginning to feel "You've Got Mail" themes coming on!) And while I enjoy Barnes & Noble and happily patronize the stores frequently, Jeff and I agreed that it was quite satisfying to actually be able to browse an entire store in about an hour. And I do mean the entire store. I looked at nearly every shelf in the shop, while sipping a cup of Lady Grey tea (provided for free on a small corner table).

I was interested to check out the poetry selection, since I had read in the Pages profile that the store prides itself on its poetry offerings. And it was in this section that I discovered Visiting Emily: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Emily Dickinson. I flipped through it, read a few, and quickly knew I'd have to buy this book. Some samples -- "Emily Dickinson Attends a Writing Workshop" (Emily - Nice language here, but I end this poem feeling confused) and "Emily Dickinson's To-Do List" (Wednesday / White dress or what? / Eavesdrop on visitors from behind door / Write poem / Hide poem). Then in the children's section, I found The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires (I am a mouse, a white mouse. My name is Emmaline. Before I met Emily, the great poet of Amherst, I was nothing more than a crumb-gatherer, a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose.) I was charmed. It was already feeling like an Emily sort of afternoon. I didn't need much convincing to add this to my other Dickinson purchase.

"Emily Dickinson"

We think of her hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won't explain the sheet sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain.

- Linda Pastan, in Visiting Emily

(Yes, I am aware of the irony of blogging about a small and charming bookshop, while at the same time linking the titles to Amazon, which, on a completely unrelated note, I've just learned is now also offering grocery service of all things. Oh well. )


Blogger RC said...

what a cool sounds like a really fun place.

--RC of

4:16 PM  
Blogger FellowElder said...

Chapters is a great independent shop. I didn't get there nearly enough while in DC. And as a former independent bookstore owner, I'm obviously a partisan for the samll guy. Many happy visits!

10:51 AM  
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