Sunday, June 22, 2008


There is the sound of a shoe heel making contact with a wooden floorboard. After a couple seconds, there is another distinct sound. A subdued orchestra of shoe heels moves through the large high-ceilinged room. Without any obvious beat or rhythm, they come in scattered intervals, filling the otherwise quiet space. Dozens of people are milling about slowly, their attention turned exclusively to the many shelves of books. No one is talking, each is lost in their own world of words and paper. Just the sound of slow footsteps and the soft turning of a book page is audible. The soft gold-tinged light of late afternoon filters in through the overhead skylights, the sweet light electrifies the colored book spines and they glow from their resting spots like dilated animal eyes, aglow with possibility. Like the reading room of kings, the walls are completely covered in dark wooden bookshelves. The periphery of the room is a colored spectrum of rectangular book spines that stand neatly upright on their deep shelves. The walls reach at least twenty feet high, and the shelves, crowded with books, reach to the place where wall and ceiling converge. There is not a trace of wall in this house of books, where it not for gravity, the ceiling space would be in use as well. Rolling ladders have been installed to the upper-most wooden shelf lip to facilitate the browsing of books closer to the heavens. This is a well-ordered bookstore, where books of the same genre are grouped together and books are alphabetized by author.
Every stone’s throw, there are plush, high backed armchairs against the bookcases/walls. Each well-worn mauve velvet chair is occupied with a reading patron, and other customers sit with their legs crossed on the floor, browsing through potential purchases. Within the center of the room are islands of wooden tables. The tables are spaced far enough apart so customers can walk and flow around them, checking out the literature from all sides of the table. The tables are old and heavy, with thick sculpted legs and beautiful honey colored wood tops. Just a sliver of tabletop is visible beneath the well organized stacks of books. Each table is devoted to a specific genre. Children’s literature, new releases, mythology…the I Ching is on the corner of a table. A woman in her twenties, with tan skin and long dark hair browses the table with intensity, looking for something specific. There is a small two-shelf black rolling cart, the kind usually found in libraries. A handful of red paperback books has fallen from the cart. The books lay in a scattered pile upon the floor.

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