One of the arguments I’ve heard made about why the reading public doesn’t really need brick-and-mortar bookstores anymore is that book buyers go in looking for specific books, and if that book isn’t in stock, they leave. And while this may be true on some level—I’m sure it’s happened somewhere in the universe—it is not a true statement for this book buyer.
Me, I love to wander in and see what’s new. What’s been put on an endcap. What’s on the remainder table. What’s of local interest. (I just bought one of those for the Irishman a few days ago. I’m not going to name it because he reads this blog, but I assure you I did not go into the store looking for that book. There was a big pile of them, though, and the cover caught my eye. Merry Christmas, honey!)
It is this delight in the journey that netted me a book I recently finished reading: Andrei Codrescu’s New Orleans, Mon Amour. You know Andrei—the fractious, distinctively voiced NPR essayist, a former professor of English (now retired) who’s resided in the Big Easy for more that twenty years. (I should add he’s not just an essayist; he writes award-winning poetry, novels, and screenplays; he writes columns and critical reviews too. He has a dry sense of humor that makes me laugh out loud.)
This is a collection of short essays about, well, New Orleans, and it’s just lovely. Romanian-born, Codrescu proves the point that sometimes it takes an outsider—though he is certainly no longer that—to really appreciate a place. Written over the course of Codrescu’s NOLA residency, the stories literally chronicle his love affair with the city he now calls his hometown. (The last few essays were written post-Katrina; Publishers Weekly says they “radiate simultaneous anger and clarity … pride and defensiveness.”) If you enjoy essays, if you love New Orleans, this is a book you’ll enjoy.
And it isn’t the sort of book I would ever have thought to look for on Amazon. It took my walking in to a physical bookstore to get New Orleans, Mon Amour up on my radar. It took that leisurely stroll around the room that the booklovers among you will understand immediately to garner me this prize.
As I’ve reported, Nashville is (apparently) having a heck of a time keeping a bookstore afloat, and this issue, in one way or another, is on the lips of every local book reader I know. And when the discussion arises, as it did over lunch today, every single one of my friends say, “I love to browse.” In fact, bookstore browsing is part of the essential reading experience for them: the search, the eureka moment, the pleasant anticipation, the joy in the reading.
Me, too, my friends; me too.
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