Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Book Shopping on the West Coast

Mountain View palm tree
Last week my husband and I got back from a two-week-long trip that took us from Mountain View, CA to Seattle, WA and included San Francisco, Ashland OR and Portland OR along the way. It was my first time to Oregon, second to Mountain View and Seattle and third to San Francisco. Overall it was a great trip.
Carlos Santana street art in the Mission district of San Francisco
We did go to Powell's, but book buying also happened in SF and Seattle. I was sad to see Book Buyers of Mountain View, a cavernous used bookstore, had closed up and moved- sad but not surprised. I was aware that they were having problems when we visited last year and while I did drop in at Books Inc. in Mountain View and Bell Books of Palo Alto, I didn't find anything to buy at either store. In SF we visited City Lights got a few things- The Barbery Coast by Herbert Asbury, Adios Cowboy by Olja Savicevic and a zine called I Work the Tenderloin, by Michael Steinberg. I could have bought out half the store but I wanted to save something for Powell's.

On the way to Portland we did an overnight in Ashland, a resort-like town with a Shakespeare festival and three bookstores that we had time for.

Again, I didn't buy anything in Ashland, although I was tempted to pick up a paperback of A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower (I own the hardcover, unread) for a comfort read but decided against it.
Oregon House of Mystery
We dropped by the Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery on our drive up the next day. This is a classic American roadside attraction and claims to be a place of supernatural activity. While I did get very very dizzy in the House of Mystery, I was not convinced by any of the claims made about the place, such as energy waves changing peoples' height and so on. It was pretty fun though and we got cool tie-dyed t-shirts on the way out.

Then, Portland.

Predictably, I was overwhelmed by Powell's, and while J bought more than I did (he found a lot of collectible editions and rare things in their science fiction section) I found some treasures. My purchases included
  • All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews,
  • The Sympathizer, by Viet Than Nguyen (which just won the Pulitzer Prize),
  • The Sea Beach Line, by Ben Nadler,
  • Modern Book Collecting, by Robert A. Wilson,
  • Evil and the Mask, by Fuminori Nakamura,
  • Tel Aviv Noir, edited by Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron,
  • Unmarketable, by Anne Elizabeth Moore, and
  • Bruno's Dream, by Iris Murdoch.
On our way out of town we visited the Portland Art Museum and saw a painting of cats called "My Wife's Lovers." This was kind of a thing and had been written up online. And since it was about cats I had to go. It was kind of great.

I was surprised but I wasn't that crazy about Portland as a city. I was expecting to love it- I'm a fan of the show Portlandia- but I didn't. All those trees were setting off my allergies off like crazy and the whole place felt like a hippie commune. Not my thing. But the donuts were great. And there was Powell's.

"My Wife's Lovers"
Seattle I like a whole lot better. We both dropped a bundle in the Seattle Mystery Bookstore, where I picked up Pale Horses, volume 3 in the Jassy Mackenzie series set in South Africa I'm reading now and allowed the booksellers to hand sell me some new titles. That box hasn't arrived yet and I've forgotten what's in it. J and I spent an afternoon with my book blogger pal Phil and hit the bookstores in the University District, where some real treasures were found in a used bookstore including a first edition of Davis Grubb's classic Night of the Hunter, for the bargain price of $9.00.

Used bookstore in Seattle
After that I was pretty shopped out and our luggage was full too. So I just focused on buying clothes lol. I have to have my souvenir hoodies after all and this trip was no exception. I avoided buying any in SF but did get one each in Seattle and Portland. It's what I do.

Hopefully we'll come back to the area in the next few years. There are definitely things we didn't get to see, like Bainbridge Island off of Seattle, and some friends in Eugene I would like to visit. The wonderful thing about traveling is you're never really done and there is always something to look forward to next time.


pussreboots said...

Delightful post. Next time you're in the Bay Area, stop by the East Bay to see The Bookshop in Hayward. It's a small indie but you can get pretty much everything there. Portland is better in the winter. The ideal time to go is about February. I haven't been to Seattle, just driven through it.

Enrique Freeque said...

Feel free to come down to southern California next time you're going back to Cali, Cali, as LL Cool J once said. There's The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A. to get lost in ya know.