We are making progress. Despite the virus, Powells Books reopened yesterday on the edge of the Pearl District in downtown Portland. No ordinary bookstore, Powells on Burnside is rightly called “City of Books’ and is a major tourist attraction. A few months into closure, its founder’s daughter Emily who runs it, said that she had no idea when or if it would reopen. You have to touch books to consider reading them and have to be free to browse. Both can have negative consequences in a Coronavirus era. Now we know when Powells will reopen, and I wish it well.
While I am considering a visit to Powells soon, I am reminded of “50 States of Love”. Way back in February, 2020, before we knew about social distancing, The New York Times did something interesting for Valentine’s Day. It published a map of the United States and gave the name of a book about love that is associated with each state. I expected my home state of Missouri to have a book by Mark Twain to represent it, but the book within Missouri’s borders was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. After I thought this over, I found this tale of twisted love far more appropriate. Romantic love was not exactly a Mark Twain specialty despite Eve and Becky Thatcher. I was not familiar with the book that represented Oregon where Powells is. I will check out Gayle Foreman’s If I Stay while visiting this landmark reopened tourist attraction. Washington was represented by David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. I have not read it, but I have been to a fine town where it was filmed named Cathlamet. Does that count for anything?
If there has been anything good about the quarantine months we are still trying to put behind us, it has been the literary traveling I have done. Since last March I have been to many places I have not yet experienced personally. I have been to Haiti with excellent writer Tracy Kidder to learn about life in a poverty stricken place where Dr. Paul Farmer caused medical miracles. I have been back to Cornwall and the moor near Bodmin with Robert Goddard, who introduced me to a historically important city I have not been to called Plymouth.
I have learned about slavery in the Civil War years via Edward P. Jones, and I am now in Recife, Brazil, with Peter Robb learning about food. “Brazilians are Mediterranean and African in most of their ways and as Mediterraneans they are lunch people. Big lunch people,” he wrote. I didn’t know.