"Maybe I’m out of touch, but I’d rather go to an actual shop — preferably a small one — than to a harshly lit superstore, or, worse still, a website. I don’t want to buy my books and my toilet paper and my clothing all under the same roof. I want beauty in my life. I want charm. I want contact with actual people. It is, for me, a large part of what makes life worth living." --- David Sedaris
My wife gives me ceaseless grief about my strong preference to eat at local restaurants rather than chains. (A notable exception to that rule, and a betrayal of my socio-political beliefs, is my affinity for Chick-fil-a. Those God-fearin' chicken people make a delicious goddamn sandwich.) She calls me a snob. She's mostly right.
But Sedaris, the brilliantly funny essayist, frames this preference precisely. I want charm. I don't want quality controlled sameness and repetition. Lord knows I get enough of the latter surfing the same six sites on the internet every day. I want local ownership, and license plates on the ceiling, and the occasional goofy foodstuffs.
Sedaris made his comment in an interview with the blog for Parnassus Books, a Nashville bookstore owned by author Ann Padgett. Parnassus is a story in its own right, started by Padgett and a friend as a reaction to the town's only bookstores closing. It's become the flag bearer for independent bookstores across the country as they carve out a niche in an Amazon-dominated publishing world.
My favorite bookstore is Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham, MA. It's tiny, and the selection is necessarily limited by the size of the store. But it's got an amazing section of antique nautical books, and a ton of Cape Cod-centric titles. It provides me with an unerring sense of place, of familiarity and comfort. It generally doesn't hurt that most of my visits come after a liquid lunch at The Chatham Squire, which is a short block away.
And it's charming as hell.