My memoir writing journey in Seattle has not just been about writing down words but has been a wider education in publishing access and feasibility. In 2010, ‘survival’ was the buzzword at the Pacific Northwest Writing Conference. But over the last five years evidence suggests that tangible books are alive and well to a lot of people, that books are not ‘dead’ as predicted with the dawning of downloading and web access and Amazon. Quite the opposite has been happening in the literary garden that is Seattle; my Phinney Ridge neighborhood bookstore has a new owner, savvy to web use, book acquisitions, good scones and is humming with people. Elliot Bay Books posted their best year ever in 2014. Readings at The Seattle Central Library are full to capacity.
To be clear, I mean tangible, weighed books that smell of paper and ink, hold up bookshelves in messy piles, slant sideways against each other, smartly stack alphabetically or weigh just so much that the best way to read them is sitting, legs bent, and rest the spine on your knees. The hardcopy, satiny-paged, carefully chosen font-precise pieces of art that call to me from the other side of the room.
So imagine my excitement: There have been rumors circulating in Seattle literary circles that a new community of books is being assembled. Thank you Jack Bernard, who today posted the most recent update from Crosscut. I can now confirm this is truth: The Seattle Athenaeum, a private library concept inspired and revived by David Brewster, is really happening in January, 2016.
A place that will collect collections. That will host the avid and rabid readers of Seattle, build a membership base that will pay to have access to books they only dreamed about. And a community of people that will put their dollars towards preserving the fine art of words.
What do we know about book collections? When I walk into someone else’s home, probably rudely and definitely unconsciously, I immediately drift over to where books are evident. I tilt my head just so, to the side, and walk slowly sideways while I read familiar and unfamiliar titles and carry on my conversation. I know all about the people in the home in five minutes — not from the hue on the walls, the breed of dog, or the sustainable food on the table. I know them from the books on the shelf. Yes, a Kindle could be lurking by the bedside table. But those of us that line the walls with our favorites tell me everything I need to know. I know how they while away a Sunday afternoon, or an early morning cup of tea, or a sleepless night. These are my people: The ones that put themselves at ease by simply parting the pages and letting the world go. We have held magic in our hands and our minds and discovered the creative stimulating assemblage of letters and thoughts.
So how exciting is The Seattle Athenaeum? Another venue for building the community of books in Seattle is downright fantastic.
Something about getting past forty, sauntering past fifty and barreling headfirst into sixty, I know what I like and I like what I know. The Seattle Athenaeum is another step in the life-pulse of books. I will shake the piggybank and be a piece of the new-old dawning of books in 2016.
And these cottage bookshelves? I just pulled down a book on meditation, a Louise Erdrich and re-read the last Stieg Larsson with the crickets last night.
I know I love these people.