During my vacation up in Seattle I enjoyed a new and used book store called Elliot Bay Book Co., which is a really cozy place. It would be a cozy store even if the ambient afternoon temperature in Seattle didn’t hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the chill Seattle air just makes it more so.
Part of the store’s coz factor is the wood, which is everywhere. Naturally, the floor is all wood. Then there’s the tiny wooden steps you can use to navigate around the store, the little wooden aisles, wooden banisters, staircases, railings, displays. And they’re all made from that old sort of wood, the kind that feels antique and homey because it’s a little dinged up and starting to turn golden.
Another part of the coziness in Elliot Bay is the books, which are numerous and everywhere. The store is large and labyrinthine and you can wander through it for some time and still have the sense that you haven’t seen that much. There’s something wonderful about feeling lost amongst thousands and thousands of good books.
When a new book store gives me that cozy, overwhelming feeling, I find it difficult to leave without buying something. In the case of Elliot Bay, I resisted the urge because I have plenty of new book credit at Cody’s, and used book credit at Moe’s. Plus, I have plenty of unread books to get through. I really didn’t need a new book.
But, this wasn’t an economic, or even a logical, decision. This impulse to buy a book was a completely emotional response to the unique feeling that a book store like Elliot Bay renders unto me.
I decided to get some lit journals, of which Elliot Bay has quite a nice selection. The journals are right there when you enter the store, first a collection of stapled and Kinko-ed journals, and those lead you in to a rack of more prominent journals with glossy covers and bound pages.
I saw several editions of The Believer, apparently spanning half a year. I’d never read The Believer and thought it might be worth a try. As I looked through them a face suddenly stood out. If you’ve read this blog at all lately, you know who’s face that was. The issue in question had an interview of him, and I decided to make this my first foray into The Believer. A few levels down from The Believer, I found n + 1, a journal I’ve heard much about but have not yet had the chance to read.
On the way home from Seattle I decided to have a look through my new journals. The interview of Wallace was satisfying, and a quick browse through the other articles made me think I might want to read The Believer in the future. Then I picked up n + 1, and to my surprise found criticism of the very journal I had just set down.
The first article in n + 1 is a sort of definition by negation. It consists of a few short sections (2-3 pages in length), which critique The New Republic, Pomo NeoCons (National Review) and McSweeney’s. The article seems to be saying here are some major players in the literary landscape, and this was how n + 1 is going to be new and different from them.
I found much to agree with in the first article. TNR has been getting much too harsh lately and, like it’s apotheosis, Dale Peck, never stops complaining long enough to say what it likes and why it likes it.
I also found the rundown of McSweeney’s to be an excellent, concise description/critique of that organization. Most people rattle off something about “hip” and “snark” when they describe McSweeney’s, but n + 1 actually got behind those terms to look a little at the logic behind them.
I have yet to read the “Dave Eggers, Teen Idol” piece, but my girlfriend has given it rave reviews, and I trust her enough to be sure to take that to the bank. n + 1 looks to be off to a very promising start.
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