This has been on the To-Read list for a long time, and I regret taking so long to get to it.
Before getting to the standard non-review part of the reviThis has been on the To-Read list for a long time, and I regret taking so long to get to it.
Before getting to the standard non-review part of the review, this is a great little book about subbing in special needs classes. It's in no way mean-spirited, but also it's not too much Children Are the Future horseshit. Read it.
Now the standard non-review part of the review, a little love letter to Powell's Bookstore in Portland, OR. Which is where I picked up this little book.
Goddamn, if you're a book person and you've never been there, go. Absolutely go. It's really something.
We haven't had a book store in town for some time. Not really, anyway. Even when we did, there were some problems.
I'm aware that Amazon is undercutting bookstores left and right and that it's hard to compete. I get that. And someday when I'm a lot more wealthy than I am today, I'll do my best to buy more books. For gifts and for myself. That's a promise. Right now? Well, it's not really worth debating because I don't have that option.
The other problem is that the stuff I like to read isn't on a shelf anywhere near here. It's just not. In fact, if I wanted to get a copy of On Subbing from a library, I'd have to go to Casper, WY. Or, barring that, the next closest location is about 500 miles away. No joke.
So when you go into a store like Powells and you see all the stuff they have, and when you find all the stuff you've ever looked out for AND a bunch of other stuff, it's a pretty exciting feeling for a book nerd.
In order to really get into it, I thought it might be fun to look at some excerpts from some negative Yelp reviews to see if there's really any reason to NOT visit this store:
"Interestingly, the reason it gets two stars is because I was brushing my teeth one time in the restroom, and some staff politely asked me to not do it. Wait... do I look a hobo? Am I not allowed to use the bathroom mirror to brush my teeth? Hello?"
Ah. Well, as a fellow toothbrusher, I identify with what you're saying. But at the same time, as a fellow toothbrusher, you should know by now how to be a little more discreet about your teeth-cleaning activities. You don't need to grimace at yourself in the mirror to keep your teeth clean, dodo. And if you think it's gross to brush your teeth in a bathroom stall, then it shouldn't be too confusing as to why someone else might find it gross for you to brush your teeth at the sink. If you're ever unsure, ask yourself this: If I walked in on someone clipping her toenails here, would I be upset? If the answer is yes, then it's also not appropriate to brush your teeth, use a nose hair trimmer, or perform body maintenance.
"The worst part of this experience was parking in the garage. I am not sure how that passes any kind of city inspection but it is an accident, make that accidents waiting to happen. If you come here do not park in their garage, it is a one way ticket to collision potential."
Wow. Sounds like a life of the party. Geez, I'd love to come to the biggest book store on the planet, but I hear the parking sucks. You're in the downtown of a metro area. Expect it. By that same token, some complain that the place is crowded. Yeah? So it turns out that one of the bigger attractions in a city is something that people other than you are into? What a world, huh?
" I thought prices were high. Used mass market paperbacks, which I usually get at Goodwill for $0.99 - $1.99 were $4.99 and up."
Oh, honey. First of all, the nearest legitimate used book store to me sells that stuff for double. I was actually at our local goodwill yesterday. It was about 15 minutes from closing, and because I'm just that lonely and bored I decided to look at the books and decide which one I would take if I HAD to take one. The selection was pretty awful. I mean, we're talking Kodak how-to books from the late 80's. We're talking a full row of South Beach Diet. Maybe $4.99 seems like a lot compared to a buck, but you're not going to find a whole lot of what you want for that price anywhere, especially if you throw in shipping.
"I know this is one of the trademakes of Portland....but I'm not a book worm. So just looked for 2 minutes."
I should point out that this is the ENTIRETY of the review. Okay. So that's like me reviewing an opera having never been to one before and watching the first 45 seconds. Thanks for taking the time to review.
"I guess it's a PDX thing? I mean it's a bookstore. They have books, both used and new. And that's it."
This reviewer seems to spend most of her time reviewing bars that she visits on her way to Blackhawks games. So I guess it was disappointing that there were no old jerseys taped to the wall? I did wonder though. It seemed like a lot of people in Portland were reading on the bus or the train or just whenever they were sitting around. So maybe books and reading are a Portland thing?
"about twice as expensive as Amazon on about everything"
On Subbing at Powells: $5.00 On Subbing from Amazon: $8.49
Not to mention the added bonus of walking away with the thing in hand.
"I pretty much hated this bookstore. The guy at the info. desk was totally not helpful and in fact told me "We don't have that book" but I found it myself on the shelf later. I'm pretty sure he was a racist. Screw you Powell's."
Okay. There are a lot of comments about rude staff. And...well, I haven't interacted with the staff too much. The one interaction I did have wasn't bad, just unsuccessful (asking for a book by Harold Brodkey I was directed to the poetry section, to Joesph Brodsky. Not at all what I was looking for, and I wish the guy had just said he didn't know). So maybe it's killing them a bit. However. I would encourage visitors to wander and look around. Check out a section you're not normally browsing at your regular bookstore. Honestly, if you show up to the city of books looking for one particular title, what's the point? This is a browsing spot. If you're bee-lining, you're wasting the experience.
"That's effectively all it is though: a library more well-stocked than all but the largest metropolitan and academic libraries... except you have to pay bookstore list price here instead of borrowing them for free. That's laudable, and I support the proliferation of the written word, but why is this place the best ever?"
Okay people. Here are a couple things you need to know about used book stores.
1. You will get a low price when you sell, especially if it's not a particularly valuable book. They will then sell it for what they think they can get, which is more than they paid you. This is not an insult or a trick. This is how the store makes profits.
2. NEW Books sell for NEW books prices. Most bookstores do not reduce the cover price on a brand new title. I don't know where you're shopping that you expect it, but it must be a lil slice of heaven.
I mean, this person is complaining that she's not getting books for free? Lady, I'm not going to say that writers should or should not expect financial rewards for their work. But if you're a supporter of the written word, then surely you've read a book or two and thought, "This person has earned it"? If you hold a decent book in your hands, I guarantee you that more hours went into it than the average year of working at a job. And I also suspect that the authors saw less monetary return. If you tipped a waiter at a restaurant who essentially picked up food on one side of a room and brought it to another, then how about you consider the book purchase a tip for the author, eh?
Overall, you need to go. And a lot of the negative reviews speak to a larger issue about being a tourist.
Locals sometimes tend to hate on whatever their biggest local thing might be. Voodoo Doughnut in Portland is a great example. Yeah, if you live there, why would you want to wait in line for 45 minutes with a bunch of drunks to get a doughnut? I get it. For me, Colorado, it's Red Rocks. Man, I think that place is totally overrated, it's not that great a venue, the concrete slabs are shit chairs, and it takes goddamn two hours to get out of that place. BUT. If people come from out of town and that's what they want to do, that's what we'll do.
The thing is, there are pretenders, but a lot of the things that are most famous about a city become famous because they're pretty great. Or iconic. I'm aware that residents of Manhattan aren't visiting the top of the Empire State building on a monthly basis. But it's fun. Residents of San Francisco probably don't drive over the Golden Gate bridge all the time. But it's fun. And I could see why a Portland resident wouldn't take a bus to stand in line for the better part of an hour for a doughnut. But every once in a while, and when you're out of town and every once in a while might be "once, period", just fucking go for it. And when you come from out of town, I don't think you should be embarrassed about doing the touristy stuff. If someone visits Colorado, we might try some food or something that's not so well-known. But if they want to stop at Johnson's Corner and have a cinnamon roll that's not my favorite, that's what we're going to do.
People will always encourage you to try this or that local dive bar or coffee shop. Sometimes those experiences pay off, and sometimes they don't. Just like the big stuff. But the difference, when we're talking about the big stuff, is now you know.
So as a multi-visit tourist of Portland, I'm telling you that you have to visit Powells. It's a must. Get a coffee and plan on spending a good hour there. Maybe it's the Empire State Building or The Bean of Portland. But whatever it is, it's worth a wander. Oh, and get Voodoo Doughnuts too. They're fucking good. I don't care what anyone says....more