The Literary Crevices of Salem, OR

I finished reading ‘The Name of the Wind’ yesterday. I toted the book around with me for the rest of the evening, unwilling to relinquish it to its place on my bookshelves. In fact, it’s still sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for me to decide I’m ready to put it away.

Buying the sequel will help. I spent most of my day off loitering the stacks of Salem’s various indie bookstores. That’s one of the things that enamored me to this small city. There is no Borders, no Barnes and Noble, not even a Walden’s Books in one of the malls.

But, there’s The Book Bin downtown, which has new and used books spread over two floors. Being downtown it tends to cater more toward the older generations, with a large selection of literary and general fiction.

The Book Bin Downtown

The Book Bin Downtown

But, they have a second location, just down the street from my work, The Book Bin East. This location, formerly Borders, caters more to my generation, with sprawling shevles crammed with Sci-Fi/Fantasy, both new and used, and a children’s/teen lit section that rivals any big chain.
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There’s The Book Habit, which is tucked away beneath a restaurant. Only used books live there, stacked two deep in horizontal rows on the shelves. They don’t even use a computerized register, and their organization and inventory are both mysteries. I only visit the ‘Habit’ when I’ve got the time to kill on an adventure in book hunting.
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The Paperback Exchange sits on a one-way street, in an old building whose windows are thick with the dusty grime of novels left neglected for too long. This store is probably my least favorite. It feels like sifting through the forgotten remains of someone’s former life. Dirty. The pricing makes no sense, and often can’t be found. I once stacked up a pile that, according to the numbers penciled onto the title pages, should have cost me upwards of $20, but once at the register the clerk/owner/hoarder told me the total was $14.

To this day, I’m not sure how she came to that total. The books are cheap there, and occasionally you’ll find an unexpected gem tucked away in some cobweb encrusted corner.
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Across the river I discovered The Reader’s Guide, a wonderful store in West Salem. They have new and used books, and today I found a real gem there; a hardback copy of ‘The Way of Kings’! I tore it from the shelf and cradled it against my chest, as if hugging a long lost child. Needless to say, I bought it, and at a steal of a price, $14.

This store is in a great location, but the building doesn’t have a proper sign. Instead there’s a hand-painted “Books” at the top, and then A-frame signs on the sidewalk. It looks rickety and sad, until you walk through the door into a wide room filled with shelves, all organized, with the spines all neatly facing out. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Just one glimpse into the large store.

Just one glimpse into the large store.

About 20 minutes outside of Salem, in the tiny town of Independence, is a great little bookstore called Second Chance Books. It has a similar feel as The Book Habit, though a bit better organized. I don’t go there as often as I’d like, but if I find myself with a bit of free time, I’ll go there, pick out a book or five, and then grab a slice of pizza from the shop next door.
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And then there’s my favorite. The bookstore that hid from me for two years, right under my nose. Ultimately, the search for ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ led me back here, to the place where I found ‘The Name of the Wind’. Back to Escape Fiction.
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This bookstore is something special. It’s a sprawling combination of warehouses, dedicated solely to fiction. There are about 8 different rooms, all bursting with different genres, and all organized neatly. But, there’s a quaint imperfection, some shelves housing novels in the usual, upright fashion, and some others stacked horizontally.

There’s magic in the twisting walkways defined by the placement of floor to ceiling shelving, a similar magic that can be found in the books themselves. It’s a place that makes my nerve endings light up, and at once soothes my soul and makes my heart race. They carry used fiction almost exclusively, but have an entire room dedicated to new Sci-Fi/Fantasy. It was here that I found the book I’d spent the better part of three hours hunting.

I’ll admit that I was holding out for a used copy. ‘The Name of the Wind’ had called to me, found me, and demanded in its own bookish way that I take it home. I wrote about it recently, claiming it full of magic.

I went to the Book Bin East on Monday, knowing I would need to find the sequel soon, but all their copies were new, and bound so tightly as to make flipping the pages difficult, as if the book were reluctant to share Kvothe’s story with me. I put each copy I touched back on the shelves.

And each store I visited today was the same. Either they didn’t have a single copy or it was new and secretive. There was no magic. But, in Escape Fiction, I found a copy that had promise. It’s still new, but it has the faint spark of magic, a hint at becoming what it’s predecessor is.

I bent to grab the book, and impatiently flipped through it at random. The binding was tight, but flexible. It promised to loosen up if I only gave it a chance. The words leapt at me from fresh, silken pages and again the smell wafted up at me. That familiar scent of printing and paper and glue. And though this copy lacked that warmth that comes from years spent read on patios and dinner tables, and in the wee hours under a blanket, they smelled of something else.

These pages held a fresh, clean smell. An eager smell. I cupped the book in my palm, and despite being over 300 pages longer than the first novel, it fit the same way, my thumb locked into the ‘O’ in ‘Rothfuss’, spine in my palm, and my fingers wrapped comfortably around to the back.

Used books tend to hog all the magic, but occasionally a new book is born with a hint of it. I’ll be honored to help ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ gather its own worn version of magic.

And so my day was spent exploring the literary crevices of this town I now call home. Then I ate lunch and read about 85 pages of my find. I was hoping to write, or maybe edit today, but my time is running out. Tomorrow I work some weird hours, but Friday I should be in, and finally able to sit down to write.

I’m still excited for this story, and scenes are coming to me as the characters continue to develop. I will admit that the writing has been ridiculously easy this far, and though I fully expect for that to come to an end, I won’t fret about it.

When the writing gets hard, you just keep writing. Right?

I’m also excited about the edits I’m working on, although retyping and printing is looking like less and less fun. But, I’ve got a few people eager to read the second draft once it’s ready, and I’m just as eager to get it cleaned up for them. I could use the feedback.

Anyway, I’m off to work on editing a chapter while I wait for Trevor to show up. See you Friday, Blogland!

BZ

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2 thoughts on “The Literary Crevices of Salem, OR

  1. Ha ha ha! You said “crevices.” But seriously, what a great way to describe the “hold-in-the-wall,” bookstores – okay and a warehouse – to explore. I am bookmarking this for one day when I visit Salem. Meanwhile, in other news, have you ever been to Powell’s? I refer to it as the Epcot of bookstores. I quote: “Powell’s City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves ā€” plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts ā€” here at Powells.com. ” Oh! And for the writers, (and you’ll love this one friend) – “Visit the Purple Room in the City of Books to publish your own book or print hard-to-find titles, all in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee.”

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