where the writers are
Best West Coast Bookstore? The Elliott Bay Book Company
Photo by Greg Gilbert of The Seattle Times


Powell's Books in Portland has more space and titles; perhaps because they're in the Bay Area, Keplers of Menlo Park may get more stylish readers (this month including Joyce Carol Oates and Barbara Kingsolver); and more than once I've casually run into celebrities at Dutton's in Westwood.  But, from its incredible location on Pioneer Square in the heart of Seattle to the awninged brick storefront to the feeling inside of being intelligently surrounded, Elliott Bay Books has to take top honors.

This is, of course, a sad time for bookstores.  Many have been forced to close, including Cody's flagship store in Berkeley; Printer's Inc. of Palo Alto, which I used to walk to; and A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco, which had some of the same feel as The Elliott Bay Book Company, to name only a few.  Indeed, there's a recent newspaper report that Elliott Bay Book Company may have to move across town.

It would be easy to lapse into the Luddite position, but electronicly aided distribution is here to stay, and Amazon, while playing a pivotal role in the demise of local bookstores, has only done what would have been done by others, and done it with a bit of style and grace.  The Internet has given them a more-efficient way to distribute books and they'll have a large say in electronic distribution when "hard copies" become less pervasive, as they are sure to do.

On a far less intellectual level, one of the few love poems I ever wrote was after a trip to Elliott Bay Books; perhaps my choice is being flavored by memories of being in love (my apologies for the spaces between the lines--I've tried to eliminate them for over an hour.)


                                                If the feminists knew

                                                you pack my bags, Bo,

                                                well, we won't tell them

                                                how you always include

                                                lotions and pajamas or,

                                                for this trip to Seattle,

                                                warm pants and jacket,

                                                wide-waled corduroy,

                                                thick peasant cloth,

                                                so after potato salad and beer,

                                                when I leave the bookstore,

                                                wander down to the ferries,

                                                the wind tries to nip at us

                                                but it can't.