The two booksellers in Watermark Book Co. were discussing a display of books on mythology when I walked into the store over the weekend. I suggested they include The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Roberto Calasso’s lovely and elegant retelling of Greek and Roman myths. The woman worker who was discussing her thoughts about the display recalled Calasso’s book but wasn’t very familiar with it. I mentioned that another of Calasso’s books, Ka, was a retelling of Hindu myths, and that I also think of The Ruins of Kasch, which is set around the French Revolution, as a look at myths of ‘the modern’ that have played an important role in America’s conception of itself. The woman headed for her computer to look for Calasso and her co-worker mentioned that they had something by him in stock. She brought me their copy of K, Calasso’s book on Kafka that was published a few years ago.
I like this small store in Anacortes, Washington, which has high wooden shelves along the walls and a thoughtful selection of good literature. I’ve browsed here only once before, when I bought a handful of new things. The new nonfiction in stock has an eclectic feel.
A large dog stretched on the floor crunched on a dog biscuit. A customer who came in asked the booksellers if the dog was a writer. He then asked for books written by dogs, and the booksellers were back to their computers. I suggested that I thought that a dog of one of the Bush presidents had putatively written a book (although personally I’m doubtful about books by any of the dogs in either Bush White House). I also mentioned that Virginia Woolf, during a tense period in her creative life, had written Flush, a book supposedly written from the perspective of Elizabeth Barrett Brown’s spaniel. The spaniel offered thoughts on Barrett Brown’s exotic life. Woolf came to loathe the book.
Watermark has a human scale—it’s only a few paces wide but long enough for one to weave among the two central rows of low shelves. From any corner of the store one can engage in the conversations that occur at the counter. If only Watermark had a large, comfortable armchair or two poised in the middle of the store to encourage more lingering conversations, then perfection would be near.
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Watermark is the second accession in my virtual collection of bookstores. Why collect just books, when you can also [virtually] collect bookstores?