Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Old Friend, Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, I told him, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again"
Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran)

Dear Davis Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, TN:
  I felt that the quote from Azar Nafisi was a particularly appropriate way to open my letter to you because I first caught a glimpse of Nafisi's book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, gracing your shelves on one of the run-through-quickly visits that I occasionally allow myself. But rest assured, I have also had lingering and prolonged visits with you. These were the times when I stopped to smell the proverbial roses. Times when the books wooed me and called to me with their beautiful haunting voices. One of my favorite pastimes has always been to peruse the staff picks. I even contributed a few comments of my own back in the day when they used to ask customers to write down on little white cards exactly what they thought about specific books. I fondly remember the lady who used to work at Mills Bookstore calling out hello because she remembered me from another life and another bookstore; when my children were small, it was she who introduced me to the Tomie dePaola books. I also used to visit the Customer Service Department just to find out what Roger Bishop was reading and whom he was recommending at the time. I had known him from my undergraduate days at Vanderbilt when he had been kind enough to help a newly married girl on a very limited budget find the best used books to buy.
    Count me among the faithful because I followed you from one home to the next, although I confess I grumbled about it. I still miss the old home with the grand staircase and the great smell of food that wafted down below from the cafe upstairs. I bet I am not the only one who misses that staircase. I think that every good bookstore should have a grand staircase, and an upstairs corner set aside just for little people. And there should always be a few dogeared books allowed in the children's section. Books that have already been loved a little too much; it's a surefire way way to spot a winner. I remember unashamedly crying upstairs on more than one occasion when I turned the pages of a lovely picture book like the ones that Thomas Locker had painted or Tasha Tudor had illustrated.
    Oh, and the cards. How could I forget? When my friends and I were raising our children and our limited budgets did not allow us to eat lunch out on our Mother's Day Out, we would meet at Davis-Kidd and read the funny cards aloud to one another after eating our sandwiches in the park or the car. It never failed to lift our spirits, and it was surely a cheap good time. I have also laughed so hard that I almost didn't make it to that small bathroom of yours in the old place.
   The Husband will agree that through the years I have parted with far too much of my money in support of you;  but I have never begrudged you the impulsive purchases that I have made under the heady influence of good literature. I am an inveterate follower of Desiderius Erasmus who supposedly said, "When I get a little money, I buy BOOKS; if any is left I buy food and clothes." I would give up almost anything save my children and my dogs for the sake of a great book. Literature has changed me. From the Good Book to my ever-evolving top 100 (see previous post here), books are like treasures to me. I can lose myself inside of them, and I can also find myself there as well. A good book is a great escape or a powerful herald of truth and reality. And the very best books are both.
   I thank you for introducing me to several folks who through the years have become my friends. People like Leif Enger (Peace Like a River), David Wroblewski (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle), Ernest Gaines, Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, and Ann Patchett. It was in your company that I also renewed old ties with former acquaintances who had gathered dust on the shelf of my mind: Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, and Ayn Rand, to name a few.
   To say that I am sorry that you will be leaving Nashville is an understatement. Somehow it seems terribly wrong. I am continuing to hope against hope that some alternative solution can be found. When I talked to the folks at your parent company, Joseph-Beth, they seemed almost as sad as I was. I asked the nice lady who talked through the issues with me, "What if I totally boycott Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders for the rest of my life? Would that work?" In the end she told me that the decision was in the hands of the court, and then she said an odd thing. She asked me if I would pray. Good Southern Christian girl that I am, I told her without hesitation, "Of course I will pray." Her voice caught with emotion, and so did mine. And so, I am praying. It seems kind of ironic or odd amidst everything else that is going on in the world to be praying for a bookstore not to close. But I happen to think that all prayers matter, just like all things matter to God. If the woman who doesn't know me from Adam asked a woman on the phone she has never met or talked to before to pray, you can betcha that I am gonna do just that. Who knows what might happen if we all pray. Why don't you join the hope of saving a place where readers and writers and musicians of all ages, shapes, and sizes, along with children and people of any age who are already lovers or are just learning to love books have found for themselves a safe and welcoming haven, a home of sorts.


  1. oh,my heart weeps with you!! it's a nashville staple..say it isn't so!! what's next pancake pantry? i will miss perusing the books as well..and i am with you the grand staircase was synonymous with DK. And many laughs at not making it to the restroom..that was a great mental picture! loved this post. did DK great justice. llj

  2. This is profound. My favorite line...
    I can lose myself inside of them, and I can also find myself there as well. A good book is a great escape or a powerful herald of truth and reality. And the very best books are both.

    I love you.

  3. I love this store, too. Just last Christmas, I received a gift card to the store. I spent an entire evening looking through books, sitting in a chair and reading the first chapters and then selecting my choices. I can't imagine Nashville without Davis Kidd. I think you showed it to my mom and I went I came up to look at Vanderbilt and I've loved it ever since. Just said a prayer for it myself...

  4. What a beautiful post... great quote to use!! That book is amazing.


  5. I have found memories as a child of begging my mom to let me go up the grand staircase to the rows of children's books. It was a staircase we also wanted to run up wildly but were never allowed almost as if running would break the sacred quiet of the bookstore and bring people back to reality and out of the worlds they had entered in those books.


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