Old Friend From Far Away, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
I bought Natalie Goldberg’s new book, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Actually, Liz bought it for me, the creative version of romance – a writer’s gift. We visited Common Good Books, an Independent bookstore in Saint Paul, between touring the Minnesota State Capitol (by day), and attending a Victorian Poetry Slam at the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue (by night).
It was the first time I had been to Common Good Books, owned by one of Minnesota’s native sons (and the host of A Prairie Home Companion), Garrison Keillor. I went at the urging of a friend. I slid Natalie’s book off the shelf in excited anticipation. It was the last one they had in stock.
The book feels good in the hands. The paper is soft and textured, the front cover is inviting, and I can’t wait to dive in. I took some time off this weekend. Rested. Today begins a new week. Sometimes I need a little inspiration. I pick up a book.
Natalie talked about writing Old Friend from Far Away in the Writing Intensive in Taos last year. Sometimes she would show us the manuscript with the cross-outs and revisions. Other times she would read partially completed chapters to us. Twice, I saw her write new lines into a paragraph while she was sitting there. She said she was inspired by her students; the book is dedicated to them.
Studying with an author while they are actually writing a book is a rare gift. I learned so much from her sharing the process (both successes and mistakes). The next best thing is hearing the writer read her work. If you want to see Natalie read from her new book, maybe you can catch her on tour from February through April of this year.
If you are looking to learn more about Writing Practice and memories, pick up a copy for yourself. Spending the money to buy a writer’s book shows your support for the writer. You might also want to consider doing your shopping in an Independent bookstore near you. Yeah, it takes more effort than ordering online. And is sometimes more expensive. But it’s worth it.
Here are a couple of reasons why:
When I hit sunlight on the sidewalk, I felt that I had just been in another world, a place full and close to me. After that day, Centicore was mine. I lived in it.
Since then I have sought out bookstores in every town and city I pass through, the way someone else might search for old battle sites, gourmet food or sports bars. I consider the people working in bookstores my friends. If I’m lost, need a good restaurant or a cheap place to stay, I go to a bookstore, confident someone there will direct me.
If a town has no bookstore, I feel sad for the place. It doesn’t have that concentrated wealth of minds that includes twelfth-century Japan, a painter in Tahiti, traditional North American Indian pottery, memories of war, a touch of Paris and the Mississippi, a lament on love’s transiency and instruction on how to cook a good chicken stew. You can live in a small hamlet on the Nebraska plains and if there’s a bookstore, it’s like the great sun caught in one raisin or in the juicy flesh of a single peach.
A bookstore captures worlds — above, behind, below, under, forward, back. From that one spot the townspeople can radiate out beyond physical limit. A hammer and nails in the hardware store down the block, though fine and useful tools, can’t quite do the same job. Even an ice cream parlor — a definite advantage — does not alleviate the sorrow I feel for a town lacking a bookstore.
-Natalie Goldberg, from Thunder and Lightning; Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, chapter excerpt, Smack! Into the Moment
What Happened To Orr Books? Bookstores across the country are closing every month. Buy Independent!
I know it’s not always possible to shop at an Independent bookstore. I confess, I buy my share of books online. Particularly if I am rushed for time, or am looking for obscure or out-of-print books. Many times, smaller bookstores don’t have the room to keep older books in stock.
And I found when I worked at a large bookstore chain, they, too, would often have to order older books online. In that case, I cut out the middle man and buy direct. But when I do shop online, I try to visit sites like Alibris: New, Used, Rare and Out-of-Print Books. Alibris supports Independent bookstores by uniting book sellers from all over the globe, and giving you the online alternative of patronizing an Independent.
However you shop, I hope you’ll get out to support Natalie on tour and purchase her new book, Old Friend from Far Away. And please come back and share any insights you’ve gained from reading about the practice of writing memoir. We’d love to hear them.
Make that three good reasons!
Common Good Books, Saint Paul, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Common Good Books
165 Western Avenue North
(downstairs in the Blair Building, beside Nina’s Coffee Cafe on Selby)
St Paul, Minnesota 55102
Monday through Saturday – 10am to 10pm
Sunday – 10am to 8pm
-posted on red Ravine, Monday, February 18th, 2008
-related to post, Natalie Goldberg — 2000 Years Of Watching The Mind, Beginner’s Mind, More About The Monkey