Earlier this month Denise and I drove over slick roads to Chattanooga to visit some Knoxville friends who were willing to meet us halfway (that's what friends do). Our friends, Maggie, Judy, Susan, and Susie belong to a book group that has been together for over 20 years. Of course, I know that I am always welcome to join the conversation in these reunions, but I am also free to leave for a few hours for some personal guy time so the women can catch up. On my way to see Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (a decent movie along the order of Inglourious Basterds, but not one of his best works like Jackie Brown or Pulp Fiction), I stopped by a used book store near the Chattanooga Aquarium called All Books.
By checking online reviews I was forewarned that this is a polarizing book store. Some people are appalled by the clutter and lack of services; others react positively. Not that I am that surprised by stories of surly book store owners and employees. I once published an essay entitled “Book Lovers Are Not Necessarily People Lovers,” the premise of which was that to some bookstore staff books are more interesting than people, and it can take a lot to get attention in those places.
Eighty-year-old Polly Henry owns All Books, and though books may been a former passion, that interest has clearly shifted to textiles. The book store is covered in yarn, crocheted hats, scarves, weaving machinery and (I am not going to mislead) a selection of books that can described most generously as antiquated. The only book that intrigued me was Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (2001), mainly because I wondered if had been heavily discounted due to his fall from grace. There may have been something else worthy of my attention, but based on my initial findings, I didn't want to risk being late for Django.
Upon returning to the hotel, I told our friends about the store (witholding my description of the Tarantino blood fest) and the next day before returning to Knoxville they spent hours there, being (as Judy described) “intoxicated by fiber.” I will leave it to them to comment more about the store.
My only remaining question is: Do I still get book shopper recommendation points for leading them to a bookstore, even though it resulted only in the purchase of yarn and knitted products?
Photo credit for inside of store: Judy Barnette