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Why I Went to My Local Bookstore When I Heard About the Newtown Shooting

17 December 2012

From author Tiffany Baker:

When I heard about the Newtown school shooting yesterday, I think I reacted the same way as every other parent in America—with a passionate and immediate desire to drive straight to my children’s school, bring them home, line them up on the couch, and then throw my body over them. For the rest of time.

I didn’t, of course. For one thing, it would have scared them. For another, I was reasonably certain they were safe where they were. But how could I go on with a normal day when the very worst thing about being alive—the threat of suddenly and violently losing one’s children—was being played out in front of the nation’s eyes?

The answer is that I didn’t. Instead, I went to my local independent bookstore, which probably seems like an odd and maybe even capricious decision, and did to me at the time, as well. But I think I understand what was behind it. In the face of a most horrible and devastating story, I needed to be in the one place I knew that could not only accommodate that narrative, but would provide a kind of dialogue about it.

Book Passage is more than just a store. It’s a longstanding community hub, a place to grab coffee and talk, a locus for lectures, classes, and clubs. It’s where I used to go as a child, where I took seminars as an aspiring writer, where I’ve given readings, and shopped, and made connections with other writers. It’s part of my life, as necessary to me as the grocery store.

. . . .

A bookstore—a good one, at least—is far more than just a retail establishment. It’s a bank of the human condition. The shelves of Book Passage offer succor to the grieving, wonder to the jaded, advice to the confused. You can go in alone, and come out with an armful of company. If you are a regular, chances are you can walk in and someone there will be able to prescribe exactly what your spirit needs.

In a bookstore, you can find all manner of villains and heroes, both real and imaginary, in a tangle of interrelated pages. It’s a safe place to ask the big questions. Where does evil come from? Are heroes born or made? And most especially, in the face of something like the Newtown shooting, the simplest and hardest question of all: Why?

Link to the rest at Tiffany Baker


5 Comments to “Why I Went to My Local Bookstore When I Heard About the Newtown Shooting”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, PG. Amidst all the sorrow and pain, a ray of light. Let’s hope we won’t lose places like that. Coming together to socialize is at the core of our humanity. As with any progress we make, e.g. the ebook, it is how we use it which determines if it will give us a better life, or make us less human.

  2. Thank you for posting a link to this beautiful essay. I grew up in a quiet town in Connecticut very much like Newtown and have a friend who knows one of the Sandy Hook teachers who survived. These words have provided a measure of comfort and hope during a dark and sorrowful time. Peace and love to all.

  3. I’ll look at this a bit coldly for a moment, so forgive me…

    Mike Stackpole once said that every successful gaming store he had ever seen had a gaming room. They had made themselves into more than a place that you bought gaming stuff. I think this is the only way to run a profitable bookstore anymore. It probably means specialist bookstores, too, bookstores that carry certain kinds of books and foster certain kinds of communities to the exclusion of others.

    On a more personal note this reminds me of what it was like on 9-11. I was still in school, and virtually no one went to class, nor did anyone think to blame them. No one could go about their lives as if they were normal. I did go to one class, though, as did almost all of my classmates. It was Government, and we had a fantastic teacher. I think we all wanted to talk or at least hear talk about what had happened.

    I hope everyone in Newtown is finding a place like that.

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