Books in Portland
After I booked my tour, many friends
asked me whether I would be doing an event at Powell's in
Portland, one of the largest independent bookstores
anywhere. I already had a booking at Barnes and Noble
across the river in Vancouver, Washington, and, in the
flurry of making my first CD, my first set of art laser
prints, my web site, t-shirts, posters, travel
arrangements, publicity...and putting my household in
storage, I just didn't follow up on it. I didn't realize
how far apart these two bookstores were, not only
geographically, but spiritually. Not until I walked in
tonight and saw who was there (Cultural Creatives of all
ages), what they were buying (lots of philosophically
uplifting books on practical subjects), and how many
author events they do each month (a couple dozen), did I
truly understand why so many people had urged me to offer
my event to this particular store.
Powell's bookstores takes up all four
floors of this building
as well as six other locations
Unlike any other bookseller I have
visited, Powell's offers shopping baskets,
understanding it is impossible to exit such a wealth with
only one volume in hand.
Hanging from the ceiling, a large chart
helps to guide shoppers to their literature of choice.
Nonetheless, maps are also offered, and store tours on
Tuesdays at 2 PM and Thursday at 11 AM.
From the back of the map available at
Powell's information desk:
"If you walk through Powell's, you will find a
certain logic to the way our books
are organized and shelved. However, we do not always use
the same system libraries use.
New and used books are shelved together. Often, new and
used copies of the same books
will be right next to each other on the shelf.
Biographies are shelved according to subject;
they are not in a separate section. Eleanor Roosevelt
biographies, for instance, are in
U.S. History; Ernest Hemingway biographies are in
Living On The Earth is shelved
among the Alternative Living books;
one 1971 edition and four new copies. I autographed them
affixed the store's autograph stickers, to the delight of
It was the least I could do under the circumstances.
Here are the words of this
informational sign just inside the northwest entrance to
"One of the most interesting new features in
Powell's recent expansion is the Pillar of Books, which
anchors the store's new northwest entrance. The Pillar is
comprised of eight of the world's great books,
carved from Tenino sandstone, stacked one on top of
another to form a nine foot column. Each title weighs
about 500 pounds, and is carved in the script in which it
was originally printed.
Psalms Hebrew religious poetry compiled
from 1400-500 BC
The Whale Original title of Moby Dick,
first published in 1851. The Whale was chosen for reasons
addition to literary significance. Early in his career,
Michael Powell found and purchased a set of leather-
bound Melville titles at an auction house in Chicago. One
of these titles was The Whale. Michael's
experience is at the heart of dealing in used and rare
books. The joy of finding personal treasures
that others may overlook remains the foundation on which
Powell's Books is built.
Mahabharata Epic poem of India that
includes the Bhagavad-Gita. Compiled from the 5th-1st
War & Peace Tolstoy's novel of
Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. First published in
1000 Nights and A Night Classic
collection of Arabic tales. Compiled from the 13th-16th
Tao Te Ching Ancient work of Chinese
philosophy attributed to Lao Tzu. The basis of Taoism.
Compiled in the 4th century BC.
Hamlet Shakespeare's timeless drama of
betrayal and retribution. First presented in 1602.
The Odyssey Homer's epic of the Greek
world after the Trojan War. Written in the 7th century BC.
The pillar, just outside the bookstore
Clearly each book is carved from a different piece of
Certainly for me, the effect of the sculpture, and the
accompanying it, was to whet my appetite for the classics.
The word "transformation" is
holy in the culture of creatives.
Our highest praise for a person, piece of art/literature/cinema/music,
or a life experience, whether deliberately therapeutic/spiritual
is to note we have changed as a result
of being there.
Well, Powell's is a life-changing experience--
and not necessarily the self-improvement book section.