Monday, October 20, 2014

Last Standing Bookstore in Woodland

Halloween scene: cat glares at a skull that sits on an open book near a candle and owl.

I hadn’t been to Woodland’s last remaining bookstore, JerryCloutier’s Used Books, for a good two years at least, but finally went a couple Saturdays ago. I‘ve been looking for a couple of books that I was hoping to find used. Cloutier’s is a typical book lover’s (such as myself) paradise: old, dimly lit, and piled with books everywhere that are too many to fit the rows of bookcases. Some are piled as high as a person’s waist, and ones that are stacked on top of their cases nearly touch the ceiling.  Not only do the piles and cases together create a labyrinth but also an effect that, when you first walk into the store, makes the main isle appear to stretch further than it really does. When you walk down this isle looking at the section signs on the sides of the shelves, before you know it you’re at the end.

I know the owners, a 60-something couple, who are very nice and look like they could’ve been hippies in their younger days. The husband wasn’t there that afternoon, but the wife was whom I asked if she kept horror fiction in the science fiction/fantasy section. The closest thing I saw to a separate section for horror was the subgenres of vampire and paranormal romance that are so popular today. She said that she had dismantled her horror section a while back and shelved them mostly in general fiction. We talked a little bit about how the genres, especially in speculative fiction, overlap. She said this is especially so with science fiction/fantasy. I agree.

Genre overlap in fiction is more the case today than ever. Not only does speculative fiction have several subgenres such as zombie horror, vampire horror, steampunk, etc. but it also has mixed genres: science fiction murder mystery, space opera murder mystery (such as Beth Revis’s Across the Universe ), espionage horror (Charles Stross’s Laundry Files series), crime horror, vampire romance, the list goes on.

One of the books I was looking for at Cloutier’s was Graham Masterton’s The Manitou. This novel was made into a movie three years after its 1976 publication date. The movie was great with eye-catching special effects for its time. The book was one I actually had on my summer reading list but now have to move it to my Autumn/Halloween reading list. (This list is assumed and not an actual one that I made. However, maybe I’ll compose one for my next post which will be just in time for Halloween.) I didn’t get around to reading it during the summer, mostly because I wasn’t able to find it in my local bookstores that I like supporting. Then I found it that Saturday afternoon at Cloutier’s. They specialise in paperbacks but also offer a lot of hardcovers, some of them as old as half a century judging by the appearances of the covers (though, as the old saying goes, we should never judge a book by its cover).

As I said, Cloutier’s is the last standing bookstore in my home town of “Forbidden” Woodland. It’s a miracle that it’s still there and I pray that it will stand much longer in a town that doesn’t seem to embrace literariness that openly. But the survival of this store tells us that there are still Woodlanders around, and others of the surrounding Sacramento communities, who are not only willing to support the last of the few local, independently owned bookstores in our nation, but who also have an appreciation and some (like myself) even a passion for the printed book.

I plan to do a lot more of my shopping at Jerry Cloutier’s Used Books, at least when it comes to vintage paperbacks of the pre-digital book era (which is about 1995 and back, maybe) since those have freehand cover art that you cannot find on most of today’s book covers. Will I purchase newly released material at this bookstore? No. Cloutier’s doesn’t sell newly released books (unless, perhaps, someone happens to trade or sell one to them who is not only an avid reader but a rapid one as well.). Why should they? After all, you can get newly published books anywhere.

Until next time . . .  

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