Saturday, February 7, 2009

No Pages For Any Age

Pages For All Ages just closed. It was very sudden and mysterious. One day a sign was put up saying they were closed for inventory. No mention of when they would reopen. Every time I drove through the parking lot on my way to the grocery store, there would be a car stopped in front of their entrance, the driver standing there reading the sign on the door. Then a few days later a new sign came up, "It is with great sadness that we announce the closing of Pages for All Ages Bookstore Inc. after serving the Champaign-Urbana-Savoy area for over 20 years."

It's like someone who you know, not intimately but a neighbor you see a few times a month, and you hear that they just dropped dead. Then you find out that they were sick for a long time, but you didn't even know it.

I live right across the street from the store. In fact, when I give people directions to my place, I start with, "Do you know where Pages For All Ages is?" I guess now I'm going to have to say, "Do you know where Pages For All Ages used to be?"

I'm a librarian, so it should go without saying that I love books and bookstores. Just being around all those pristine pages of fresh knowledge, discussion, and storytelling excites me, even though I know I'll never get to read half the things I want to. (At any given time I'm usually in the middle of two to four books, but I have about 20 on my mental list of things to read. I'm a slow reader, and the truth is I don't read as often as a I could. Sometimes I think I like the idea of reading more than the actual practice. So I will never catch up with my list.)

But I have a dirty little secret. Although I love books, I don't own very many. I only have one bookshelf that is half full.

And most of the things on it are books people have given or lent me. I'm not a big book buyer. Since I rarely read something more than once, I prefer to get them from the library.

So although I like to hang out in bookstores, and I loved living across the street from the area's largest independent bookstore, I will have to take some of the blame for Pages closing. I just didn't buy enough. Whenever I did need a book, CD, or greeting card, Pages was the first place I'd go. It was great being able to walk across the street when I needed to buy a last-minute gift for someone.


The Last Purchase

The last time I was in Pages was three weeks ago. I needed a last-minute birthday gift for my sister-in-law, Jill, so I ran into the store on my way to her party. I was looking for a book on how to make sushi, which is what she said she wanted. But they didn't have anything, which is probably why they closed.

So while I was browsing the shelves trying to find anything my sister-in-law would want, this jumped out at my from the Staff Picks shelf: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia.

My other sister-in-law, Susie, had been trying to get me to read this book a while. Every time I talked to her she asked me if I'd read it yet. Her insistence that I have to read the book was only eclipsed by her husband, my brother Rick, trying to talk me into buying a house.

Despite Susie's insistence that I read it, I was hesitant. The premise just didn't seem that interesting. It sounded all spiritual and new-agey, and I'm not really into that kind of thing. Susie had recommended those kinds of things to me before and it had not turned out well. Plus it seemed like a girl thing, so I didn't think it would speak to me.

But what I could do was use Susie's recommendation to help me buy a gift for Jill. Need a gift for one sister-in-law? Why not buy the book that the other one recommended?

I had no way of knowing at the time, but that book was last thing I ever bought at Page for All Ages.

I gave it to Jill as birthday present, who fortunately had not read it yet. She finished it in about a week and then loaned it to me, talking it up. It's about divorce. And traveling. And there's a little new-agey stuff, but not too much.

So with two sisters-in-law getting on my case about reading it, I finally opened it up.

It's really good.

Or, at least the first 52 pages are. That's as far as I've gotten, but I really like what I've read so far.

The book is divided into 108 short sections, each one representing a different prayer bead on a special prayer necklace used by Hindus and Buddhists. I love numbers and short anecdotes, so this really appeals to me.

The premise is that Liz Gilbert went through a horrible divorce, a turbulent affair, a crushing depression, and then decided to travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find herself (my words.) Although she left her husband, much like my wife did, I can forgive her because she's such a good writer. (And she at least had the decency to suffer crippling depression as a result.) Her voice, insights, and sense of humor really appeal to me. It reminds me of my own writing, if I were much more talented and spiritual. And there's enough doubt, rationality, and smartassedness to balance out the new-agey stuff.

It's a great read that I highly recommend. At least the first 52 pages. After that, you're on your own.

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