Lost Horizons, I

Horizon Books – On Greenwood - closed

Gone now, but here is a taste of what I found about 15 years ago, in which Robert forecasts the future:

Horizon Books in Greenwood, dealing in used and rare books and records, shines like a beacon on Greenwood with its bright yellow paint. The outdoor bookstall features , by Truman Capote, , by B.F. Skinner, and , by Alan Paton. The window lures you inside with , by Norman Mailer, , by Joseph Campbell, , by Lucy Ash, and , by Hunter S. Thompson.

The store inside is strictly utilitarian with bare linoleum floors. No comfy chairs, unless you count the two or three old office chairs around one end of the front desk. The rooms, two of them, are narrow but deep, with 7-8’ tall pine bookshelves, plenty of stepstools and ladders and a couple of straight-back chairs. You notice the record albums first, stretching out in front of shelves filled with books on art and music.

Behind the counter are the rare editions, including a set of The Works of James Branch Cabell and several editions of Encyclopedia Britannica. There are two sets of the 11th edition of EB which, manager Robert told me, is the quintessential edition. James Michener, he said, traveled with a set of the 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica in his car. Robert also informed me, with a slight hint of bitterness, that they had one tiny little shelf of men’s studies and 16 long shelves of women’s studies. He didn’t seem too put out. Just getting a little punch in.

The well-organized shelves hold literature, mysteries, and metaphysics, with a special section on the West and Northwest, including Seattle and Alaska. The second room has an extensive collection of cooking, gardening and travel volumes, huge stacks of unopened boxes of books, and a complete collection of The Smithsonian Institution Annual Reports. The front counter offers a , the 1926 Series, for $120 including stand. Looking down at the counter, I noticed what looked like a wooden picture frame containing sand, three or four rocks, and a tiny rake. “What’s this?” I asked. Robert smiled. “That’s a Zen garden.” And indeed it was. I picked up the rake and began making patterns in the sand. “That’s what it’s for. It’s the zen of doing nothing. If I could figure out how to make those little rakes, I could make a bundle with these.”

Robert was outgoing and easy to talk to about books and the book business. He told me that Left Bank Books was going out of business and that he believed that the new online book services such as Amazon.com were partly to blame. So we talked about computers and the impact that they and the large chains will have on the future of the small bookshop. “Barnes and Noble has a used book section now,” he said glumly. I said perhaps this guide is just the thing. We need to remind folks of the pleasure of shopping the small bookstores. Horizon may not have the comfy chairs and cute signs, but it’s a bookstore about books and it is a good place to be. It’s almost zen.