Johnny Cash had many explanations of why he always wore black.
One of my favorites is: “I wear black for those who never read.”
My current plan is to begin wearing all black for a not dissimilar reason. Mine will be for a city that could be great if it had a downtown bookstore. Fort Worth.
Larry McMurtry where are you? How about opening a branch of your Archer City bookstore here, where you once taught at TCU?
Downtown Fort Worth began to be revitalized 30 years ago when it still had a quaint and cozy downtown bookstore called Barber’s. The store yielded to a trendy Dallas restaurant that ran its course and over the years the location has housed a variety of other businesses. You could say just when things were looking up they went downhill for downtown.
There is no bookstore in downtown Fort Worth and the absence of one keeps us from continuing to set ourselves apart from other cities, from continuing to refocus and bring people back inside a geographic zone that is centered and creates a bubble of retail, dining and shopping opportunities. Good places just to browse and while away a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Oh, we had a Barnes & Noble downtown and for a while there was one at University and Berry that doubled as TCU’s bookstore but it had more T-shirts than books. There’s a B&N on Hulen Street but navigating the city streets and traffic to get there leaves you too exhausted to enjoy the books.
Few moments match the joy of wandering into and then around a bookstore, one found serendipitously while just walking – not driving – down a street. You can still have this experience in smaller cities and towns that have the quaint and comfortable feel of a favorite old shirt. You just climb inside and warm up.
As much as I love Johnny Cash’s line about wearing black, I am haunted by another. His daughter, Rosanne Cash, recalling how her father loved to read and how painful it was when his eyesight began to fade, said he wished he had read all of the books he owned.
Looking at walls of them, many unread, he said: “It’s a room full of regret.”
I buy books compulsively and as the cash register rings in a bookstore I ask myself, for instance, why I bought three new books in a small town bookstore on a recent Saturday while the four I bought two weeks earlier sat unread.
One excuse I have is simple. I am a slow reader and will pause, then go back over and over again to read a sentence or a paragraph I loved, or one I did not understand.
But diverting my planned activities for an unplanned adventure on that recent Saturday and wandering into and around a bookstore reminded me of the great pleasure such a visit offers. It made me wish Fort Worth had one to offer. And, if we are such an enviable place to live, why can’t we have a bookstore? Spare me the economics, please. It would be a worthy and philanthropic act for someone of great wealth to open one.
We’re not talking about baseball. It’s a bookstore. Build it and they will come.
So in case you are wondering, here is what I bought – all books that I had never heard of before walking into the store. And the surprise of discovery is part of the allure of a bookstore. Libraries are the same way and, by the way, Fort Worth has a great library.
A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life by Pat Conroy. So far, it’s my favorite and consists of a blog or journal entries Conroy wrote as his health began to fail and the days ahead of him were fewer than those behind. Great storytelling, which is his forte.
Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World’s Most Alluring Fish by Chris Dombrowski. It’s a story about the adventure of stalking and trying to outwit bonefish but one that turns out to be philosophically life-altering for the writer. Nonfiction. Writing that is so alluring and intricate and beautiful that some might wonder if it is overdone.
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. I haven’t read it yet, but I hope it will prove redemptive.
I could write more but I have reading to do.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org