Scene: A high-ceilinged bookstore, downtown Charlottesville. White pillars. The air is cool. I’m on the scene keeping an eye out for the workshop’s nonfiction class, who are on their highly sensitive Gonzo Journalism assignment.
I am looking for a book — Glass, Beans, Paper — by Leah Hager Cohen. (I have the name wrong; it’s Glass, Paper, Beans.) I ask one of the tanned women running the store if they have it.
She thinks they do. What’s it about?
It’s the writer’s exploration of her morning cup of coffee — who harvested the beans and where, what forests were cut down to make the paper for the napkin. It’s nonfiction.
Oh, how cute, the woman says, adjusting her huge glasses below her highlighted poof of hair. Yes, I think we have that.
She heads for the Psychology section and looks up expectantly.
What are you looking for? asks another woman.
Glass, Paper, Coffee, says the woman with the glasses. It’s… essays about the simple life, she says.
I’m mesmerized by the huge bow at the back of her skirt waistband. It look like it’s made of couch-cover chintz. Seafoam green.
That’s a hard book to classify, she says, still staring up at Psychology.
Don’t you have a literary nonfiction section? I ask. No such luck; nobody knows we’re a genre.
She’s an alumn of my college, I say, the author. (That’ll be sucessful. I don’t tell them I went to Hampshire.)
At that point, a blond toddler named Henry goes missing, and we all drop the book search to find him. Before we reach hysterics one woman finds him in the store window display. (They’re dumbfounded. I think it makes sense. That’s where you put the books you want to get seen, anyway.) Henry has a crazed look and a red baseball cap without a logo. His mother picks him up and proceeds through the fantasy section and up stairs in the back, cooing, Yes, yes, yes!, pointing out books in a high babble. Reminds me once again that I want to be just like my own mother, singing commercial jingles and bluegrass.