Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seattle's Secret Author's Hideway

I hope I’m not giving anything away when I tell you about the “Author’s Suite” at the Alexis Hotel in Seattle, Washington – the home away from home for authors visiting and local indie bookseller Elliott Bay Book Co.

The room is decorated with literary portraits, including Hemingway and Dorothy Parker (both over the bar), Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe (in the bedroom), Pablo Neruda (over the fireplace), as well as George Bernard Shaw, Anton Chekhov and Toni Morrison.

When my wife and I (and baby) checked in, the bellhop pointed out that Stephen Hawking and John Updike had stayed in the room, and pointed the hundreds of books shelved around the room from writers who’d also slept in the same bed. Most were inscribed. Julian Barnes wrote to thank the hotel for the “four or five times” he’d been a guest. Chuck Palahniuk, called the Alexis an “always welcome port in the book tour storm.”

To think think Stephen Hawking had likely bathed in the same whirlpool tub and Chuck Palahniuk has slept in the same bed left me feeling a bit, errr, odd – or was it – awed.

When a friend who is a local bookseller came by the hotel for a drink, he asked to see the room. “It’s here in my backyard, but I’ve never been invited up,” he said, “everyone prefers to meet downstairs.” (The hotel’s bar, called The Bookstore Bar, is a popular spot, as is the restaurant, which is called The Library Bistro). Another friend, a local author, came by to drop off a signed book to place on the shelves next to the others “for posterity.”

Of course, the dilemma with being surrounded by so many books (and the spirit of their creators) is what to choose to read. I was happy to discover more than a few titles I’d never heard of before that I suddenly had an urge to read. But I was faced with a dilemma, what happens if I start a book but don’t finish it…?! Surely, I can’t slip this signed edition into my bag to finish at home in my own time? I have to wonder what valuable titles may have disappeared into travelers bags to be skirted off to the four corners of the earth.

It’s amusing to think that some day in the future, a bibliographer might sit down to peruse a catalog of signed first editions and come across so many copies inscribed to “Alexis” and set out to discover who that was.

No comments: