This morning I went to our town’s farmer’s market, held just a convenient block away from our bookstore. As I meandered among the potatoes, carrots and kale, inhaling nice smells and greeting neighbors, a thought crossed my mind: how is a bookstore like a farmer’s market?
Yes, there’s that locally-run, mom-n-pop element, but I mean, what if the books were the vegetables? Digesting ideas, digesting vitamins….c’mon, play along; this could be fun.
Every farmer’s market has plenty of root vegetables, the underground foundations of what we eat. Starchy, solid, and below the radar? I’m nominating Norman Mailer as the potato bin of the bookselling world: stodgy, yet palatable. Filling, and most certainly omnipresent.
How about kale? It’s maybe the wee bit tricky to make tasty, but it’s a staple filler of any reasonable diet. If you can’t eat it straight, try cooking it in soup. I suggest Jessamyn West. Like kale, she’s been around a long time; like kale, she’s rich in fiber; and like kale, she’s been condensed–into reader’s digest hardbacks during her heyday. (If you’re not familiar with West, she wrote The Friendly Persuasion and Except for Me and Thee. Both give you plenty to chew on without much that’s hard to swallow–like kale.)
Now, the peppers are just coming in: sweet green and red bell peppers, yellow banana peppers, and those spicy, innocuous-looking Scotch Bonnets, hotter than any jalapeno. The Bonnets are easy: Philippa Gregory. You can look like an intellectual while getting your bodice ripped, the same way throwing in a Scotch Bonnet makes you look like a gourmet cook when in reality no one will taste anything else. Spicy peppers in moderation are rather good for you, too, and Gregory has a surprisingly adept turn of phrase plus a few realisms stuck in all that spice. And the heat covers the overdone bits.
Banana peppers – well, those are usually pickled, so let’s say Tom Clancy?
For the bell peppers, sweet yet slightly crisp, I’m going to suggest Maeve Binchy. Her stories are fresh, invigorating, familiar in plot yet tantalizing in delivery. Like a good stuffed pepper, she holds a lot of ideas in that sweet, simple framework.
At our farmer’s market, usually at least two stalls sell baked goods and one has homemade candy and other sweet stuff that’s really bad for you and not filling at all.
And finally, we have that luscious genre of berries: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries. For these, let’s say cozy mysteries (you know, the murders that take place in bed and breakfasts, or antique stores, or are solved by women running coffee shops). Having varying levels of juiciness, stomach satisfaction, and cost, they share much with the berry family. Also, like berries at the market, cozies are ubiquitous in any bookstore.
All this playing around does leave a question unsettled in my mind, though: Who would be brussel sprouts? Any ideas?