A couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I had time to kill in the Twin Cities while waiting to pick Daughter up from the airport. We hung out at a park and ate dinner and still that pesky time was skulking around.
If you know anything about Minnesota, likely you’ve heard the name Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion fame. He’s become his own folk legend while passing along the legendary qualities of Minnesota, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” He’s got a reputation as a liberal curmudgeon in the state, which is actually not a bad rep to have. Minnesotans are, for the most part, too practical to be pushovers, so while we’re known for “Minnesota Nice,” we’re pretty good at sniffing out bullshit and not taking more than we can comfortably use on our fields.
I was curious to see how a Garrison Keillor influenced bookstore would be set up, so while browsing the books, I made telegraphic notes about the place in my phone, which I reproduce here for posterity.
G. Keillor bookstore common good nice bathroom good tile job muted colors nice suject [sic] heading god the head liberal mags handwritten staff reviews art books front and center clean pergo floors xtra books stacked atop shelves quotes on walls 2 poetry sections up front very quiet my right ankle clicks old typwriters [sic] in the windows tin ceiling a small reading area a kids area in back a few scattered chairs not a large store light wood shelves writers books up front not buried
Um, yeah. It’s not really poetry, is it? But the notes do help me recall the details of the place, so here’s a translation.
Whenever I’m in a bookstore, I almost always have to visit the bathroom. Same thing happens in a library. When I visit new bathrooms, I always examine the tile job, something I’ve become acutely aware of since helping Erik tile our own bathroom. Contractors who aren’t very skilled or who want to cut corners will always reveal their flaws in the bathroom tile by having uneven spacing between tiles or by having poorly cut tile around the edges. They’ll fill in their mistakes with excess grout. I’m happy to report that the tile job in Common Good Books is very good. The bathroom has muted neutral colors, as does most of the rest of the store.
The store is a comfortable size. While we were there, it was very quiet. Quieter than you’ll find most libraries today, which is why I could hear my right ankle clicking like a shotgun report in a canyon every time I took a step. Apparently this was only noticed by me because Hubby said he didn’t hear it when I asked him about it.
The layout of the store is a bit unusual for most bookstores. There were liberal magazines in the left front space near the door. Straight ahead, as you walk in, there are large shelves filled with art books in front of the checkout counter. Just to the right of these shelves, also near the front door, are writing books, and there are two whole sections of poetry books in the right front portion of the store. Normally, all of these sorts of books are tucked into the recesses of large bookstores, so you can tell the owner is a writer, not just a bookseller. If that’s not enough of a clue, there are also quotes by writers, including some by G. Keillor himself, painted on the walls.
While most of the subject headings for various sections were fairly typical of most bookstores, two jumped out at me as unusual: “God” and “The Head.” God was labeling the religion section and The Head was labeling books on psychology.
Scattered throughout the store were handwritten reviews of various books by staff. These were tucked under the reviewed books.
It was a lovely, intimate place to do away with extra time and feels like just the sort of place a G. Keillor, prop., would design.