It’s a great day to be beguiled in Seattle. The sun is bright and warm. The mountains are snowcapped and crystal clear on the horizon. Such a beautiful day, in fact, I’m tempted to push a hipster off his single-speed just so I can hug and kiss away his pain. Which is to say, PANKsters (may I call you that?), that I am primed for love when I walk into Pilot Books, upstairs Â at 219 Broadway in the Capital Hill neighborhood.
I’m in Pilot because of the great PANK4 Mailing Debacle of 2010. Like so many others, their order was returned for reasons better told over shots (alcohol always dresses up a dumb story, doesn’t it?). Regardless, as their envelope had landed back on my desk the day I was leaving for their fair city, I thought it a good idea to just hand deliver the damned thing, see what they were up to in the meantime.
And what they’re up to at Pilot Books is curating dozens of lovely obscurist titles from smallish and independent literary publishers far and near, from experimental poetry to the more recognizable prose-isms to ‘ziney little DIY ditties, all in the cutest damn shop about the size of a medicine cabinet. Chapbooks and letterpress oddities hang from the walls and beams, a table is laid out with new releases, there are two comfy wing backs in which to sit and read — book nerd heaven, my friends.
But get this. In a neighborhood where the affectation is piled so fucking thick you can’t cut through the American Apparel with a cleaver, Pilot Books manages to somehow be unaffected AND hip AND smart AND Â nice. How’s that work?
Ruthie (Ruthy, Ruthee, Ruthi?) is the lone soul working this afternoon. Knowledgeable? Beautiful? Enthusiastic? Helpful? Check, one through four. And she gets big bonus points for having the best taste in harness boots I’ve ever seen on a woman working in a microscopic independent book store in the Pacific Northwest (we’re wearing the same exact boots, actually). She answers my stupid questions with a smile and lets me natter at her about titles I think they should carry (how obnoxious is that?). She accepts the copy of ARTIFICE I give her as a token of my adoration. She tells me all about the bookshop and where they come from and where they hope to go. I give her the PANK copies they had ordered. I buy two titles — translations of Jorge Volpi’s SEASON OF ASH from Open Letter and Javier Marias’ VOYAGE ALONG THE HORIZON from Believer — for the aeroplane voyage home…
And it’s over. I’m back on the street with the feeling that I’ve just been aboard a ghost ship, that when I tell this story to someone later they will inform me that, no, it can’t be, Pilot burned down years ago at the hands of a red-haired girl.
It was that good, PANKsters. Next time you’re in Seattle, seek them out.