Last Friday I had what I consider a perfect day. In order to pull this off, you have to have balmy weather and a good friend who shares your love of books. Then you’re all set.
We started off at eleven a.m. after a leisurely breakfast over which we discussed the books we’d read since we’d last seen each other. As usual, our tastes agreed. We both love mysteries, from cozies to noir, as well as a vast variety of fiction and non-fiction – especially prime sources such as letters and diaries of our favorite authors. Some books we touched on were: The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett, Lives of the Novelists, by John Sutherland, Case Histories by Kate Atkinson and Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis.
Next, we headed out to Bookhaven, on Fairmount Ave., my idea of the perfect bookstore. When you open the door you’re assailed by the delicious scent of old books, a gray, striped cat is curled up on the counter, and the bookseller really knows her stock, from beginning to end. I asked for The Orations of Cicero, (for my husband), which she instantly produced, with the remark, “His letters are much livelier.” My friend and I moved on to the shelves that interested us. I came away with Short Stories by Wilkie Collins, Wartime Writings by Saint-Exupery, a Lescroart, The Second Chair, (and, of course, the Cicero).
For some reason, book browsing stimulates the appetite, so we found our way to a restaurant with outdoor tables. It was about 70 degrees with a light breeze. There, we had soup, salads, and a glass of white wine that we consumed amid more talk about books. From there we returned home to freshen up for the evening event – a celebration of David Goodis, local noir author extraordinaire. The program was held at the Free Library of Philadelphia. It began with a showing of “The Burglar,” starring Dan Duryea and Jayne Mansfield. This 1950 film was made from a Goodis novel by the same name. After the film, an editor from Library of America spoke about Goodis and read some passages from his novels. Lou Boxer, a director of Philadelphia’s NoirCon, did a power point presentation on Goodis’s life in Philadelphia and his career.
As we emerged from the Library to look for a cab, we realized that finding one at that hour and location was about as likely as a snow storm in July. As we prepared to spend the night curled up on the Library steps, we spied two friends — Deen Kogan and Greg Gillespie. Seeing our plight, they saved the day (rather — the night) by offering us a ride.
At home again, we broke out a chilled bottle of Chardonnay and — you guessed it — talked about books.
Don’t you agree this was a perfect day?