Literary & Garden Arts
Mrs. Dalloway’s is a store that did not exist when my first novel came out, but the first time I heard about this store–which draws it’s name from the Virginia Wolff novel (“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”)–I used the next reason I had to go to the east bay as an excuse to stop by and see for myself. It is as beautiful as everyone told me, and more.
The store isn’t huge, but it’s not too small either. It’s clean and white and fresh, with gorgeous tile floors and arches and plenty of room for books. They have a really terrific selection, too–a bit of everything, but with a focus on gardening books (those flowers) and really fine fiction (like Mrs. Dallowy!). Their books are neatly and artistically displayed on shelves that are just as clean and fresh as the walls, and also on wooden tables throughout the store which are done in colors that evoke Mrs. Dalloway’s flowers.
I first read at this magical store in late 2007, with a great group of writers for an anthology, Searching for Mary Poppins, in which I had a piece. I read alone for The Wednesday Sisters last August, expecting it to be the first place where the hands raised in answer to my question “How many of you have ever demonstrated for women’s right?” would outnumber those raised in answer to “How many of you ever watched the Miss America Pageant?”–because this is Berkeley, right? But no.
I wanted to put the question to the lovely store owners, Marion Abbott and Ann Leyhe, who have both been working with books for decades; they first met at a Radcliffe Publishing course in Cambridge in 1975. But at that time, I was still a bit nervous before readings, and they let me relax in their little office behind the store, where we chatted about books, which was really nice.
That is one of the special things about Mrs. Dalloway’s. They know books. Ask any bookseller there what they are reading, and you will get some great recommendations no matter what your taste is.
I read at Mrs. D’s again last night–this time for the paperback of The Wednesday Sisters, with the lovely Michelle Richmond, whose No One You Know is also out in paperback. It was, as always, a terrific crowd. I look forward to going back again. – Meg
I do occasional posts highlighting independent booksellers, who are so important to helping new literary voices find their audiences; the independents–especially those in the bay area–were instrumental in helping me find mine. If you have a favorite bookstore, please email me and I’ll do my best to have it featured here.