When I was living in Jerusalem in my 20s, mostly in youth hostels and dorms, I fell in love with traveler’s bookstores. Sefer v Sefel was my first love. It was a store that sold ice cream, coffee and used books. If that’s not perfection, I don’t know what is.
I spent days there, trading in the book I’d just bought for a new one, and finishing it before I left my station at one of the bistro tables.
I’ve always loved bookstores, in general, but used bookstores frequented by travelers are the best of the gems. The books are far more ragged, covers tattered but the stories within are doubled. There are often notes in the margins – calculations of the dinner bill, or an address in Paris. There are pages that are dog-eared and a receipt for a bottle of perfume bought in Budapest. You never know.
Atlantis Books, on the island of Santorini, is one such tiny literary outpost. No ice cream. But there were cats.
The cats have the run of the shop and serve as sales staff, parked in old suitcases of books on the stoop. They purr, and seem to beg you to pet their spines too as you peruse the novels. They are literary cats.
My husband picked up a copy of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer here. It had no notes in the margins. No clues about who read it first. But it jumped out at us. It seemed a good sort of book to buy in another place, another island, so far from Manhattan and the events of 9/11 that serve as the backdrop for the author’s tale.
Twelve years later, and it still feels so raw. No escape from the memories. Not even in books.
But if there were, one would surely find it here. I could have spent a great deal more time at Atlantis books. It was a gorgeous dream, the brief moments we were there.
I’d like to go back and sift through the shelves some more.