Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Two weeks ago, when I was in Jackson, Wyoming for a reading from Fobbit, I stopped in the Valley Bookstore--the bookshop which, along with the now-defunct Teton Bookshop, formed part of the Holy Trinity of my bookish youth (the Teton County Library was the other point of that literary triangle). As I've done at every stop during this Fobbit tour, I bought a book to help support the cause of independent bookstores.
As I walked through the front door of the Valley Bookstore, BOOM!, there was my choice right in front of me on the table of new releases. This may be surprising, coming from a guy who wrote a novel about the Iraq War, but I'm not a frequent reader of military non-fiction. My friend Bart, who lives here in Butte, Montana, can wax rhapsodic for hours on end about Napoleon's disastrous Battle of Leipzig and he will even go to the library just off his sitting room, skipping happy as a schoolboy, to pull a musty, leatherbound volume down off the shelf--a 19th-century text written by one of the general's contemporaries--and page reverently through the engraved plates showing maps, battle landscapes and military portraits. God bless Bart, but that's not really my style. I'm more of a Jonathan Franzen-Alice Munro-Ian McEwan kind of guy. I breathe the air of wholly-fictional worlds.
However, when the bell above the Valley Bookstore's door tinkled, it was like a gong sounding in my head. Here, right in front of me, was a book I needed to buy and read immediately. I don't know why I felt so compelled--maybe it was the stunning jacket design featuring the photo by Robert Capa, or maybe it was the subject matter of one World War Two Army officer's "500-day odyssey from the beaches of Sicily to the gates of Dachau"--but something moved me to pick up The Liberator by Alex Kershaw.