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I’ve become the dullest of correspondents with distant family and friends. As each week now seems exactly identical to the one before, I find I have little new or particularly interesting to say, and hear myself repeating the same dull commonplace particulars over and over. And time has taken on shifting subjectivities, such that the beginning of each week appears a steep mountain of hours and days to be scaled, yet by the end of the week incidents that occured at its onset seem to have happened only a day or two ago. Of many more distant events, whether some happened a month, or three, or six or more ago I often can’t reliably recall, since they all belong to a prior and ever more distant reality. In short, I’ve become thoroughly a creature of this confining present, itself maddeningly contradictory in the sense of partial safety it promises, and the degree of deprivation it imposes.

But then, thank goodness, there are books. I find in that hour or so at the weary end of each day, a cache of space and time for my imagination to roam free-- it’s the primary nourishment of what sanity I manage to retain. I began by devouring mysteries by some of my current favorite authors: Peter May, Donna Leon, and, particularly, Fred Vargas. Currently I’m immersed in Moby Dick-- a book which-- I abashedly admit, I’ve not previously succeeded in traversing cover to cover. This time I will-- with much delight. It’s been bringing me every day delicious passages, such as:


There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but barely discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at no one’s expense but his own.


So I’m thinking today of you, dear reader, and hoping the worlds you’re visiting on the page continue to offer the respite, or escape, consolation or stimulation to keep you buoyant through the challenges ahead.

With my best wishes to all.





So here we all are-- plodding toward the end of the fifth week of this segment of the strange new reality. Let’s call this chapter “Sequestered.” Anchored to our homes, we reach through ethereal channels to touch virtual fingertips, and the deficient though essential  reassurance of community and continuity thus achievable. 

Here at the bookstore, four or five of us at any given time move quietly-- safely distanced-- around the dormant space. The floorboards fail to creak at our spectral passing, awaiting the corporeal weight of your returned tread to restore their voices. The shelves tower stolidly, the book jackets’ faces glazed, awaiting the gaze of present eyes, the reach of garnering fingers. We--as I suspect is generally the case-- have fallen into a rhythm, a routine for these bizarre conditions-- and have acclimatized to the pattern, actually clinging to it, while disdaining its imposition. A situational Stockholm syndrome. The distressing paradox of now.

For us, here, it’s the disturbing abstraction of providing books, without, in many cases, touching them, to you-- dear readers-- without seeing, without speaking with you. And so very grateful to be able to do as much. And it’s your comments-- your encouragement-- the expressions of love for this book place-- that keep us linked to the reality of future return to actual presence. Speed the day when we can meet again within these walls, along these aisles, among these books. In the meantime, be safe, resilient, and hopeful. 

With my best wishes.





I came upon this poem a little while ago and it’s given me a lot of comfort in recent weeks—
lending resolve on those despairing mornings, and offering a measure of calm in the multiple deep night panicked awakenings.


Quoth the hummingbird

whose dance I
watch through my
kitchen window this
darkest of mornings:

Keep your faith
bright and your
wings in motion
the air will
hold you up.


I hope it might provide you too with a small beam of light in the darkness we’re navigating together.

With best wishes to all.





As we near the end of the third week of the shutdown, I find myself thinking frequently of the word “essential.” We see it as an official designation of individuals (healthcare professionals, delivery drivers) and institutions (pharmacies, liquor stores). It leads me to wonder what really is essential-- at least in my life. Shelter; food; connection with loved ones, friends, colleagues; connection with the natural world; the comfort and inspiration of the written word.

Though I’d never associated the word “essential,” I’ve always thought of this bookstore-- as of manifold independent bookstores-- as a vital part of the civil fabric of our city. A place where lovers of the book can come together in safety and community and graze among the shelves; a place offering close encounters with the creators of thought and dream and verbal music; a place to find information or advice to guide the thirsty reader to a satisfying spring.

That is why, throughout the years, through blizzard, earthquake, riot, global economic meltdown (and we have weathered all of these), our first dedication has been to keep the store open-- as a haven offering the sense of comfort and continuity our community has craved. And that’s what makes the current crisis so fundamentally different from every past exigency. Just as we stay in contact with family and dear ones through phone, zoom, whatever connective technology, so we are doing what we can to be here for you-- though it’s all a pale substitute for free proximity.

The messages we’ve received of support, encouragement, alliance, are inestimably inspiriting and my heart overflows with gratitude to you. What has always been obvious is that you are essential to us-- without you there is no Elliott Bay Book Company. Your engagement with our work has always been our foremost responsibility and our highest privilege. 

So it’s with profound appreciation that I send my best wishes, with hopes to welcome you safely once again through our front door-- as soon as may be.





I’m writing with overwhelming gratitude for the ongoing support we’ve received-- not just the orders (and every order makes a difference in helping us get through the shutdown and out the other side), but also for the expressions of concern, encouragement and commitment to the welfare of the bookstore. You are providing not only the means, but equally importantly, the inspiration to keep working toward that day when we can reopen our doors and come together again in safety and renewed community. I want to thank you for the history we share, your support in the present we’re navigating together, and the future to which we all aspire.

With best wishes for the welfare of all.

Peter Aaron