By Midge Pierce
Anthology Booksellers is Portland’s newest used bookstore, where time stands still as you wile away an afternoon, discover a rare first edition or spring for a signed Henry Miller.
“The store is an extension of my library,” says owner Gary Wilkie.
Wilkie doesn’t know exactly how many books line the floor-to-ceiling overflowing shelves of the vintage house he rents from the Linus Pauling estate on Hawthorne Blvd. just off 39th St., but he does know he has 10,000 of them listed online and that number represents less than half of his total collection.
Ask him for a specific title like Mildred Pierce, my namesake and basis for the film and TV series, and he can put his hands right on it.
Likely, he’ll find a book by your favorite muse with an autograph or inscription. Online, a new inscribed arrival is Larry McMurtry’s first book, Horseman Pass By, the basis for the movie HUD. Yours for $800.
Anthology’s tagline is Fine books and Ephemera, is apt given the inventory that spans a century of literature, humanities, science and metaphysics.
“Variety and quality. It’s what I’m about,” says Wilkie. “People who are interested in out-of-print titles, private presses or unusual books find us, often by word of mouth.”
On the main floor, the soft tenor sax of Ben Webster wafts through the sound system and over pages of music, art and film books. First stop is the poetry kitchen. Wilkie estimates he has more than 18,000 titles including extensive collections by Jerome Rothenberg, famed for experimental assemblages of contemporary poetry and ideas known as ethnopoetics.
Throughout the store, the theme of experimental assemblages is reflected in the art by Marilyn Stablein, Wilkie’s wife. Tucked into every available wall or table, her whimsical work features assemblages of collectibles like old radio tubes, barber brushes and household recyclables like meat tenderizers.
Books are organized by categories and broken into specific niches like meso-American history and WPA projects.
Wilkie pulls one of his gems off a shelf – a handbound letterpress edition of Red Wise, published on handmade paper by Golden Cockerel press in 1925.
Across the room are an original Herman Hesse from 1957 and reams of delicately- stitched chapbooks of rare poetry collections. Anthologies from throughout the 20th Century contain James Joyce, Dorothy Parker, Ezra Pound, Wendell Berry, William Burroughs and mid-century writers from Jack Kerouac’s School of Disembodied Poets.
Starting out in a bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach, he hung out with beat generation poets. In the late 70s, Wilkie and partner Barry Gifford published an early Allen Ginsberg, Sad Dust Glories. “Ginsberg helped our publishing venture break even. It’s hard to break even selling poetry,” he laments.
He cradles a book with beautiful, colored woodcuts, Human Universe by postmodernist Charles Olson. “I hated to see it sell, but I knew it would turn up again.” It did, and in keeping with Colson’s descriptions of poetry’s power to transfer energy and perception, Wilkie would consider a sale again.
On the second floor, spiritual and metaphysical books are adjacent to physics, math, anthropology and architecture which are next door to politics, photography, black history, labor rights.
Across the hall is a room of novels and pulp fiction with staying power like those of Harold Robbins.
The basement holds more rows of literary magazines with stories by Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett and Lillian Hellman. The back half of the basement is stacked with as-yet-unopened boxes of Irish Literature – one category he will no longer buy. “The Irish were prolific. I have enough already.”
Wilkie says deciding what to buy is a gut feeling. “I look for titles with lasting value, what I think will be important beyond the next six months. It’s not always a great business philosophy but my clients are loyal.” Many have followed him from his stores in San Francisco, Seattle, New York and most recently Albuquerque.
Portland, a book town, held allure. The front porch view of Hawthorne is typical Portlandia. ”You can see just about everything here.” Yet, even better than busy, eclectic street scene, laughs Wilke, is that he has parking in the back.
Anthology Booksellers is at 3941 SE Hawthorne Blvd For a complete list of books available, see www.acequiabooksellers.com