“You’ve got to buy books.”

Melinda Meador, one of the owners of Union Ave Books, reads from Cormac McCarthy's Suttree.

Melinda Meador, one of the owners of Union Ave Books, reads from Cormac McCarthy's Suttree.

Last Wednesday was Knoxville author Cormac McCarthy‘s 78th birthday. McCarthy, not a Knoxville native but a resident of Knoxville for many years, inserted many Knoxville references in his literature and has developed something of a cult following in these parts.

To celebrate his birthday, the new downtown bookstore Union Ave Books held a reading of his works. The gathering attracted a capacity crowd, which means about 40 or so folks in the cozy little store. Refreshments included Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, grilled cheese sandwiches and watermelon, items that figure into some of McCarthy’s gritty novels.

Some of our own local celebrities were among the readers and the evening was truly inspirational. I cried during a reading about the death of a wolf. I laughed out loud during the part about watermelons (until things in the story took a bad turn, as they usually do in McCarthy’s works).

This gathering is a good example of the kinds of things Union Ave Books is committed to doing. They want to host author visits, readings, parties and meetings. They want to be a community gathering place. That’s what one of the owners, Melinda Meador, told me last night. That’s what makes them so different from the mega-bookstores like Borders, which, of course,  is in its death throes. It also makes them vastly different from the on-line sources like Amazon.

Meador said there is plenty of opportunity for fun things in the future of Union Ave Books. “We are in the middle of what is called the Ashe-Nash corridor,” she said. A lot of big authors who make appearances in Asheville and Nashville will find it easy to also make a quick stop in Knoxville, she explained. And Union Ave wants to be that stop.

But guess what. In order for this to happen, Union Ave has got to make money. “You’ve got to buy books!” Meador said. “We can’t do all this if we don’t make enough money to stay open.” Unfortunately, although folks spent more than two hours in the store for the McCarthy event, sales were very few. Click here for an essay Meador wrote about this very topic.

Alan and I live in a small condo downtown and we are not likely going to buy a bunch of books to keep. We generally only buy hardcover books that are signed by the author or have special significance to us. We believe in supporting the library as well as bookstores. But so far, we’ve special-ordered a book from Union Ave (singer Rodney Crowell‘s autobiography, Chinaberry Sidewalks, which we had him sign when he was in Knoxville), we’ve bought reading glasses and note cards. And we bought a book about The Beatles to educate our young digital media guy, Gavin Baker, about the Fab Four. Union Ave also has great children’s books, which we intend to give as baby shower gifts.

So, join us! Let’s support this great downtown treasure. Go to the events they have. But we’ve gotta also buy some books!

Co-owner Flossie McNabb, left, chats with Janet Neely prior to the event.

Co-owner Flossie McNabb, left, chats with Janet Neely prior to the event.

It was a capacity audience in the small bookstore.

It was a capacity audience in the small bookstore.

Two of the readers, Greg Congleton and Nancy Brennan Strange, visited for a few minutes as folks gathered.

Two of the readers, Greg Congleton and Nancy Brennan Strange, visited for a few minutes as folks gathered.

Steve Dupree, left, and R.B. Morris. Both were getting ready to read McCarthy selections.

Steve Dupree, left, and R.B. Morris. Both were getting ready to read McCarthy selections.

City Councilman Charles Thomas was the emcee of the evening.

City Councilman Charles Thomas was the emcee of the evening.

First reader was Jack Neely, Knoxville's "unofficial" historian.

First reader was Jack Neely, Knoxville's "unofficial" historian.

Scott McNutt took a turn.

Scott McNutt took a turn.

Nancy Brennan Strange reads from The Road.

Nancy Brennan Strange reads from The Road.

Norris Dryer reads from a well-loved copy of Suttree.

Norris Dryer reads from a well-loved copy of Suttree.

Greg Congleton, left, and Stephen Dupress read from a McCarthy play, Sunset Limited.

Greg Congleton, left, and Stephen Dupree read from a McCarthy play, Sunset Limited.

Greg Congleton made me (and himself) cry.

Greg Congleton made me (and himself) cry.

R.B. Morris

R.B. Morris

Michael Haynes

Michael Haynes

Jack Rentfro

Jack Rentfro

Chris Woodhull

Chris Woodhull

Wnna buy your own copy? Union Ave has plenty of McCarthy.

Wanna buy your own copy? Union Ave has plenty of McCarthy.

My recent purchases from Union Ave. Aren't those the cutest reading glasses?

My recent purchases from Union Ave. Aren't those the cutest reading glasses?

8 Responses to ““You’ve got to buy books.””

  1. Love those reading glasses! I bought a great book there not too long ago and like how they are a two minute walk from the office.

  2. Thanks, Cynthia, for your support of the store and this wonderful event, which we hope will become an annual McCarthy birthday party.

    I do want to emphasize that we did not expect a lot of sales during the evening. It was a night for fun and good conversation and celebration. We just hope that the people who attend such events will want to come back when things are a little quieter to browse — and hopefully buy — at their leisure. You won’t get pressure sales from us!

  3. Thanks to this reminder from the Blue Streak the Mayor, Deputy to the Mayor, and I journeyed to Union Avenue Books at lunch time today. We had a great visit. They were impressed.

  4. Thanks, Erica! They have many more cute ones — but you are probably too young to need them! Melinda: I hope it does become annual. Great evening. Bill: Glad the mayor and deputy liked!

  5. A very thoughtful, relaxing evening.

  6. Cyn, your piece was well written and I’m sure will prove to motivate people to visit and support this wonderful store. I went to the Opening and was impressed by the quality of the stock — obviously a lot of thought had gone into making the selections. (Full disclosure: I have yet to buy a book there! But now I’m motivated!)

  7. Just bought the Keith Richards autobiography as a birthday present for my dad’s birthday. He loved it! Great store!

  8. Peter: I’m thinking that, given all our mutual friends with the Union Ave Books folks, you (and I) will be given many opportunities to make purchases. Christi: That sounds like a great birthday gift! I know your dad!

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