In our multi-tasking way, we took a trip down Island to Courtenay yesterday to see our niece’s dance recital and on the way we made a stop at The Laughing Oyster Bookstore. My husband grew up in Courtenay, so he has a much longer history with the Oyster than I do, but we both have many memories of shopping is this lovely, downtown, community bookstore.
This time through the door was a whole new experience for me; I wasn’t a customer but an author hawking my wares. Copies of Disappearing in Plain Sight and The Light Never Lies in hand and more than a bit nervous, I met with the owner, Evelyn. After a warm smile, her first question was: tell me about your book.
Oh my . . . where does an author begin? I managed that query and a few more. At one point in our negotiations, I moved aside so Evelyn could wait on a few customers. One woman was there to pick up a book she had ordered. I overheard her speak of valuing the fact that there was a friendly bookstore right in her community that would order any book she requested. Evelyn told another customer that she had just that morning faced out the book this person had chosen. Her voice rang with enthusiasm for the fact that the book had found a reader. Another woman was buying a number of beautiful art cards. It’s just that kind of store!
The Laughing Oyster Bookstore is currently celebrating 40 years in business. Imagine the books that have come and gone on the shelves over the years?
In 1974 the doors of the Laughing Oyster Bookstore opened to reveal bookshelves that may have been stocked with a number of newly published titles that are still popular today. A bright and shiny copy of Stephen King’s breakout novel, Carrie might have been available. And of course, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig must have been there. James Michener’s, Centennial, Fredrick Forsythe’s, The Dogs of War and Peter Benchley’s, Jaws could have found a spot to rest. Margaret Laurence’s book, The Diviners, won the 1974 Governor General’s Award for fiction in Canada. Her book had to have warranted a display. In 1974 the National Book Award went to Thomas Pynchon’s, Gravity’s Rainbow. The award committee recommended the book for a Pulitzer but the Pulitzer board vetoed the decision. They called the book “unreadable,” “turgid,” “overwritten,” and, in parts, “obscene.” I bet a Courtenay resident could have found a copy in The Laughing Oyster. The nonfiction shelves no doubt carried copies of Bernstein and Woodward’s, All the President’s Men, Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read.
I’m sure that even forty years ago, The Laughing Oyster carried an eclectic mix of popular, classic and little known gems of reading pleasure. I would imagine that all along they have supported local authors. It’s just that kind of a store.
I am humbled and very pleased to announce that Disappearing in Plain Sight and The Light Never Lies have garnered a place on those hallowed shelves and I send out many thanks to The Laughing Oyster for carrying my books.
(Photos of the bookstore were snipped from yelp.ca – many thanks to Monica M. I confess to having so much more on my mind at the time of my recent visit than capturing the moment )