Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Literary Haven Blossoms amid Washington Hubbub Chapters Bookstore Draws Top Literary Names for Readings

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Literary Haven Blossoms amid Washington Hubbub Chapters Bookstore Draws Top Literary Names for Readings

Article excerpt

CHAPTERS bookstore is like a literary salon that happens to sell books. Every year on July 10, there is a birthday party for French writer Marcel Proust, with nostalgic madeleines for fans to nibble as they talk about "The Remembrance of Things Past."

More recently, the owners of Chapters decided to introduce a George Eliot Memorial Lecture and enticed writers Christopher Hitchens and Carolyn Heilbrun to each do one "because we just love George Eliot's books."

Terri Merz and Robin Diener, the co-owners of Chapters, are "blissed out" about books, and they created a store to share that feeling.

One of their most popular ventures has been an author calendar they call "a literary to-do" that invites customers to evening appearances of current authors who read from their new books, take questions from the audience, and talk about their work.

The list, which started small with off-beat authors, has grown to include such well-known writers as Edna O'Brien, Thomas McGuane, Amy Tan, Nadine Gordimer, George Will, William Kennedy, and Ward Just.

The store's speciality is literary fiction and poetry; as Ms. Merz points out, "We've been very fortunate, because when we first started several years ago, we asked publishers to send us novelists and poets. And they thought, `Oh, Washington is a political city, why would we want to spend the money to do that?' But it has really blossomed now, and there is a competition for authors of all sorts to do readings.

"It's different from the sort of best-seller-at-noon {book} signing, and that still goes on, and it's very profitable, but we don't tend to do things like that." Merz continues. "Tom Clancy goes and stands at Crown {Books} and signs books for two hours. But here you have a chance to hear an author read their work and ask them a question."

Their list of writers for the fall season includes Susan Sontag, Gloria Naylor, Rosellean Brown, Michael Dorris, and Paul Auster. …

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