On our last day in New Orleans last week, we finally made it to Arcadian Books (714 Orleans Avenue), which was right across the street from the Bourbon Orleans Hotels where we stayed. Walking into Arcadian Books felt like stepping right into a Harry Potter movie--the place was that magical. Books were stacked high from ceiling to floor, and some spaces were so tight to maneuver through, I felt like I was traversing dangerous terrain--one wrong move could have buried me in an avalanche of books.
We met the store owner, and I regret that I don't remember his name. He was an interesting character (the French Quarter seems to spirit interesting characters out of the ether) who told us that he is not on the internet or any social media at all (but here are the Yelp reviews for the bookstore). He even fumbled with charging my credit card, having to ring my two books up separately because of difficulties he had with the card machine. Yes, I've checked my charges online to make certain they were correct; this fellow was simply more of a book man than a technology man. He told us a detail-filled tale of coming to New Orleans and acquiring the store in the early eighties.
Arcadian Books was such a hypnotic place that even though I've sworn off all physical media (other than "great works"), I ended up buying two books. One was a hardback copy of Faulkner's New Orleans Sketches (early Faulkner stories written during his stay in New Orleans, many of which do not appear in other anthologies). The other was a collection of 300 authentic recipes from 1929 reproduced in a paperback book titled Mandy's Favorite Recipes. I couldn't help myself--I knew by looking at the woman's picture on the cover that this book contain secret formulas for very good food. Incidentally, it seems that in 1929, they used a lot of lard.
Yes, I know I could've bought both of these books on Amazon, probably for cheaper prices, but it seemed to be more important to get them in New Orleans. It just didn't seem like the same magic would transfer if ordered online.
If you're in the New Orleans French Quarter be certain to pay Arcadian Books a visit.
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