When I’m not editing Midnight Breakfast and juggling various freelance gigs, I work part-time at Booksmith, an independent bookstore in San Francisco. It is, as you’d expect, a bit of a dream job. It’s not quite as romantic as Meg Ryan made it out to be in You’ve Got Mail, but for me—and, I suspect, for a lot of other booksellers out there—it more than does the trick in the feel-good department. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and books have always been a source of solace and comfort for me, so there is little else more fulfilling than being surrounded by thousands of them, as well as a diverse group of wonderful and generous human beings who share the same bibliophilic boat. The physical books and my lovely co-workers aside, some of the best aspects of bookselling are those moments when I get to make personal recommendations. Is there anything more satisfying than pressing a book you adore into someone’s hands, looking that person straight in the eye, and saying, “You’ve told me what you like, and I know for certain that what I’m giving you is wonderful, and I think you’re really going to appreciate this”? Perhaps, but this kind of interaction definitely ranks pretty high in the Ways in Which We Can Pay Our Knowledge and Kindnesses Forward department.
Maybe it’s because I fundamentally believe books have the power to alter us, to shape us, and yes, to even save our lives. Maybe it’s because I know the ways in which words can affect us—the ways sentences and stories can crawl inside of us and live there forever. While bookselling may not be known for its urgency—we’re not EMTs and no one is going to jail if they leave a bookstore empty-handed—a recommendation is still a gift. A book passing from one hand to another is not just an action; it’s an invitation to experience something transformative.
By this same token, one of my favorite parts of editing Midnight Breakfast is the ability to present writers and artists we think are worth spending time with. There’s something so rich and gratifying about sharing work that we love, and it’s a beautiful thing, to be able to say nearly every month, “These are some words that touched us in just the right way, and we hope they will touch you.”
Issue Seven is, of course, no exception to this. I’m as excited and heartened as I’ve ever been, and, as always, reluctant to spoil the goods before you get to them. But if there’s anything you should know, if there’s something that ties the pieces in this issue together, it’s the collision between the past and the present. It’s the question of what we keep with us, and what we let go.