This is less a review, and more a memento mori for Dreamhaven Books.
I found out today that after 35 years, Dreamhaven is shuttering its physical location. While it will still have an online and convention presence, no longer will I be able to go and poke around in the beautiful books.
Dreamhaven used to be in walking distance from my house, in one of its many incarnations here in Minneapolis. The space on Lake St. was huge, big enough to have a back room that housed all the boom anime babes. There was a warning sign before you went in there, warning of adult content. After my first and last foray into secksy foxes et al., I can safely say that I am way too immature to be loosed in an adult anime collection, but I fairly loved that one existed. There were boxes of comics in their little nerdy plastic sleeves, and art books, and brilliant endcaps. Used books mixed with the new, and a section of crap paperbacks, 5 for $5. It was a place you could lose yourself in, and I did, many times.
Then they moved over more by the river, in a sleepy neighborhood bankrolled by the railroads in the 20s and 30s, all middle class Arts and Crafts boxes in a premonition of the 50s expansion suburbs. Smaller, more packed, but still with the same attentive turn-outs. A book store run by nerds for nerds. I don't follow art so well, and one of the many great things about Dreamhaven is/was that they had/have a large collection of art books. They're expensive, the art books, dependent on full-color printing that can't be cheapened. My husband has his obsessions, and art is one of them, so I would go and drool with him about this book or that, and we'd perform a damned calculus of what we could afford versus what we wanted. One time a book by Dave McKean, some sort of retrospective, was deemed too dear, and he is still kicking himself he didn't buy it. We can't even figure what it was called. *cries*
Anyway, so I can't say I have read this, exactly, but it was deemed worthy of purchase and came home. My husband read the shit out of it, holding it up at odd moments, exclaiming, regaling me with the deep mythologies within. I haven't seen The Dark Crystal since I was a kid, but because of some weirdness, my husband and sister watched it together while I was out doing something else, and they have this annoying bondedness about that movie. I wish I could relay the funny voices they get up to when they start saying "Please. To make peace." but I can't.
So this book. If you are a big fan of the movie, is necessary reading. Brian Froud has absolutely worked out the mythology of the uUru and Skeksis, complex interlocking sets of diagrams and descriptions, all sketched with Froud's top-shelf fantasy art stylings. This is the obsessive end of the genre pool, and beautifully so.
So. The decline of booksellers. Much as I love sites like Goodreads.com for finding me the obscure, the obsessive, for exposing me to books I would have never considered, there is something to be said for the random physicality of the book store, curated by the wise, inhabited by the general. I bah about the recommendations on Amazon or similar, because they keep saying to me, have you seen Bladerunner? Yes, of course I've seen Bladerunner, motherfucker, give me something less obvious. I wish there were a less obvious button, and the local bookseller has been that button for me, turning out books by hand, turning a life of reading and selling books into a table full of wonders, the endcap of the related, the discount bin of the never-considered.
Where will I go now? How will I find that one book that filled a gap I didn't know I had on the edge of a table? I know this is mawkish, but the lost afternoon in the bookstore is a central mystery for me, and it's killing me that I won't be able to do that at Dreamhaven anymore. I will have to remember to go to the other local booksellers, and spend my dimes there. They deserve it.