Friday, September 11, 2009

Going to Pahrump for literary purposes

A couple of years ago I dreamed I was driving out into the desert to buy books. When I woke up I couldn't imagine where that idea had come from. Although I did happen on some cheap used books in Tonopah last spring, most of the little towns outside Las Vegas are pretty barren of anything you could possibly buy, other than gas. (If you ever want to see a zombie town, drive through Goldfield, NV.) But a month or so ago, when the local newspaper ran an article claiming "the best used bookstore in Nevada isn't in's in Pahrump," I found myself thinking of my dream. Used's only an hour or so, not very far, highway all the way...I have some days off coming up at work... I told my husband what I was thinking. He said simply, "Pahrump? You're crazy."
In order to understand his response, it's best to know that Pahrump, Nevada is truly one of the few towns in the world that people in Las Vegas can look down on for being too sleazy. OK, perhaps that's not a fair statement. Perhaps people in LV are biased because they only go to Pahrump for fireworks and brothels. But disregarding this bias, I can say that my experiences of Pahrump have done nothing to change my mind. If you took the most soulless parts of urban sprawl -- trailers, fly-by-night housing developments, screaming billboards, traffic, strangely configured strip malls -- from every part of America and plunked them down in the middle of nowhere, you'd have Pahrump. Spend ten minutes there and you hate the human race. There are no restaurants in Pahrump other than fast food places, and there are no hotels or motels, though it's only an hour away from Death Valley National Park. The town, as a whole, gives off a strong scent of the abnormal, the unreal and the soulless. I've tried and tried to be objective about Pahrump and I just can't. Nothing could make me go there.
Except used books.
Las Vegas has a couple of good used bookstores and I enjoy them but they are kind of small. People tend to move here from somewhere else and they usually clear out their closets and attics before they move, so I think there just isn't a lot of stock circulating -- not as much as you would get in an older town, anyway. Now, the article on this store in Pahrump described it as a series of trailers and dealing mainly in paperbacks which they gladly trade for. So I'm not expecting to find anything really old or obscure. I don't care. It's going to be an adventure. Next Friday is going to be the first of the Jewish holidays which I get off work and I'm filling up the gas tank and going "over the hump to Pahrump." Wish me luck. I may be the first person to ever descend on Pahrump for literary purposes.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

This is hilarious, Laura. I love the visuals and commentary. And I fully expect the follow-up post of what books reside in Pahrump!

Donna said...

If I wander that way, I'll keep Pahrump in mind. One of my favorite literary rambles is to Yucca Valley, CA, next to Joshua Tree National Monument and a lot of fast-food drive-throughs. We always stop at Sagebrush Press, which is a terrific used bookstore. We always find something new/old to tempt us, especially on the mythology shelves.

Twenty-nine Palms, known mostly for the marine base, also has a good bookstore on the western outskirts. So, the desert is not necessarily a literary wasteland.