One Year of Bookmarks: The Kraken Reflects

Avast and ahoy!

In the Kraken Cove where I grew up, we did not keep time with clocks and calendars. Linear time, which passes so effortlessly on dry land, could not survive the buffeting of the tides. Time in the deep sea is wavy, and it can reach out or contract depending on whether a snack or a good book has been placed in front of it. Time can swim laps through the water, making frequent U-turns and occasionally suspending its course to gasp for air. Krakens therefore do not measure time in months or years. Instead they do so in eight-counts if they are musically inclined, in teaspoons if they are culinarily minded, or in paragraphs if, like yours truly, they love literature.

It took me several paragraphs (roughly seven teaspoons) to adjust to mainland time when I first came ashore. But as so many more pages of time have passed since then, I feel I am now well acquainted with the ways in which humans experience linear time. I have discovered that humans still feel the shock of its passage, even though they live with it their entire lives: how it can slip by so quickly on its streamlined path, or conversely how it may stretch so that one feels as if a single paragraph has gone on for several chapters, especially if its author favors long sentences with multiple clauses and forms of punctuation.

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A very human way of dealing with the surreality of time on land is to mark anniversaries. An anniversary entails certain rituals, such as shaking one’s head and saying “Has it been that long already?” or “Only a year? It feels like forever,” when the quantity of time elapsed is mentioned. But we should not mock these poor humans for their strange customs, for even a kraken such as I can find little else to do in the face of time’s relentless march than to place a disbelieving tentacle to my brow and join the land-dwellers in their amazement.

It has been one year since the Bookmarks bookstore and gathering space opened, though it often feels eight times as long. I have as much difficulty envisioning a world without Bookmarks as I have envisioning myself with only seven tentacles, or with less-than-impeccable literary taste.

Sometimes the opening day feels like it was yesterday, it stands out so vividly in my mind. But other times it feels like it was in some past century. I am sure that future historians and epic poets will speak of the week leading up to the opening as an age of heroic exploits, of great deeds and triumphs of the human spirit. In those days Bookmarks staff and volunteers worked together to transform a battered building into a temple of literacy. They assembled shelves, moved boards from storage to the store, unpacked books, inventoried books, shelved books, built furniture, wheeled shelves into place, swept, vacuumed, and hung signs. Yet the most difficult of jobs, that of Kraken-in-Residence and Store Mascot, remained unfilled. I am told by volunteers who lived through that time that it was a moment of great excitement, but also one of great apprehension.

IMG_4434Coming ashore as I did in the very nick of time, I could see that Bookmarks now teetered on the knife’s edge of fate; for books and shelves and an excellent location with a spacious yet cozy interior and a devoted staff and hard-working volunteers and overwhelming support from the local community are all very well and good, but what bookstore could survive long without a mythological mascot?

And so in this fateful moment I penned my first blog post, which I titled “Release the Kraken,” and which went on to great acclaim and won the prestigious Kadmus award for best work of short nonfiction published online by a mythological sea creature in North Carolina in 2017.

Of course, I do not mean to suggest that my humble blog was the sole reason for Bookmarks’s astounding success in its first year, but I like to think that my uniquely aquatic sensibilities have played no small role in making the institution what it is today. I must also acknowledge the many people who have devoted their time and energy to helping the bookstore flourish and give my sincerest thanks to the store’s wonderful patrons.

Here’s looking forward to many more years to come!

Yours,

Karl the Kraken

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