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The Last Sensible Bookstore in Nashville


There has been a tremendous flowering of community-oriented independent bookstores in cities like Nashville over the past several years. But there has been a decided shortage of booksellers focused on right-wing communiqués and confederate revivalism, which is a niche that Elder's Bookstore, on Elliston Place, has luckily moved to fill.

As soon as you reach the storefront of Elder's, you are greeted with an assortment of important regulations that pointedly resist the neighborliness that has come to define more ordinary bookstores. Multiple different versions of the store's hours are clearly on display to prevent the entry of anyone but the truly deserved.

Also on the store's windows are a variety of significant missives relating to the country's political and economic direction. Race relations constitute a particular area of concern, and the display features both subtle exegesis --

-- as well as more straightforward polemic.

There is also a prominently exhibited bulletin posted in the case of arrival from our current President, Barack Obama.

Once inside, you are received by an impressive collection of Southern classics, high society memoirs, and histories of Vanderbilt football. Individual sections, such as that for religion, are exceptionally well-stocked, while appropriately marked to prevent indulgent browsing.

Employees in the store maintain careful distance and silence to maximize the shopping experience, while doing their utmost to engender ease and relaxation. Perhaps sensing that I was insufficiently comfortable, one of the workers at the store -- possibly Mr. Elder himself -- loudly divorced himself of his intestinal gases in my presence, which caused me to feel great relief at our mutual contentment.

I was further gratified to learn that our newly installed mutual peace would not be disturbed by assorted silly behaviors --

-- nor would it be punctured by the extravagances of audible recitation.

The selection at Elder's is not limited to literature, as there is also an expert presentation of notable Confederate art. [Ed's Note 11/16: Not to mention the comprehensive collection of Nathan Bedford Forrest biography, detailing the storied life of the Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.]

Social commentary is also present inside the store, maintaining a focus on the travails of political life, especially as pertaining to our nation's leaders.

As I exited the store, past a section of lightly worn CliffsNotes, I could not help but wish there were more in its mold, determined to resist the dulcet temptations of modern times and lie, instead, pungent in the maintenance of customary standards.

Jamie Berk

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Update -- 12:54 pm -- Jimmy Buffett Related:

After posting this review, I noticed that Elder's maintained a strong technological presence as well. Their website, which identifies them as "The Oldest & Finest Bookstore in Tennessee," includes a number of helpful browsing categories, beginning with "African American" and continuing with "Free Masonry." A useful notice graces the bottom of the page, informing potential customers that "Due to stupid Federal Regulations we can no longer accept credit card payments through our website."

Most impressive of all, however, was an endorsement from musician Jimmy Buffett on their "About" page. "Elder's Bookstore is the last place of its kind in Nashville -- a place where you can go spend an afternoon with ideas and people you like," he is quoted as saying. I called the store to confirm the context of the quote. The gentleman who picked up, told that I was curious how the Buffett quote came about, displayed the kind of skepticism you want in a man of letters. "Why were you curious?" he replied. The man eventually acquiesced, showing his gentler side, and told me that Buffett used to frequent the store when he lived in Nashville. The employees at Elder's maintain a harsh exterior, but on the inside they are of a tender nature.