Prose Over Poetry

I walked through the doors of Politics and Prose and was greeted with the smell of books waiting to be explored. “Now this is a bookstore,” I couldn’t help thinking after a lackluster review of Busboys and Poets.

Pitting optimism against probability, I asked at the register for a section on local literature. I was surprised to receive a positive answer, but my expanding hopes were burst when I was led to a shelf of tour guides. My disappointment was somewhat mitigated by the knowledgeable staff person, who rattled off the names of several local authors in stock before scurrying away.

In order to give the bookstore a fair shake, I attended both an author event and a more private browsing session. Before W. Ralph Eubanks read from and fielded questions about his second book, The House at the End of the Road, I browsed the shelves. Picking up Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, I settled into a chair to read a chapter… or two.

But I couldn’t sit still for long – not with so many options calling my name from the shelves. I was like Neil Strauss at a sorority party. Politics and Prose is larger inside than its outside appearance lets on, with warrens of rooms devoted to literature and a downstairs room devoted to children’s books, sale books, and a small coffeeshop, and I wandered through it all.

The coffeeshop was faintly reminiscent of my college days, perhaps because of the student-baristas and its below-ground location. I scanned the menu with a few apprehensions, but breathed a sigh of relief at the relatively unpretentious teas, coffees, and fare. At Politics and Prose, the emphasis is on literature, not liquor. Perhaps part of the quiet charm of Politics and Prose for me lay in the comparison to Busboys and Poets’s loud bar atmosphere; my experience at Politics and Prose was a sensory relief, though not lacking in stimuli.

I thumbed through countless titles, noticing the works of Jones and Pelecanos but also realizing that there are still many lesser-known locals yet to discover. One visitor noted his pleasure at the “eclectic selection,” with “fewer genre categories” ruling the sections like other stores.

Though the distance is prohibitive (the nearest metro stop is Van Ness), Politics and Prose is a pleasant stop in a weekend stroll with its friendly staff, frequent author visits, and good selection of good books… What more could I ask for?

Perhaps a Columbia Heights location. But until then, I will schlep all the way out to Van Ness to get my calming bookstore fix.

Politics and Prose is located at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW. Store hours are 9 am – 10 pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10 am – 8 pm on Sunday.

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