Posts Tagged ‘Edisto Bookstore’

edistopigNo more Pig chicken. It’s true — come Saturday, the Edisto Beach Piggly Wiggly is closing its doors and the grocery store that has prided itself on being “local since forever” will be gone forever.  Oh, the building will reopen later in November as a Bi-Lo, but it won’t be the same. Several staff members say they’re staying on, but we haven’t heard yet if the deli  will return with fried chicken on the menu. Bi-Lo would be smart to continue the tradition because the Pig has been serving “Mrs. Mac’s fried chicken” since 1967 when former school lunch lady Nel McNaughton took over the deli at a West Ashley Piggly-Wiggly in Charleston. Mrs. Mac passed in 2008 at age 92, and that West Ashley store at Dupont Crossing is gone as well, but the Lowcountry is still eating up her chicken by the 8-piece box full at family dinners and church suppers, club meetings and beach picnics.

When word went out in early September that Bi-Lo and Harris-Teeter had bought a bunch — or should that be herd? — of Pigs in South Carolina, Twitter and Facebook lit up. I was in Florida and called my sister-in-law to hustle down to the  Edisto Pig and pick me up a Pig T-shirt before they all disappeared. By the time she got there that afternoon, the size selection was limited to tiny tots or football players. So now I am the proud owner of a pink T-shirt, XX-L, “Piggly Wiggly Edisto Beach,” on the front, and “I’m Big on the Pig”  on the back.  Makes a great nightshirt.

I am trying to be sanguine about the Pig closing. Some folks say they can’t imagine the beach without the Pig. Well, I can. I remember when that location, years ago, was an IGA, and before that, when Marion Whaley’s little filling station/store a block off Palmetto comprised the beach’s “business district.” Now it’s a restaurant, joining the half-dozen or so dining establishments that have appeared since I was a kid and we fried our own chicken and shrimp.

edistopowellAs I was packing to come up here in September, I got an e-mail from a publicist at Open Road Integrated Media that it was publishing an e-book of an acclaimed 1984 Southern novel. Was I familiar with Edisto by Padgett Powell?

Oh, yes. When Edisto was first published, I was nearing the end of a 5-year sojourn in the Midwest and homesick for the South. But the novel confused me. I liked the wry coming-of-age of 12-year-old narrator Simons Manigault, but his late 1960s Edisto wasn’t the one I knew.  The geography was all cock-eyed. Simons (pronounced Simmons) lives in an isolated house on the beach at Edisto with his mother — the literary “Doctor” — while she’s temporarily separated from his father, but he goes to school in Bluffton? Impossible. Bluffton’s way too far away, practically to Georgia.  Then, at one point, Simons goes to church in Savannah, “the closest place you can find an Episcopal layout.” Not so. Trinity Episcopal has been on Edisto Island since 1744. Then, near book’s end, the Manigaults move to Hilton Head, like it’s just a shortish drive. Uh, no. Most of Beaufort County and St. Helena Sound are in the way.

edistonovelIt is possible that I was just a teeny bit jealous of Powell; he wasn’t much older than me and he was getting these great reviews for a first novel named after the place I loved most in the world. So I became used to explaining that Edisto the book wasn’t really like Edisto the island/or beach. Powell could just as well have called it some other Lowcountry name like Dawhoo or Fenwick or Fripp. And yet the colloquial dialogue rang true, as did Simon’s memory of the old Charleston market before it was prettyfied, and how fiddler crabs look like they’re brandishing little ivory swords.  I recognized the dusty dirt roads and rundown juke joints, the palmettos crackling in a stiff wind, the salt-smelling air, summer heat, mosquitoes.

edistorevisitBy the time Powell’s Edisto Revisited came out in 1996, I was long reconciled to his vision and discursive voice, what Simons himself refers to as “boyish, untethered locution.” The second book is something of a picaresque romp, with the house at Edisto a jumping-off point for an aimless, post-college Simons to roam the South. I love it.

It’s being published as an e-book, too, although this poses a problem for the Edisto Bookstore, where the print versions have been steady sellers for years.  Owner Karen Carter recently tried to order more copies for the store, only to have publisher FS&G say the rights have reverted to the author. Unless Open Road or another publisher decides to release paperback editions, Edisto will soon be out of print, so to speak, unless you have an e-reader. I’m happy I still have my original hardcover copies. Happier still that I have my Edisto past and present. Also the laminated PFC card in my wallet that identifies me as “Pig’s Favorite Customer.”

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Alas, I am not on spring break this week. Otherwise, I would be visiting the homefolks on Edisto Island, S.C., and hanging out at The Edisto Bookstore. The latter is my hometown island indie, and owner Karen Carter has a big week planned for spring breakers and locals. So if you happen to be in the Charleston area, you might want to drop by the store on Highway 174 heading toward the beach.

On Thursday morning, Karen will be introducing favorite S.C. author Mary Alice Monroe, who will be speaking to a community group at 10 a.m. at the parish hall at Trinity Episcopal Chruch, 1589 Highway 174. A booksigning will follow. Mary Alice’s best-selling novels include Beach House, Swiming Lessons, Sweetgrass and Last Light Over Carolina.

On Friday afternoon, from 3 to 5, celebrated Southern chef and cookbook author Nathalie DuPree and South Carolina historian Jack Bass will be at the bookstore to sign their books. Nathalie’s books include New Southern Cooking, Nathalie DuPree’s Shrimp and Grits and the forthcoming Southern Biscuits. Jack is know for his books on Southern politics and S.C. history, including Strom, Palmetto State and Unlikely Heroes.

Karen also reports that she has started packaging cookbooks such as ‘Pon Top Edisto with lowcountry goodies such as Charleston benne wafers, cheese biscuits, grits and rice. Makes me hungry just writing about them.

But, as noted, I am not at Edisto this week. It appears I am “fated” to be in town. Writer S.G. Browne will be signing copies of his new comic novel, Fated, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes and Noble on E. Colonial Drive in Orlando. The main character is Fate, and the supporting cast includes Destiny, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Heavenly Virtues and other assorted immortals. Fate, the character, breaks the No. 1 rule and falls in love with a human. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like a hoot.

As for all you other readers not on spring break, bob’s your uncle that your local bookstore will be hosting authors for speaking and signings over the next few weeks. ‘Tis the season when book tours bloom.

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Last summer, the good folks at SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, suggested that its members “get in bed with a blogger,”  which sounded kind of hot. (Remember when we were complaining about the heat?!) Actually, the idea was that indies partner with bloggers to reach more readers and let them know what was going on at their local bookstores.

Alas, my local indie, Urban Think, in downtown Orlando, had recently closed its doors, as had many of its counterparts, casualties of the economy, the chains, the online stores, the warehouse stores, the rise of e-books, etc. Seems like every week now, I hear of the demise of another longtime indie, many of which hosted Caroline Cousins and other Southern writers over the years: The Happy Bookseller in Columbia, S.C.,  Davis-Kidd in Nashville, Bay Street Trading Company in Beaufort, S.C.  They are sorely missed.

But I want you to know my home island indie, The Edisto Bookstore on Edisto Island, S.C., is hanging in there. In fact, things were right busy when I was in there last week making my farewells before heading home to Florida. Several tourists were looking at the books, new and used, and a local woman popped in for a birthday card and a gift, knowing that owner Karen Carter has the best collection of both. Another islander needed a nautical chart. Both rental desktops in the internet cafe were in use (wi-fi is free if you have your own laptop), and one woman (obviously from “off”) rather rudely asked Karen and I to move our conversation about new books to another part of the store. We complied, just as a couple came in to visit Emily Grace.

Emily Grace is the bookstore cat, a pretty girl who wandered up on the porch three years ago. She now has her own private quarters in the tiny back office, but she usually can be found near the front door greeting customers. She likes being petted and picked up — I’ve carried her around on my shoulder while perusing the shelves. She likes laps and laptop bags, and on cold days, she curls up on the wireless router between the two desktops. She makes the bookstore feel even more like home.

Business can be tough, Karen admits: “I had to diversify or die,” hence the cards and unusual trinkets for sale. But, after 20 plus years, she knows her community — the year-rounders, the vacationers, the part-timers (like me) — and she stocks a good assortment of books on the Lowcountry and by Lowcountry authors (Mary Alice Monroe, Karen White,  Sue Monk Kidd, Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons), as well as the new John Grisham, the autobiography of Mark Twain, SIBA’s “Okra Picks,” cookbooks, field guides, kids’ books.

The bookstore doesn’t have a lot of events — there’s just not room — but Karen recently had a signing for silhouette artist and author Clay Rice, and there’s a monthly book club open to all comers the second Wednesday of the month. This week, readers met at 7 p.m. to discuss Walter Mosley’s The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (you don’t have to have read the book).

I’ll have to let you know what the February pick is. Meanwhile, you can visit the website, http://edistobookstore.com (more pictures of Emily Grace and art by Clay Rice) or check out its Facebook page. Hit “Like.” And if you’re on Highway 174 on Edisto Island (an hour or so from Charleston off the Savannah Highway), by all means drop by the bookstore. Make yourself at home.

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