Salons, or gatherings made famous by philosophers, writers, artists, and intellectuals in Paris during the Enlightenment era, are being reinvented by the Manayunk bookstore, The Spiral Bookcase.
The book shop, already known in its few years since opening as a welcoming space for writers and artists of all kinds, introduced The Spiral Salon on Thursday night. Ann Tetreault, owner of the bookstore, wants the salon to bring writers, artists, and musicians together for nights of informal revelry and intellectual stimulation.
“I like the word organic,” Tetreault said, about the new series. “I want the salon to be a place where people mingle, authors read, and then people mingle some more.”
The shop is small, but Tetreault thinks that adds to the charm of an unstructured salon, where readers and the crowd can be in different rooms and connect on a variety of subjects. “I thought about the lost generation and the idea of coffee shops being places where people discuss ideas, where I was inspired by a more modern take on salons.”
The salon seems to be right in line with where the future of independent bookstores are heading. Independent bookstores are offering human connection and a support system for writers and readers that online book shopping still doesn’t offer.
Elliott Ridenour agrees. Ridenour is a first year MFA student in the new fiction program at Arcadia University and was happy to be a part of what he and the head of his writing program, Joshua Isard, consider a big part of the Philadelphia writing scene.
“My professor loves this place. Ann has connections with all these great authors, like tonight, these two indie authors that maybe we wouldn’t get to hear from normally.”
“It’s great to have more socialization in the writing and book scenes outside of bars,” Ridenour continued. “The more connections the better. We have a lot of bars and restaurants in Manayunk, but we don’t have writing salons.”
Surrounded by wine, cheese and chocolates, the crowd mingled and discussed book excerpts while taking in new art throughout the shop.
Adrian Van Young, author of the new short story collection “The Man Who Noticed Everything,” contacted Tetreault a few months ago. Tetreault saw his reading, combined with Adam Prince and Charlotte Pence, two other authors on Black Lawrence Press, as a perfect way to begin the salons. Charlotte stayed home with a sick baby on Thursday night, while the other authors kicked off the new series with their newly published books.
Van Young started the night reading from a longer short story in his book, which draws inspiration from authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Sherwood Anderson, and Tobias Wolff.
Writing questions followed, and Adam Prince ended the night with a flash fiction piece from his collection “The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men.” Prince took eight years to finish the collection and appreciated the attention and focus that came from an independent press.
Van Young and Prince are both working on novels now, and the night ended with a discussion on the fun-filled and horrible process of writing.
“I get lost and [aggravated],” Prince said. “Eventually I’ll figure it out. The early drafts are all kind of torture.”
The audience members all nodded in agreement, with looks of appreciation. In that room, the writers, both emerging and published, expressed a sense of camaraderie and optimism with future writing endeavors.
The next Spiral Salon will be held at the Spiral Bookcase on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.