Sunday, March 20, 2011
A Visit to Nashville's West End
Let this city's rich have their ostentatious and empty-looking houses in Belle Meade and Forest Hills. Sensible and smart people will prefer the smaller, more human neighborhoods of the West End with its historic homes and its beckoning sidewalks.
I took these photos on Whitland this past Friday. A friend and I drove down to an estate sale on that street, and it was a joy to be in a real neighborhood. The sale was in one of the larger, two story houses. We entered through the back, walking by Lenten Roses and Bergenia in bloom.
Only half the house was open. Next Friday the rest of it will be, and since that includes the kitchen, I will be returning. The estate belonged to a woman who had owned an art gallery. Her taste was relentlessly contemporary. I prefer the antique, and though the paintings and pottery and baskets did not appeal to me, I was stunned by the excellence of her library. For this woman and her husband were Readers. Books to the ceilings, covering the walls, inside the cabinets. Books on Judaism, on Tennessee history, novels by Bellow, Pym, Mailer,Cheever,Roth, Malamud. A study of the American character by Max Lerner. Biography, politics, coffee table books about Nantucket and country inns and Currier and Ives. And the art books- a small fortune's worth of books about Spanish Art,the Prado, Vermeer, the Impressionists, and five hundred years of Mexican art. And the estate sale people assure me there are hundreds of books in the other half of the house.
Many of the books came from the now closed Davis-Kidd Booksellers. And ironically, only a few days ago Borders, down by Vanderbilt, announced it was closing. The Borders in Brentwood is staying open, but the only stores left in the city are Books-a-Million in West Nashville and McKay's on Charlotte. And I must here confess I never went inside Borders, and I abandoned Davis-Kidd when it relocated to the Green Hills Mall. I avoided that mall's gridlock by clicking on Amazon.
And perhaps the day is coming when there will be no more bookshelves and no more book marks. We will read on a screen and perhaps be happy that we have less dusting to do. And what sad places our homes will become. For the soul of this house on Whitland was in its books, and in the humane and literate couple who lived there.