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View From Your Table

Wichita, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas

Greetings from Wichita, Kansas. Boy, am I having a great time here. That VFYT is from a table at Eighth Day Books, quite possibly the greatest bookstore ever. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Here’s part of its mission statement:

From the beginning, we have not been a typical independent bookstore; we eschew the trendy, and do not carry books solely based on their saleability. Instead, we’re selective, offering an eccentric community of books based on this organizing principle: if a book—be it literary, scientific, historical, or theological—sheds light on ultimate questions in an excellent way, then it’s a worthy candidate for inclusion in our catalog.

Reality doesn’t divide itself into “religious” and “literary” and “secular” spheres, so we don’t either. We’re convinced that all truths are related and every truth, if we pay attention rightly, directs our gaze toward God. One of our customers found us “eclectic but orthodox.” We like that.

We also resonate with St. Justin Martyr in his Second Apology (paraphrased a bit): that which is true, is ours.

You can order from them online — and should. I’ve been eager to make the pilgrimage to that store for years, and finally got my chance today. Lo, but what did I find when I arrived? Bo Bonner, an avid reader of this blog, had dropped off a cold six-pack of Boulevard 80-Acre, my idea of the perfect summer beer! Several of us cracked them open and drank them among the books. And yes, I bought all those Dante books, and a volume of Berdyaev. If we hadn’t had to go to dinner, I would have easily spent a couple of hours there, and who knows how much money.

I got to meet Russell Arben Fox, who has been an electronic friend and co-conspirator for years, and made some new friends tonight. They’re the kind of people who make you wonder why it took one so long to get to Wichita.

Back to the bookstore: as part of its bibliophilic empire, Eighth Day Books has what one man sitting at the table described as an “Orthodox speakeasy” next door. It’s called the Eighth Day Institute.  One of the programs of the EDI is the “Hall Of Men,” described this way:

While attending Clemson University, George Elder made an important decision.  Instead of patronizing local college bars, he set out to recreate the atmosphere of a traditional pub.  In addition to providing hand-crafted beers, public houses have historically functioned more like a community center where local citizens went to debate the important issues of their day.

In fact, it was in pubs during the early colonial period that Americans debated whether or not they should declare their independence from England.  With this tradition in mind, George hand-crafted a twelve-foot-long table, built a kegerator with an intricately designed, hand-carved casing, and prominently displayed an image of one of his heroes in his garage, thereby converting it into a pub-like space ready for manly debate and discussion.  Soon thereafter, young men began meeting regularly to feast on a home-cooked meal with home-brewed beer and a lecture on the life of a hero who provoked many toasts and stimulated great discussion about how men should live as Christians in America.   Thus began the Hall of Men. the life of a hero who provoked many toasts and stimulated great discussion about how men should live as Christians in America.   Thus began the Hall of Men.

After graduating from Clemson many garage-filled and hero-challenging feasts later, George returned to his home in Wichita.  George’s explanation of the Hall of Men and his desire to find a new home for his table led to an immediate partnership.  Not only was the main hall in the Ladder a perfect fit for George’s table, but the emphases on home economy, craftsmanship, and the emulation of heroes all contributed to the fulfillment of our stated OBJECTIVES.  The tradition of the Hall of Men thus continues in Wichita. On the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, men gather at the LADDER for a FEAST.  Doors open at 7:00 p.m., food is served around 7:30, and the evening events officially begin around 8:30 with a hymn, the Nicene creed, and a lecture on a hero whose life inspires to us to live more authentic lives and to fight for the renewal of our culture.  For a glimpse of the great cloud of witnesses who surround us at each meeting, visit our year-by-year gallery of the heroes presented thus far by clicking here.  You can also read an article about us published by the College Hill Commoner byclicking here.  We hope you can join us sometime soon.

I must know 50 guys who would beat down the door to go to this thing.

Here are the Objectives of the Eighth Day Institute. Is there another bookstore in this entire country as great as Eighth Day Books? Owner Warren Farha is lucky that I don’t have a car tonight, or I’d check out of this hotel, break into his shop, and sleep among the stacks.

People of Wichita, attend! You have this in your town! And you can buy Boulevard 80-Acre beer, right off the shelves in actual supermarkets!

When I win the Powerball lottery, I’m going to spare no expense to recreate Eighth Day Books in my hometown. And I don’t care if I never sell a single book, because I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I built something perfect.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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