Culture + Style

Rub Elbows with Portland’s Intelligentsia at Mother Foucault’s Bookshop

Mother Foucault’s books and Old World charm lure in Portland’s literati. (Photos: Joe Greer)

Mother Foucault’s sits on the edge of busy SE Morrison St. – drive too fast and you’ll miss it. From the outside, this bookstore might seem pretty ordinary with its large windows displaying old paperbacks, but press your face against the glass and you’ll want to know more.

Inside, sliding ladders, wooden banisters and shelves upon shelves of books give this place a feeling of Old World charm, while its repurposed millwork recalls the romance of university libraries and literary salons. Opened in 2010, it boasts an unusually large collection of foreign language reads in Spanish, German and Italian, spanning Marxist literature and feminist literary criticism.

Mother Foucault's Bookshop

The store prides itself on carrying unique editions, and its collection is handpicked by owner Craig Florence. Florence often sources books during trips to Europe and sometimes even selects them from other used bookstores. As a result, the shop has gained a reputation as a rendezvous point for local intellectuals. Indeed, the name is a nod to both social theorist Michel Foucault and famous Irish-American labor leader Mother Jones.

Mother Foucault's Bookshop

To complement its collection of literature, the location is also used as a meeting and performance space, playing host to events such as poetry readings, music shows and political meetings. All events are advertised on paper flyers distributed by hand – there are no Facebook groups around here.

In fact, cell phones are barred – a move Florence hopes encourages customers to flick through gorgeous paperbacks rather than scroll down glass screens. And with comfy couches that allow for leisurely reads, it’s a rule that customers seem happy to follow.

Where to Find Mother Foucault’s Bookshop

• 523 SE Morrison St., Portland, OR, +1 503 236 2665, Tue-Sat 11 a.m.-6 p.m.


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