|Thanks to Nathaniel Bellows for the heads-up on the display|
The above photo is of Book Culture on Broadway—one of my favorite uptown browsing spots.
My favorite uptown browsing spot used to be Books and Co. on Madison, but it is, alas, no more. Long ago, in 1997, its landlord, The Whitney Museum, raised the bookstore's rent and it was forced to fold. There was a hue and cry, and plenty of outrage, but money being money, and outrage being impossible to monetize, (that is, unless there is some outrage-backed securities fund out there I am unaware of*) it went under.
A trip to Books and Co. usually went something like this:
1. You'd look through their books for hours you didn't know you'd had free, on occasion spending a good portion of the day on the floor, propped up against a stack, reading. (ok- this was back before I had a regular job) On an afternoon you might find Susan Sontag, or William Maxwell, or even mid-fatwa Salman Rushdie browsing alongside you ("Allahu Akbar! No, no, only kidding! So jumpy Salman..."). If you walked in knowing what you wanted, the salesperson would: know of the book; have read it; could pronounce the author's name; could show you where in the store you'd find it; would have recommendations for something similar or better. Then they'd ask you if you'd prefer to read it in the original Uzbek like they did and you'd feel suddenly really bad about yourself and angry at them. Next...
2. You'd walk out with an armful of books you didn't know you needed, thinking "I can't believe I just spent so much money on esoterica, extranea, superflua" (They kept the Horkheimer, Gramsci and Cioran by the register—and maybe a Latin dictionary or two) and subsequently...
3. You'd go home, read your purchases, at which point you'd recognize that a good book buyer (in this case Steven Varni- who now lives in Venice, Italy, with his family) is much like a conductor, in that, out of a mass of voices, he will pick out only the most rewarding for your attention.
The space that Books and Co. once occupied became: a short-lived furniture store, a short-lived appliance store, some other short-lived stores I can't quite recall due to their short-livéd-ness, and now, what is surely to be, a short-lived deli.
All of which is to say:
Attend the tale of Books and Co.! Subsidize your local independents!
On the East Side there is still the fantastic Crawford Doyle...
and downtown, well, howsabout Three Lives?
And by the way- a gentle reminder that i am going to be in conversation at McNally Jackson this thursday night. To be discussed, literature, design, music and practicing.
Please join us. It would be nice to have a big, book-buying crowd.
Looking forward to seeing you!
Thursday, February 9, at 7 p.m.
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince St. (btw. Lafayette &; Mullberry)
*Note to Goldman Sachs: outrage backed securities- the fund that feeds itself!