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In Celebration of Bookstores
Ask writers to talk about their experiences with independent bookstores and chances are you’ll get some memorable tales. That’s because bookstores have tended to be very much a part of the development of many writers, whether ushering them as children into the world of books or boosting their careers later by promoting their works.
Now, Black Dog & Levanthal has collected essays from 84 prominent writers about their favorite bookstores. Edited by publishing industry veteran Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America, the essays have been bound together in a book titled My Bookstore ($23.95) coming out this month. The collection ranges from the hilarious to the heartwarming as author after author celebrates the survival of bricks-and-mortar stores in the age of the Internet. If anyone needs an answer to the question of why sustain such places, it can be found here.
“Because it’s independent booksellers who always get the word out (as they did for me),” writes Richard Russo in the introduction. “With their help, if they’re still around, great young writers you don’t know about yet will take their place on shelves next to their heroes…”
It was an op-ed piece by Russo in the New York Times last December that provided the impetus for this book. In that article, Russo took Amazon to task for encouraging customers to use its price-check app in stores and then buy online.
“Every time an independent bookstore closes, the literary and cultural landscape becomes less diverse,” observes Emily St. John Mandel in the afterword. “I hope there will be a time when Amazon can coexist more easily with the bricks-and-mortar bookstores in this country.”
Among the personal experiences shared in the book are: Albert Goldbarth getting married at Watermark Books in Wichita; Dave Eggers never leaving empty-handed from a visit to Green Apple Books in San Francisco; and Tom Robbins bringing along a trio of female backup singers to a reading at Village Books in Bellingham, WA.
Tribute also is paid to Politics & Prose by Rick Atkinson, the journalist and military historian, who recounts how, after finishing each book, he ritually pays a visit to P&P “to seek the company of other writers, at least through the books they have written.” Atkinson tells the store’s history from its creation in 1984 by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade to its purchase by us last year.
“Even as Brad and Lissa adapt to the new world of e-books and e-readers,” Atkinson asserts, “Politics & Prose remains nothing less than the bricks-and-mortar incarnation of traits we cherish in Western civilization: learning, tolerance, diversity, civility, discourse, inquiry, lyricism. For those of us lucky enough to live down the street or around the corner, it’s a port in the storm, a daydreaming hive, a bastion. How lucky we are to be patrons, browsers, espresso sippers, guest speakers, neighbors. And when you finally finish that novel or memoir or meditation on the body politic, wander in for a little self-indulgent browsing. If you love words, it’s the place to be.”
To mark publication of the book, dozens of stores around the country have scheduled special events during the week of Nov. 12. At P&P, we’re featuring a discussion with Atkinson on Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m. Please join us.
- Brad and Lissa