Monday, December 1, 2008
On the tenacity of independent booksellers
Tonight I went to a party at Books of Wonder, an independent children's bookstore in New York City. Peter Glassman, the owner, gave a toast to the assembled crowd (mostly artists) and reminded us of the little "hole in the wall" his store was when it opened. A lot of things collided in my mind as he spoke: images of his former stores (there have been, I think, four locations); Peter taking me out to lunch and telling me what's wrong with publishers (a lot); Peter and his late partner, James the Silent and Steady and Buff; Peter pushing, always pushing, to get the books and authors and artists he needed to keep the doors open and the people coming in.
And I thought about New York and all its iterations: how it was emerging from the gritty 1970's when Peter first opened his doors in 1980; how it weathered the AIDS holocaust (much on my mind since seeing Milk this weekend); how it boomed during the careless '90's; how it's trying to figure itself out now.
Peter has had to be and stay larger than life just to keep the place going these 28 years. "Sorry the invitations were so late this year," he told me (mine had arrived that afternoon), "but you can always count on our party being the first Monday of December." And we all did count on that, because we all showed up.
Peter and I share a history, as his store opened just a few months before I started in publishing. So before I wax too nostalgic, here's to all those tenacious booksellers. You keep your doors open, and we'll keep showing up. And vice versa.