Monday, June 11, 2007

Gotham Book Mart Closes

It's a narrative that we've all become familiar with: "Once again, we bid a fond farewell to a community bookstore." What I want to know is Where is the outrage?! Our culture is slipping through our fingers and all we can do is nod our heads and say "Oh, well."

I think there is a false assumption among the book buying public (shrinking numbers though it may be) that the large chains and the Internet can make up for the loss of the independent bookstore. (I know this fact intimately!) Bookstores are unique spaces. Places were people can gather and see the books before them. It is where readers can meet other readers and share ideas. The quality of the author readings at the chains don't even come close to what independent stores do. The quality of book selection just isn't the same.

I hate to be constantly blowing off steam like this in this blog. It just something that has been bottled up in me for a number of years and I finally have found a place where I can let loose. I admit that we booksellers need to find new and more inventive ways to be competitive but a little assistance from the public that we serve would also be nice. We need you but, by God, can't you admit that you need us, too? Doesn't anyone lament in the loud silence as the independent bookstores close. Doesn't anybody care?

From a May 30, 2007 blog post on "One Poet's Notes" by Edward Byrne:
"Goodbye to the Gotham Book Mart"

This week the entire inventory of the Gotham Book Mart was auctioned and the storied history of that New York cultural icon came to a close. Opened in 1920 by the legendary Frances Steloff, the bookstore became a central location for much of the city’s literary scene and a favorite haunt, or even a meeting place, for generations of writers, including Theodore Dreiser, W.H. Auden, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams (once fired from his job as a clerk at the store), Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, Arthur Miller, and John Updike. Early on, Steloff and her bookstore achieved a reputation as being truly independent, extending to the point of challenging censorship laws and smuggling into the country copies of banned books by D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller.


ORION said...

Yes, I care. Here in Hawaii we still have two independents and those are the stores that I targeted for my signings when my book comes out rather than the chain behemoths.
I remember the owner of one store just handing me a book and saying ,"You will really enjoy reading this."
Does that happen at the chains?

jenn said...

It's one of those questions where I wasn't expecting an answer. I'm sure glad you did. Good luck with your book!

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