Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Good, The Sad, and The Hopeful

With two upper West Side mega-bookstores closing in the past few months (see below), book-loving New Yorkers in need of good news may be heartened by the story of Aurora Anaya-Cerda. The owner of La Casa Azul, an online bookstore specializing in books by Latino authors, Ms. Anaya-Cerda is now trying to raise enough money to open a bricks-and-mortar store in the underserved East Harlem area. According to a recent Daily News article, in addition to selling new and used books, Ms. Anaya-Cerda plans to hold readings, open mike nights, and children’s events at La Casa Azul. You can support her 40K in 40 days campaign to raise money for her store here.  More good news: Word Up, a pop-up bookstore in Washington Heights will remain open until November. From the store’s website:

Word-up is a multi-language, general-interest bookshop committed to promoting literacy and community building in Washington Heights. By hosting workshops literary readings and musical engagements for kids and adults, we do our best to support and fortify the creative spirit unique to our diverse, uptown community.

Word Up, located on Broadway near 176th Street, is run by volunteers and is open weekdays from 4 pm to 9 pm and weekends from 12 noon to 4 pm

The news farther downtown is not so uplifting. Following the closing of the multi-level Barnes and Noble at Broadway and 66th Street (now a Century 21 department store), the Borders bookstore at Columbus Circle has permanently shut its doors. I visited Borders during its last weeks, after the liquidators had come in to post their giant discount signs. Against the glamorous setting of the Time Warner building, the store looked tawdry. The shelves were mostly bare and the staff looked tired. The final closing date had not been announced yet and one cashier had scrawled a message on the ID badge that hung from his neck “I don’t know when the last day is.”  Amidst the displays of Father’s Day cards no one had wanted, and Twilight wannabes looking for a buyer, I did find Alexander McCall Smith’s The Dog Who Came in From the Cold, the second installment in his Corduroy Mansions series. While the 60% savings was a significant break on a hardcover by one of my favorite authors, I was sorry that the store’s loss was my gain.

Happy to have the book--sorry to lose the store.

Hoping for a happier ending...Recently I received an email asking me to sign a petition protesting the imminent closing of St. Mark's Bookshop in Greenwich Village. While the shop isn’t one of my usual haunts, I hate to hear of any bookstore closing, especially an independent one.  The good news is that there are plenty of people trying to save the store, including the framers of the petition—which I signed, the Cooper Square Committee, and Michael Moore, who stopped by the other night to stir up a crowd of supporters. Co-owners Bob Contant and Terry McCoy, are negotiating with Cooper Union, their landlord, and have requested a $5000 reduction a month in rent, which they need to stay open.  The St. Mark’s Bookshop has a colorful history, described by Mr. Contant in this New York Times article. Famous customers have included Susan Sontag and Annie Leibowitz, Allan Ginsberg, Philip Glass, and William Burroughs. Cooper Union has promised to give the owners their decision by the end of October.

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