Jeremiah Moss put up a sad post last week about the building that has been home, for the past 33 years, to the Three Lives & Company Bookshop (pictured above, with my son Oliver) being put up for sale. It’s an unsurprising development, but no less heartbreaking. Much like my beloved music shops like Other Music and Rebel Rebel, the notion of the independent Manhattan book store is swiftly becoming a thing of the past.
As detailed in Jeremiah’s post, the villain in this story is not the competition from big name chains like Barnes & Noble, nor the online bookseller juggernaut that is Amazon or even people forsaking actual books in favor of idiotic devices like Kindles and Nooks (do people still use those? I’m so behind the times). No, the culprit is our city’s spiraling rents, pure and simple.
In 2016, we’ve already lost Left Bank Books on 8th Avenue, and after a long protracted demise, the beleaguered St. Marks Bookshop from its exiled perch on unforgiving East Third Street. Personally speaking, I’m still smarting from the departure of Shakespeare & Co. back in 2014.
Before you click your tongues, roll your eyes and dust off that weary adage that change is the only constant in an urban environment, please go fuck yourselves, and let me underscore, once again, that brick n’ mortar establishments of these kinds (both book shops and record/disc shops) are more than simply places wherein to purchase goods. They are places for like-minds to gather, connect and share. They are places wherein to learn and discover. They are places to find solace and kinship. Beyond all that, they’re also places simply to browse, something you can do in fewer and fewer places.
Support your local bookshop, goddammit.
This news found me looking up this video from 2013, which I wrote more extensively about here, wherein bespectacled indie dude Fred Nicolaus of Golden Suits circumnavigates Manhattan’s network of book shops for the purposes of buying up every single copy of “The Stories of John Cheever” he can get his hands on.
In the three years since this was filmed, about four of the shops Fred visits in the video have already vanished.