1:08 pm Sep. 16, 2011
Things are going badly enough at the St. Mark's Bookshop that it's tempting here to indulge in a few fin de siècle book jokes. Closing the book! End papers! Can St. Mark's turn over a new leaf?
In case you hadn't read about it: The bookstore, which has been providing the East Village with books on art and high theory, poetry chapbooks and very expensive magazines since 1977—first in a location on St. Mark's Place but since 1993 out of a shop at the corner of 9th Street and Third Avenue—is in a rent dispute with its landlord, Cooper Union.
They want to lower the rent (there's a petition with 27,000 signatures supporting that, for what it may be worth) or else they might have to shut down.
"It's not just a couple of guys who own a bookstore and want to keep their job," co-owner and co-founder Terry McCoy told the Daily News. "It's an important book store in keeping the identity of the East Village what it is."
We find that to be important justification for our periodic portraits of neighborhoods based on the bestsellers at their local (and, usually, independent) bookstores. So what, in these troubled times, is selling at the shop? One expects the top authors to have names like Deleuze and Guattari, Koolhaas and Gadamer, Derrida and Foucault, with a smattering of guilty-pleasure reading on the poppier side of cultural theory (maybe a paperback of Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor or pretty much any pretty book from Taschen). Let's see if we're right.
The No. 1 bestseller for the week ending Sept. 14 was the $25, hardcover version of Rimbaud’s 1886 classic Illuminations. (Maybe it's because local poetry hero John Ashbery wrote the introduction? If it were just being taught in Poetry 101 over at nearby New York University, you'd expect the cheaper paperback editions to win.)
Less surprising, and next on the list is the $15, I-can’t-believe-you-still-haven’t-read-it paperback version of Brooklynite Jennifer Egan’s Nobel Prize-winning A Visit From The Goon Squad, which is probably doing just fine at the nearby Barnes & Noble at Union Square, too.
That's less likely for No. 3, Tabloid director Errol Morris’ $40 hardcover Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography, which is probably on J. Hoberman’s syllabus and definitely on a number of IKEA Lack coffee tables throughout the Palladium dormitory. This is more what we expect.
American Book Award-winner Just Kids, the romantic and New Yorky memoir by the nieghborhood's most popular senior citizen, Patti Smith. It’s a bit saccharine, sure, but it’s East Village-centric and mostly charming and if it gets the kids off their Kerouac kick for a minute, why not?
Numbers five and six are, respectively, Chad Harbach’s currently-very-popular college baseball and gay romance epic The Art of Fielding, which is on special order and clocks in at $28, and the foulmouthed, funny Go The Fuck To Sleep, Adam Mansbach’s illustrated kids book for the fed-up parental unit. That one’s $15 in hardcover and makes an ideal gift for your roommate who decides to keep the baby.
101 Things to Learn in Art School and Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age snooze their way through the next two spots. The former is $15, the latter $23, both to be resold immediately upon the end of your seminar course.
A surprising local hit is holding it down at No. 9: Tango, the memoir by legendary Downtown performer Justin Bond, who felt so wronged by the New York magazine profile that came out a few months back that writing a memoir seemed the only reasonable recourse. No, not really. The $17 paperback-only book was probably in the works long before that and is cheaper than going to see the very talented Bond at once of those Joe’s Pub shows where you have two buy two very expensive drinks and then stand the entire night.
Rounding out the list, for the East Villager sick of being locked out of his three-bedroom split, is the $15 paperback version of professional award winner Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist, which follows a man named Michael, whose superpower the ability to pick any lock he comes across. Maybe it'll come in handy on the day Cooper Union finally padlocks the doors.