Today, was my first day working at the Robin Rice Gallery on West 11th Street. For sure it’s not a full-time position and I am not even sure if/when I will be called back in to work. But for this day I got to enjoy being around some fine photography!
This is one of my first photographs. It was taken in the summer of 2006 during a photography intensive at Parsons. I came across it while scanning negatives. As the burned out spots and scratches attest the image barely survived my processing of the film negative. Despite all of this it brought me right back to the moment. I hope to finish scanning the rest of my film by summer’s end.
“Cheap Books! Cheap Books!” The good-natured gentleman proclaims in Russian and then in English while shuffling his walker past the Bleecker Street bookshop formerly known as Biography. Nearly everyday this elderly prophet of humor announces his great joy in seeing the neighborly display of tables full of books.
He is not the only one.
There are people constantly browsing through the books: Life-long villagers, and their dogs too; visitors from a host of nations, even Slovenia (one young customer wearing oversized, fluorescent yellow-rimmed glasses proudly calls the capital city of Ljubljana her home); the latest Broadway stars (it seems appropriate to drop a name to impress, but that is forbidden); and people simply looking for something good to read.
The books here are a community of misfits, but a remarkably democratic one. Where else can Christopher Hitchens sit silently next to Kierkegaard? Or the Quran and the Bible stand “cover to cover” in peaceful co-existence?
However, with electronic reading tablets like the Nook and Kindle threatening “ink on paper” books with obsolescence the great unknown is, “What is going to happen to Village bookstores like BookBook?” Nooks and Kindles are assimilating new converts with the efficiency of the Borg. For those who do not know the Borg, they are a frightening drone-like race from Star Trek whose “pick-up” line at initial contact with other species is: “We are the Borg. Resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.”
Here are several BookBook titles that are not yet “assimilated” onto the Kindle or the Nook:
“Changing New York” by Berenice Abbot: A coffee-table book that grants a fascinating, photographic glimpse into 1930’s New York. $34.98.
“My New York” by Kathy Jakobsen: A children’s book that offers readers of all ages endearing illustrations of the city’s sites and scenes. $8.98.
“The Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor: In O’Connor’s youth she paraded around her pet chicken that walked backwards. Forget the numerous New York Times’ book reviews delving into her life and work; with a childhood like that her stories have to be good. $7.98.
So these three, of which there are many more, are proof that books are here for people to buy, and to share freely with other bibliophiles. The man proclaiming, “Good News” about the bookshop at 266 Bleecker Street knows about the great deals, and now so do you.
As I’m editing the photos from today, I hear bagpipes coming from Christopher Street and cheers of support so I guess that’s one way to know it is Saint Patrick’s Day in New York City!