Saturday, December 30, 2006

A 'No Vacancy' Bookshelf Sign

As you can probably tell from my recent spate of posts, I already have far too many books in my small, cramped apartment. It hasn't gotten to the point yet that I've put twenty books in a pillow cover and begun sleeping on them, but I do have 30 books waiting to be read. As I speak, they're balancing precariously on top of my armoire and I'm typing softly in order to not disturb them from their Jenga-like state.

Part of this amassed collection no doubt comes via buying into the mentality of an ex several years ago, be it fortunately or not. She would go to Strand every so often, buy two cartons of books to haul home and justify this act by reasoning that she is "giving them a home". In her mind, used books were like a cute puppy at a pound.

So I have conflicted emotions when a New York City bookstore closes. The latest is Murder Ink, an Upper West Side bookstore that focuses on mystery/noir (and my particular favorite genre). It closes its doors for good tomorrow after being around for 34 years. I've trekked up to its location every 3 months or so to browse and buy, and it's well-known to genre fans; honestly, I'm really hurt to see it go.

So one of the two emotions is sadness, in losing a favorite. But here's the other part: Vulture that I can be, I made sure to visit it in its final days to add books to my 'to-be-read' pile. To a bibliophile like myself, there's a certain giddiness, derived from some primal urge, in buying a bunch of books at one time.

But the mood at Murder Ink was not anything you'd expect it to be today-- it wasn't scavengers fighting over a choice item like what one might see at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving or the haggling one finds at a yard sale. This was far different from the final night at CBGB's, another institution that closed this year. It was quiet and respectful, with many murmurs of "I'm so sorry about the closing" as people left the store. They asked about how the owner was doing and what the gals who manned the counters would be doing next. It was almost funerial and somber in tone. Given the clientele, I'm not sure why I'm so surprised-- it probably was the recent Christmas shopping frenzy.

But, on a somber occasion like this when you're talking about a mom and pop store, it was good to see the treated with the respect it deserved. The customers were truly giving the items from Murder Ink a home.

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