One night, during that tumultuous year ominously known as Y2K, when fear that computer time would stop and the world would reboot in the form of fur-clad ape-people wielding spiked clubs and foraging for grub worms, a nascent form was taking shape in a bubbling lava pit deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The form had been coalescing for many years, stirred by the intrusive flow of financial necessity and the gaseous upwelling of lofty desire, and was starting to distinguish itself from the surrounding lava. Edges and right angles began to form until a right-rectangular prism floated above the pool. The form’s surface was covered in a rich maroon leather. As it floated upward on the rising gases, molten gold began dribbling across its surface, carving forms in the leather. Finally, as the shape reached the volcano’s peak, the gilt ceased and clearly engraved across the leather in gothic letters was a word: books.
Something akin to this lead me to open Downtown Books in 2000. I remain astonished 13 years later to be running the store, still. The initial inventory was fairly bland, but I have now discovered that used bookstores bear some similarity to a living organism. That is, as people continue to buy, sell and trade, the selection improves and begins to take a distinctive shape, similar to garden hedges that have been trimmed and trained into exotic animals.
I would like to think that a certain magic resides within the store, where a patient patron may discover something interesting and surprising to read—or in some rare cases, something life-changing, where just the right bit of information meets her eye at just the right time. It is like a repository of human history. Catalogs of world’s fairs speaking to the novelty, excitement and REALITY of a day in 1933… sitting near a copy of You are not a Gadget, by Jaron Lanier. Sometimes I think that I can see the air distorting around the shelves, similar to the heated air that creates a mirage, as all of that information mingles and stirs and whispers together.
I try to have an exciting selection in a number of subjects and if nothing else, to create a place for a provocative and satisfying browse. I have antiquarian and collectible titles but I also try to emphasize reasonably-priced and unusual titles. Please come on down and have a look.
Here is a link to a video introduction to the store