November 18, 2011

Are writers leading an independent bookstore renaissance?


Ann Patchett, the bestselling author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, has opened a new independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, in her hometown of Nashville. In this quixotic undertaking she joins a number of other bookseller-writers, past and present, most notably Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who co-founded San Francisco’s City Lights Books in 1953. Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up in Archer City Texas, Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Books and Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books—the last two found on either side of the Mississippi River in the superlatively literate Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota—have also been around for a while, now.

How many makes a trend? Orange Prize nominee Crystal Wilkinson opened The Wild Figs bookstore in Lexington, Kentucky this past summer.

Allen Ginsberg at Ed Sanders' Peace Eye Bookstore, East 10th Street between Ave B & Ave C, New York City, June 1966. UPI Photo

Will writers lead an independent bookstore renaissance?

According to this article in the Huffington Post, “The American Bookseller Association reports an increase of membership two years running after years of decline that cost independents more than half their number.”

Maybe Ed Sanders, legendary Fug and American Book Award-winning Investigative Poet will re-open the Peace Eye Bookstore—in a more affordable neighborhood than New York City’s Lower East Side—and revive Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts. The time is right.


Dan O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Melville House.