October 30, 2014
One man’s journey to commemorate the greatest bookstores in the world
by Rachel Smitley
New York City has seen a run of independent bookstore moves and closings this year, a state of affairs that seems to be coming from the ever increasing rent in the city, and the ever fluctuating world of publishing and bookselling in general, and this month we see yet another unexpected change in the bookstore landscape. Earlier this week we learned that Posman Books in Grand Central Terminal was being forced to shut its doors and move on, a fact that makes this particular bibliophile a very sad girl.
The store handed out a “heartfelt thank you and farewell” flyer on Monday from CEO Eugene Posman, assuring customers that while Posman is no longer going to live in the terminal at the corner of 42nd street and Lexington Avenue, they are still open at their Chelsea Market and Rockefeller Center locations, and are attempting to work with Grand Central on finding another space inside the station. But, despite the seeming lack of respect or distinction for independent bookstores in New York City (and all over the world) who are being forced to close or move, other news would suggest that, in fact, and people still love independent bookstores and want them to be remembered. So, what better way to commemorate bookstores and lavish them with respect and distinction, than to make a book about bookstores?
Bob Eckstein—cartoonist, writer, illustrator, and self proclaimed snowman expert—just signed a book deal with the Potter Style imprint at Random House (as reported by GalleyCat last week) for a project currently entitled Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores. The project was inspired by two separate pieces in The New Yorker where Eckstein went to various independent and notable bookstores in New York City, collecting stories from the owners or employees there and then pairing each story with a hand-drawn illustration of the shopfront. The stories from Eckstein’s New Yorker series range from sad and poignant, to fun and interesting, to straight up weird (like the one from BookCourt where Robin Williams came in yelling about how much he loved books. Ask our own Alex Shephard about that one—he was allegedly working there when it happened!).
The series featured bookstores that were both happily in business and sadly closed down as well as now at least one that is in the process of closing (Posman Books in Grand Central was featured by Eckstein before their closing was made public–a lovely reminder of its long lasting presence in the train station). According to Twitter, Eckstein is currently on his way to Boston, MA to find some notable stores, and then on to who knows where. I expect we will find Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores just as interesting, funny, weird, poignant, and beautifully illustrated as the series on New York City shops. It will be a wonderful tribute to the great bookstores of the world and all the people who love them.