As reported by the New York Times today, St. Mark's Bookshop in New York has struck a deal with its landlord which will allow the store to stay open for business!
After many months of stalled negotiations and uncertainty about the bookshop's future, this is happy news. Independent bookstores like St. Mark’s promise to quietly save our country from spiritual and municipal ruin, because the booksellers, at their best, are proponents of the most civilizing things in life: art, education, civic involvement, and the meaningful wasting of time (which can foment genius).
Yet independent bookselling is an enterprise fraught with risk, and at our present historical moment the systemic atmosphere in America is one almost entirely contemptuous of significant cultural undertakings like this. The corporate and online book-vendors can be boarish, destructive entities, with little or no accountability to communities, and fidelity to nothing but the dollar and whatever dross will stimulate its multiplication. By contrast, independent booksellers are in the business of knowing their neighborhoods, their clientele, and the clientele’s particular tastes. They thereby do a profound service to their communities — and, by ripple effect, to the larger culture.
Vitality of the independents — of St. Mark’s at this moment — means vitality for democratic culture itself, which begins in and consists of (what else?) neighborhoods!