The Paris Review Daily

Bulletin

Saving St. Mark’s

October 5, 2011 | by

St. Mark’s Bookshop is the one of the last booksellers in the East Village. Since 1979 it has been famous for its collection of fiction, poetry, and criticism. With just 2,700 square feet, it always manages to stock the best new books and literary magazines—things that would get buried in a less selective store. Pace the Bloomberg newswire, you could find most of these things online. But first you’d have to look—and St. Mark’s teaches you what to look for.

The staff don’t just select the stock, they proselytize on its behalf and, in their small way, help hold the neighborhood together. Once a friend of mine went up to the information desk and asked the clerk to restore his faith in the contemporary novel. Another time, another friend asked where to find flowers on a Sunday. Both left satisfied. That’s the kind of store it is.

Now it seems St. Mark’s Bookshop may close—not for lack of customers, but for the same reason that the East Village lost its Ukrainian diners: if you’re selling pierogi or paperbacks, it’s hard to make $20,000 every month in rent. The owners of St. Mark’s have asked the landlord—the Cooper Union—to lower that rent by $5,000. Friends of the bookstore have circulated a petition and have gathered some 40,000 signatures supporting this request.

We at The Paris Review have a stake in St. Mark’s Bookshop: the store sells between 150 and 200 copies of each issue of The Paris Review. That’s more than we sell in most cities. It’s more than we sell off our own Web site. Magazines like The Paris Review need good bookstores, where the staff knows how to spread the word about good writing, face to face, hand to hand. To our way of thinking, New York needs bookstores, too, or it will no longer be New York.

15 COMMENTS

12 Comments

  1. quique lomelí | October 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    40000 signatures… put a dollar where your pen is and keep the store open for 8 more months (they’re asking for a 5000 dlls rebate)

  2. Kayla | October 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    St. Marks is a wonderful bookstore and resource in NYC. I worked for them for several years and I made some of my happiest memories there.

    Terry and Bob and Michael have created a literary haven that is part of the landscape and gravity of New York.

    Let’s all help them survive. Sign the petition now!
    http://signon.org/sign/save-the-st-marks-bookshop?source=s.em.cr&r_by=568499&mailing_id=722

  3. Lorin Stein | October 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Quique, an excellent suggestion — better yet, do both!

  4. Jay Datema | October 5, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    During the protest last Thursday night, I wanted to do something concrete. So I bought a copy of the Paris Review, of course.

    Thank you for writing this; everyone in publishing has a stake in this particular bookstore, which for me, makes New York City what it always should be.

    It would be nice to see a combination deal of some kind (buy an issue at St. Marks, get a discounted subscription….)

  5. Lorin Stein | October 5, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Another excellent suggestion!

    Starting tomorrow, when you buy a copy of The Paris Review at St. Mark’s Bookshop, look inside for the special coupon. It will entitle you to a 25% discount on any subscription (plus tee shirts, totes, or mugs).

    Spread the word.

  6. Michelle in NYC | October 5, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    It occurs to me that all the people who signed the petition, and all who care about St. Marks bookstore should pledge to boycott whatever appears in it’s place should the landlord decide against the petitioners.

  7. PhilipMSr | October 6, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    I am going to share this story on my site which celebrates books by posting photos of bookcases.
    http://www.facebook.com/page /The-BookCase-Project/201733486549165

  8. jseliger | October 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    This won’t help St. Marks in the short term, but if you want to help funky or unusual business stay in business over the longer term, you effectively have to support taller buildings that will increase the square footage supply in New York. Edward Glaeser makes this argument well in The Triumph of the City, where he points out that a) New York is a really popular place to live for all kinds of reasons, but b) New York also has all kinds of arcane and unfortunate zoning laws that prevent building new stuff. Combine the two and you get high rent that forces places like St. Marks to close. Too few people connect the one to the other.

  9. Mary Campbell Gallagher, J.D., Ph.D. | October 9, 2011 at 6:56 am

    @jseliger, Unfortunately, Mr. Glaeser to the contrary, construction of tall buildings does not mean lower rents for the stores at the base. Jane Jacobs set all this out in 1961. The most economical and ecologically sound building is one that already exists. Tall buildings are expensive to build. The mortgage lenders who underwrite construction loans insist on what they call “credit-worthy” tenants. That means the GAP, not the St. Marks Bookshop.

    Thank you, Paris Review, for reminding me to buy something from the St. Marks Bookshop.

  10. Will Bloom | October 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    You should read Irish writer Steven Duggan’s blog about visiting NYC on September 11th – outraged at “the absence of choice, the triumph of conformity” based on the complete absence of bookstores around Times Square:
    http://www.theangelsuicides.com/blog/

  11. Jay Datema | November 3, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Looks like the petition and activism worked for now:
    http://www.observer.com/2011/11/st-marks-bookshop-spared-rental-doom/

  12. Eilat Hotels | October 17, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I’m just extremely glad to check your post. Many thanks a entire lot and i am taking a appear ahead of time to get hold of any individual

3 Pingbacks

  1. [...] Saving St. Mark’s — Lorin Stein of The Paris Review on the fight to save this famous New York bookstore. [...]

  2. [...] Mark’s Bookshop today. “We at ‘The Paris Review’ have a stake in St. Mark’s Bookshop,” writes Lorin Stein. “The store sells between 150 and 200 copies of each issue of ‘The Paris Review.’ That’s [...]

  3. [...] as their names.” #fyeahdialecticofenlightenment). Paris Review editor Lorin Stein recently wrote an impassioned blog post in support of St. Mark’s – which astoundingly sells more copies of The Paris Review each month [...]

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