One of the myriad benefits to owning a used bookstore, besides the riches and the glamour, is the accumulation of bookmarks.
Over the years I have amassed a collection of a few thousand of these page rememberers and small advertisements. I love them. Right now, I'm using a Brattle Book Shop bookmark to keep my place in the book I'm reading (The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi is one of the greatest humans ever).
I have probably over 100 Brattle bookmarks but I never cease to feel a little pang of pleasure when I find one in a book I've purchased. I remember all the good times I've had browsing there and all the good books I got there. The bookmark gives a little burst of memory like Proust's Madeline or Dylan Thomas' bells at Christmas, and now I reach into the box and out comes The Concord Bookshop, oh so nice, every time I am in Concord I get a coffee, walk to the cemetery, the library, and the Bookshop. The next one to come out is a bookmark put out by the ACLU listing the first six amendments.
Did you know that you can sell used books on any public land in America? I think that is true, at least a street preacher who is defended by the ACLU all the time told me that. Next out of the box comes a bookmark from The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, Massachusetts that is now a museum. Did you know that 'Keeping up with the Jones', comes from Edith Wharton, whose maiden name was Jones and she grew up in a very fancy house on Fifth Avenue? Also interesting about The Mount was that at one point Wharton's library from there had been sold and dispersed and some noble book collector has been buying them back (apparently, they all have her bookplate in them) and returning them to the library.
Next out is a Borders bookmark. Oh, Borders – you were such a good bookstore when you first opened, with in-depth sections all around the store, but then you never re-ordered the good titles and you became less and less interesting, but I mourn the death of any bookstore, the little citadels of civilization. Next out comes a National Geographic magazine bookmark, what an institution!
Next is The Book Shop in Beverly Farms bookmark from back in the day. Were there ever more charming bookstore workers than at The Book Shop? And they always had signed Updike's!
Out comes Rodney's Bookstore, owned by my good friend Shaw Taylor on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. The store was named after his beloved dog, but sneaky customers didn't know that and would always say to the staff 'Oh, Rodney told me I could get a discount,' Or, 'Rodney used to always buy my books.' Next -- The Coop!! Oh, the beloved Coop. I must say the Barnes & Noble that took over the Coop is a great bookstore, but the Coop had such a feel, and weird posters and such an unbelievable selection of discounted books that even as a kid I felt book rich going there. Going into Harvard Square when I was young was such a treat, at least 10 used bookstores, the Coop, The Tasty, The Brattle Theater, Casablanca, so much.
Next out of the box is Toad Hall. Oh, Toad Hall. Every time I was in Rockport I always went there. And it seemed like the crabby lady was always working and she never remembered me, but then I would ask for a suggestion and the crabbiness fell away like a ghost, and she was the best, such great recommendations and I would walk down the street and read on the bench above the little beach.
Next out is ... I guess my day is gone, I will just be looking at my bookmarks and reminiscing about all the great memories bookstores have given me.