A Life in Bookselling
When I opened the doors of Malaprop’s thirty years ago on June 1, 1982, the first people who walked in the door were a threesome–Marnie, Sandi, and Gretchen. My first customer was a gentleman. We talked for a while and he purchased the Selected Works of Herman Melville, the Random House edition. We became friends through the years and later I learned from him that he was the grandson of Houdini. His name was Henry Cohen, and the magic continues! Jimmie Margaret Gilliam and Geraldine Grossman read their work at our first poetry reading, Daniel Ladinsky was the first to read Hafiz at Malaprop’s, and Susun Weed presented our longest author event.
Time flies when you’re having fun, an apropos statement for my time selling books. I have been a bookseller since September 8, 1970. I know this because it was my Papa’s birthday that day. At times I lose a breath when I realize many on my staff were not even born yet while I was already pushing good books into hands. It is not a total addiction but very close. My library at home is taking over everywhere but I cannot part from these books that gave me the life I could only dream of.
Linda and I were talking in the store about things and I heard myself say “Do what you live and money will follow” though maybe I should have said “do what you LOVE and maybe money will follow.” We agreed that loving what we spend our days on is a primary joy that complements the lives we lead.
There are days that put me to the test but I am always encouraged when I hear customers say things like “What a bookstore!” or “This is a real bookstore!”’ or “I love the booksellers’ favorites and usually that is where I choose my reads” or “That young man was giving me the best suggestion.” I love ordering books and hearing customers talk about the quality of Malaprop’s’ book selection and how they love to come back again and again. I am thankful to those customers who support the community we love by supporting the cultural venues that we call Malaprop’s and Downtown Books & News.
I tell you walking into either bookstore gives me a great thrill and at times I really enjoy lighting the fire under the booksellers by suggesting a rearrangement of this or that. There is a method to my madness but I can only feel what move needs to happen and cannot explain until I verbalize the movement at that moment. I would like to declare that perfection is not available to me and I am glad for it. Making mistakes at times gives me the best opportunities to learn more and more about my flexibility and the borders of what I call mySelf. So many times books came into my life just at the right time. In keeping with our 30th Anniversary, I will list the THIRTY authors who remain a constant in my reading life.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Suzanne Haden Elgin
All authors I do read are like colors for my canvas. Even today after thirty years of “doing the bookselling” I can say never a dull moment and always a challenge in the best of ways. I do feel bookselling keeps me younger and I feel great pleasure when I have connected good writers with our readers. I love doing that. I have realized and I quoted in our new anthology of poetry Remember Me as a Time of Day that “everything that can be saved will be saved by love.” Reading is a way to love imagination which affords opportunities to make the world a much better place for the youngins. That is the quest, is it not? Happy reading to one and all!
Thirty years after the birth of Malaprop’s, our goals are the same as the ones we committed to in 1982:
1. To be the best little bookstore/cafe in the land.
2. To enjoy what we do while we’re doing it.
3. To be aware and supportive of financial needs and ensure that bookselling is a fine and noble profession.
“every little thing is everything”
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