Monday, September 21, 2009

Left Bank Books

With the coming takeover of the nearby Biography Bookshop space by Marc Jacobs and the closure of neighbor Lee's Laundry, my more or less consistent, low-grade concern about Left Bank Books has been goosed.

Remarkably, though it looks like it's been there since the young Bob Dylan strolled 4th Street, the shop was opened in 1992 by Arthur Farrier, who called it Bookleaves.

Wrote the Times in 2003, "Stocked with out-of-print books, it is a browser's nirvana. People bring in dusty boxes, and the owner, Arthur Farrier, sorts them. 'I have the smallest inventory in the Western world,' said Mr. Farrier, who spent 20 years driving a cab before he got tired of complaining about disappearing bookshops and opened one of his own. 'The odds against finding a book here are tremendous.' Mr. Farrier is in danger of becoming a Village character. He affects a beret over a mane of white hair--he calls it a poor man's toupee--and he is a mine of Greenwich Village lore."

Farrier sold the shop in 2005, but not much changed. The name became Left Bank, but the new owner, Kim Herzinger, didn't rush to change the sign. The shop is still packed with books. The window display is tantalizing, filled with rare books and signed books. They keep up an online list of their new arrivals.

The West Village used to be filled with bookshops, but in the past, deadly decade, they've been dwindling fast. The Examiner took a look at what's left, but we keep losing them. Oscar Wilde shuttered. Biography is staying on Bleecker, but moving much farther east. It's a mass extinction.

I have found many a hard-to-find book at this shop. It is a bright spot on an increasingly bleak block, where characters like Farrier are now deemed "obsolete" in what has become the luxury doldrums.

scene across the street from Left Bank


Mykola Dementiuk said...

Looks like the end of the literate world is coming fast...such a pity :(


Melanie said...

Lovely piece. What a great place. I have a 2nd blog
please visit me there.

Anonymous said...

This place is awesome. It's a classic NYC bookshop. So few left.

John said...

Moss, you almost made me want to crawl in a corner and cry. Don't traumatize us unnecessarily. It's still open I take it. I love that place. The last book I got there was Quentin Crisp's "How to Have a Lifestyle" only because the owner didn't have "The Naked Civil Servant". Anyway, that store is classic and the owner has my dream job.

Jeremiah Moss said...

it's open, it's open, please don't crawl in a corner and cry. i promise, when something vanishes, it will say VANISHED at the top. otherwise, it's just something i'm worried about.