Thursday, April 10, 2008


One thing I recently realized is that acclaim has nothing to do with wealth, or even stability. While we cease to simply be a village shop, drawing newfound clientele from as far away as Manhattan and Phillie, let alone New Brunswick and Princeton. While we continue to garner attention from internationally circulated periodicals (The Guardian, The New York Times), and host lauded guests such as punk diarist Jim Carroll (The Basketball Diaries) and 2008 Oscar winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), we can’t always well, just a small thing really, heh, heh, um…pay ourselves. Perhaps this dichotomy between fame and funds shouldn’t come as a surprise. Celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was often broke. Pubs frequently stood him drinks and at the height of his popularity he asked for a small loan from actor Richard Burton. Landmarks like The Lion’s Head are forced to close despite the vigilant campaigns of noted patrons (in this case, Norman Mailer and playwright Lanford Wilson). George Whitman’s famous Parisian bookstore, Shakespeare and Co., listed dangerously at the beginning of the decade (Whitman, frugal to the point of eccentricity, lived in the shop and used leftover pancake batter to paste down curling carpets), before righting itself (just barely) two years back. McSweeney’s, an ostensibly successful publishing house founded by superstar author Dave Eggers and known for printing work by contemporary lit’s brightest bulbs (Michael Chabon, Jim Shepard, Kelly Link), recently auctioned off original comic strip panels by Maakies creator Tony Millionaire to stave off bankruptcy. Don’t misunderstand, The Raconteur is successful compared to other used bookstores. Indeed, many such as we give up the ghost every year. Charing Cross, once known for antiquarian tomes, suffered the shuttering of four shops last year, and is now recognized for its excellent curry (it has six Indian restaurants). But compare our business to a shop selling, say, Moto cell phones and we’re the penniless poet bumming whiskey shooters. So…what to do?