Sunday, November 25, 2012

There's gold in these here walls

The above book may not look like much (unless you've got a hankering for puffed pancakes with sausage, in which case, hurry down to our Used Book Cellar and snap this baby up) but it's something of a refugee. I found it the other day while shifting things around in the art section. Turns out when you take all the monographs off the bottom shelf it reveals a thin little gap between the wooden slats; a passageway to the void from whence this little guy returned to us. Sometime in the murky past (I'd spitball around three years ago if publication dates are any guide, but that assumes some chronolinear laws of reality to which bookstores are often an exception), "100 Meals for $5 or Less" slipped past its bulkier cookbook colleagues and slid away behind the wall. If it weren't so aggressively orange the protruding corner of its cover might have escaped my notice entirely and it would have spent eternity back there with the dust-bunnies and phantoms.

Which kind of got me to thinking. What else do you think might be lurking within the walls? Because I'm a little obsessed with the idea of ruins and buried history. Just think about the bones of this old bookstore. A few decades back we housed our own cafe; the floorboards still creak from a legendary (apocryphal?) coffee-tsunami. And you may have heard that we just celebrated our 50th birthday, but 279 Harvard St. wasn't always a literary landmark. Once upon a time this was a neighborhood grocery, and it still bears a few traces of those days. We have a meat locker in our office and somewhere there is a dumbwaiter, which I vow to find, even if it requires inconveniencing several busy people.

Ye olde-timey Booksmith.
Here, I posit, are a few things that generations to come might find during renovations to expand the store over an entire city block (in utopic future times when the rest of the world tunes in to what Brookline already knows about the critical import of bookstores):

- A colony of very well-read Borrowers.
- A leather-bound first edition of The Scarlet Letter.
- A dog-eared copy of Ezra Pound's Cantos filled with Charles Olson's cryptic but besotted marginalia.
- The loopy signatures of the 21st century's greatest literary minds. (This part is for real. You know all those big-name authors you get to meet and hear read at our store? The illustrious Dennis Lehane started the tradition of signing our bathroom wall and now it's kind of a thing).
- A signed declaration of surrender from the CEO of Amazon.
- Red Sox trading cards.
- All the very BEST used books (with inscriptions and pictures and fold-out treasure maps) that you just know the employees keep squirreled away for themselves even though we swear we'd do no such thing.
- A thousand buttons, earrings and ballpoint pens.
- The body of a Poe protagonist.
- Wistful postcards.
- The Arkenstone.

But enough speculation. My archaeological sense is tingling so I'm off to dig up some real dirt. Stay tuned for more ancient Booksmith updates.

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