Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Bookstore and So Much More

SMARTMOM RECEIVED THIS E-MAIL from a very special citizen of Park Slope: Catherine, the owner of the Community Bookstore. Her Seventh Avenue shop has always done a great deal to foster a sense of community in this neighborhood. For over ten years, it has been a special place to find the best and the brightest in classic and contemporary literature, non-fiction and children books. But the shop really took a turn for the great when Catherine became the owner of the store just days before September 11th, 2001.

In the dark days and weeks after the attacks, Catherine transformed the shop into a truly enlightened community center for information, discussion, and the collection of emergency items that were needed at Ground Zero. As the supplies piled up outside the store, her front window filled with political books and articles from opinion columns around the world. Smartmom first saw W.H. Auden's poem, "September 1, 1939," with it's spookily prescient line: "The unmentionable odour of death, Offends the September night," taped to the window. Auden's powerful words became a poetic touchpoint for many. Here is an excerpt:

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.


In the wake of last week's disasterous presidential elections, Catherine is once again responding to the mood of the neighborhood. She invites her neighbors to share their feelings of disappointment, anger, and fear. But she also lends an air of "goofy" utopianism in her bringing together of books, community and a little bit of wine at a time when we need them more than ever.

Hi Everyone.

I'm writing to invite you to an open house at 5:00 on Sunday evening.

We're inviting anyone and everyone who feels like they want to be in
contact with their community to come in and have a good talk.

Obviously, this is in response to the recent election.

You know, I have the amazing luxury of standing in this bookstore day
after day. I stand here, and people come in, and we talk to each
other. We exchange ideas, we tell stories. We cry (me, often), and
laugh, and embrace, and have contact. We are a community.

We in this country are also a community, as indeed we in this world
are.

It all seems to have gone horribly wrong. But I don't think it has
to. In fact, I feel more hopeful than I ever have. Yes, things are
dark, but NEVER in my lifetime have people been more pissed off.
Perilous times, no doubt. But this is what gives rise to new
solutions.

Anyhow. Nevermind my utopianism. If you want to get with your
community, we welcome you. Sunday, at 5:00 o'clock. Cheese and
wine, probably (definitely, if you bring some -- I will!)

Love,
Catherine

PS. I have an idea. It's kind of goofy, but powerful. Then again,
our response to 9/11 was the same. Kind of goofy (What? everyone
tries like hell to help each other?) but powerful (and then it works?)

Anyhow. Whatever happens. I love you all. Really. Love!

2 Comments:

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Udge said...

Well, it's clear that you have to go. Count me in as "present in spirit".

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger mrs. cleavage said...

Community Bookstore is the best--even if I do cheat on them from time to time at 7th Ave. books & @ "Goliath" on 6th & 7th. Who could forget the way CB became a safe haven for us all? I am cushioned by Catherine's optimism & wish I could share it. I have retreated to rattling my pots & pans & thumbing through food magazines. There's truth to the adage: comfort food. And, of course, there are books to be read & stories to be told...

And on another note, thanks SM for your continued support. I cling to it as I would a life raft (which is exactly what all these words are about -- for me anyway). Really, thanks, I mean it.

 

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