The transition draws near, friends. On August 29, 2016, 29 years to the day that John opened the first incarnation of this bookstore up the street, Open Books: A Poem Emporium will officially move from our hands to Billie Swift’s. It’s been a wonderful journey, and we each wanted to share a few thoughts before we turn over the key.
Goodbye and Hello from John
I bought a bookstore in 1987 and truly had no idea what I was getting into. I have loved books since taking crayon to The Story of Babar and Eloise and delighting in Seuss and Winnie-the-Pooh, but buying the bookstore was an act of career-change whim; I can’t imagine a more fortunate semi-accident happening. After 29 always amazing years it is time for me to close one door and open another. My bookstore-owning energy has waned and the bookstore deserves an energetic person at the helm. A large change in life is always difficult, even when it is a sought-after change. Open Books has been a significant part of my identity. My future will soon open without a routine, without expectations, an uncertainty that is deliciously scary and exciting. I am ready.
I think of a bookstore as being something like a mushroom– the above-ground manifestation of a vast unseen organism, in this case the organism being literature and the love of literature. I have been so lucky to have been an intimate to this flowering. It is not possible for me to get across how wonderful the interactions with customers have been– how educational, inspiring, entertaining, and touching. I have been blessed. Thank you each and every one. I certainly plan to remain connected to books in a variety of ways. Besides reading (glorious reading!) I will be an audience member, I’ll work again at my printing press, and will continue to engage in classes and other poetry and book-related public offerings. I’ll be around, just differently.
And I am ready to leave the bookstore in the hands of Billie Swift, and I am so pleased that Alexander will continue to work at the store. They are two dynamic characters and great company. I hope you support and enjoy Billie’s edition of Open Books. I plan to.
— John W. Marshall
Goodbye and Hello from Christine
Some months before our wedding day, John and I met with the officiant for a requisite counseling session. Nothing she said surprised me until, as the hour was drawing to a close, she leaned forward and said, “Remember, your love does not exist in isolation. You are part of a community. You must look outward toward it as well as toward each other.”
I think of that now as John and I prepare to transfer ownership of Open Books to Billie Swift. He and I were readers before we were booksellers. What an incredibly intimate act it is to read a book. People say, I love reading. It’s a sensuous, transporting, mysterious relationship that supports and transforms us. But it doesn’t exist in isolation. The book I hold speaks to books that have come before it, its author not part of a line of authors but an ever-expanding circle. It was edited, proofread, designed, printed, marketed, and distributed by a publisher (sometimes just one [tired] person). And then a bookseller sold it to me.
I never expected to look up from the community of my books and out into the community of other readers, but that’s what happened when I became a fulltime bookseller in 1989. A thousand paragraphs cannot describe what these years have meant to me. I consider my time at Open Books, with John, Alexander, and all of you, to be one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I am beyond grateful for the time we have shared together on North 45th Street.
And, luckily, that we can continue to share, though I’ll be in a different role. I am eagerly awaiting my chance to walk into Billie Swift’s Open Books, to be an active part of the community of readers that her store will nourish. This love of reading, of books, of poetry, of independent bookstores, this love of mine – of ours – does not exist in isolation. How thrilling is that?
— Christine Deavel
August 22, 2016