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St. Mark’s Bookshop Fights for Life

IMG_0008Khristopher J. BrooksSt. Mark’s Bookshop, 31 Third Avenue.

News that an old friend is seriously ill is sure to darken the day. Concern and sympathy are mingled with hopes for recovery as well as thoughts of one’s own precarious grasp on life. Those of us who love books to the point of distraction grapple with a similar set of emotions when a fondly visited bookstore shows signs of slipping away.

It can’t happen; it shouldn’t be allowed; and what about me? Where else can I go?

Robert Contant who, with partner Terence McCoy, is co-owner of St. Mark’s Bookshop on the corner of Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street, blames his customers somewhat for the store’s current frailty. He has seen them browse through the store, then scan the barcode of a likely purchase with their smartphone only to discover they can order it more cheaply from, or from other online vendors which don’t bear the real estate and staff costs of running a brick and mortar store in a well-trafficked city neighborhood.

Mr. Contant hastens to explain that he speaks in sorrow, not in anger. “It’s hard to tell people not to save money,” he says, especially these days. “We’re not blaming them. We’re not trying to be punitive.” Nevertheless, anyone who has seen a book on the shelves of St. Mark’s, then purchased it online, should feel a pang of guilt reading the notice recently posted in the store window: “Find it here, buy it here, keep us here.”
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A Literary Quest on Lampposts

page 11Kathryn Kattalia The Local joins a search for the pages of a novel by an anonymous author that have been affixed to street lights, newspapers distribution boxes and elsewhere. Above, The 11th page of a mystery manuscript hangs on a lamppost on East 11th Street between First and Second Avenues.

I found page six.

Staring at a ripped, weathered and barely legible piece of paper haphazardly taped to the side of a graffiti-covered ATM machine, I let the weight of my victory sink in. Like a treasure hunter unearthing a coveted chest of gold, I had discovered what everyone else wanted to find. There on East Sixth Street, barely visible from the sidewalk, was the elusive page six.

Like almost every other blog in the neighborhood, The Local has been on a literary goose chase, tracking down pages of a mystery manuscript that someone has plastered to lampposts, mailboxes, streetlights and garbage cans throughout the neighborhood. At the bottom of each page, readers are told where they can find the next installment of the story, apparently titled “Holy Crap.”

Earlier this week, the New York Post reported finding pages 7 and 8 on lampposts in the neighborhood, as did fellow blogger EVGrieve. No one had located pages one through six. Always up for a good mystery, I decided to scour the neighborhood myself, choosing to start where the others left off. My goal was to try to find what no one else had.
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