By LA Slugocki —
145-A Front Street relocated to 76 Front Street, owned and operated by Yuval Gans, specializes in all things literary; used and rare books, first editions, reprints, high brow, low brow, the sacred, the profane, the ridiculous and the sublime, as well as a burgeoning children’s collection. But do not mistake it for The Strand. That, he said, is not my model. This is not a supermarket.
His model is the Gotham Book Mart, may she rest in peace (1920-2007). He remembers arriving here in 1993 from Israel, dropping his bags off at a hotel in Times Square, passing Radio City Music Hall, announcing Aretha Franklin tonight, and thinking, my God, what’s tomorrow, and heading straight to the fabled, now defunct bookstore. This is his model, his aesthetic; a bookstore with an affinity for the neighborhood, a bookstore that is a meeting place.
When I stopped by today to see if he had a copy of Jean Anouilh’s Medea, he was ringing up An Analysis of Three or Four Things I Know About Her, Jean Paul Goddard’s film. This woman had traveled from Mexico to buy this book for her son— who had located it online. Then Yuval led me to the back of the 2,000 square foot store, clambered up a step ladder and retrieved four anthologies of Anouilh’s plays. Sadly, not a one contained his adaptation of Medea. I said, well, where are the anthologies, maybe it’s one of those. It wasn’t, but I did find a copy of Sarah Kane’s infamous and posthumously produced 4.48 Psychosis, now out of print.
I’ve known Yuval for a long time, from back in the day when he worked at and designed the intricate labyrinth of books at Heights Bookstore, formerly on Montague. I loved his window displays, every month a different theme. This month marks his third anniversary in Dumbo. How did you create your inventory, I asked. He said, road trips, from here to Maine, scouring library sales, estate sales, country fairs, bookstores, and auctions where I would buy an entire lot.
When he opened his doors in 2006, he had one tenth of what is now on the shelves. Now, today, the books come to him. He got a 1st edition of Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York, and decided he would price it competitively just to keep it in the store for awhile. Alas, it still sold, almost immediately. The out of print market, he said, is flourishing. He is particularly proud of his collection of architecture and photography books, including several signed first editions by Horst and Avedon, among others.
But as father of two children, he may be the most proud of the children’s section. It’s housed in the central portion of the store complete with an indoor playground. Beginning in September, every Sunday at 4:00 p.m., the children’s reading series resumes, which includes music; sort of like karaoke for the Harry Potter and Hello Kitty set. Neighborhood children, of course, are big fans, but they come from all five boroughs.
Personally, I get a huge kick out the pulp fiction collection, titles like: White Trash, The Tigress, Love Hungry— oh, those man-hungry, slutty women from the 1950’s! Whatever happened to them? Seriously, they’re hilarious, and, by the way, priced to sell at around $20. On my way out, I saw Howl by Allen Ginsberg, a 4th printing. The price, $100. I hesitated, imagining the heft and the weight of the book in my hand, exactly where it would go in my library, how it would look and how it would feel— then decided, no. Maybe another day. I still had Euripides’ Medea (I settled for the original), a new Moleskin notebook, and an out of print play.
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Today’s guest blogger, LA Slugocki is an award winning writer and producer, has lived in New York City for twenty years.