Better Know a Bookseller is a new feature on this blog where we’ll introduce one of our wonderful stockists. Publishing this series is only half the battle and the booksellers in these stores all over the world really help keep us alive. If you are a bookseller or know of a store near you that stocks 33 1/3 please get in touch!
5 Green St, Boston, MA, 02130
Answers are from the entire staff: Kate Layte, owner + manager; Katie Eelman, media + events coordinator; and John Cleary, bookseller.
- Where is your store located?
Kate: 5 Green Street in the beautiful Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.
- Describe who is in your store at 5pm on a Tuesday. What are they buying?
Kate: Usually a few people by themselves on their way home from work. I love that bookstores are always places people can go alone and not feel awkward. They’re buying a book that a friend recommended, browsing the new releases, or asking me for recommendations—(currently recommending The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato and A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay). They usually just buy one or two books and don’t tend to stay too long at that hour, as I would assume they’re hungry for dinner. Lots of times it’s one book for them and one for a kid (my guess is that they want to also buy time to read their new book and also want to keep their kid occupied with a new book so that time is possible).
- Describe your most memorable customer interaction.
John: Once, a teenager asked me to recommend a good fantasy author, and after establishing that he had read my first three or four suggestions, I handed him a China Miéville book, which he carefully considered but didn’t buy. It always stings a little when I make an impassioned pitch for one of my favorite books and it ends up back on the shelf, but several weeks later he came back to purchase the book I recommended. When I see young people who are passionate about reading and enjoy books that are challenging and have depth, it gives me hope that maybe not everyone in the future will have smart devices grafted to their hands so they can consume a constant stream of tweets and posts by other people who don’t read anything longer than 140 characters.
- What was your favorite book/record store to visit growing up?
Kate: Growing up, I didn’t patron a local bookstore but I spent lots of hours at my small town’s library. I remember the sumptuous green leather chairs, the polished mahogany tables, the tall bookcases with ladders, the layout with so many nooks to hide and read. I remember feelings of safety and wonder there and I didn’t experience again until I got a job at a bookstore. I held those feelings close and put everything I could summon from them into this new space with my limits of having a very small space.
Katie: I used to frequent Doylestown Bookshop in my hometown Doylestown, Pennsylvania. When I was little I loved their huge children’s book section and my mom would take me to story hour. I shopped there regularly until I moved to Boston, and always make a point to browse when I return to PA to visit family. I also loved Farley’s in New Hope, PA, because they had an orange cat and mazes of books, and the fact that it was fifteen minutes away made it feel very exotic to me.
- What book or record sells very well but also makes you cringe?
John: Our store is too small to include much chaff, but we have sold a two copies of Grey.
- What book or record doesn’t sell well but deserves much more attention?
Katie/Kate/John: SAMEDI THE DEAFNESS by Jesse Ball is a PCJP staff favorite. A creepy, bizarre, twisted tale that left us each with an awesome book hangover. It’s Ball’s first novel and a wildly entertainingly introduction to one of our most inventive writers working today.
- If an anonymous donor gave you 1 million dollars to use expressly to invest in your store what would you do with it?
Kate: I would first wet my pants, then I would get my shit together, do lots more research, then buy one of the beautiful old Victorian houses in Jamaica Plain (well, probably just put a down payment, because real estate around here is out of control). I’d then ask the zoning committee for permission to convert it into a dreamlike bookstore with room for a bar. I would do my best to create an atmosphere, inspired by nature, that allows for neighbors, no longer strangers, to have real conversations about the things they’ve been learning from books or things that they are working through themselves. I’d want a space that truly allows for people to escape home and work and exist in that magical and necessary “third place” away from everything that makes us anxious. It would be a place that allows for real human bonds to form, ideas to be shared, and our worlds to expand.
- What is your favorite time of day in your store?
Kate: In the afternoon, usually some fleeting moment between two and four when I feel capable and grateful. In the morning, I unlock the door with an intense fear of having no idea who will come in or what I will say to them. I’m afraid of everything I haven’t read and everything I don’t know. After a dozen or so successful encounters with very kind and wonderful people, I feel like I can let go of some of my anxiety and really enjoy what I’m doing—talking to people about books and researching what other books I want for the store. That favorite moment though, is when I can remember to take a small pause to feel thankful and eternally grateful for all the kindness and encouragement I’ve received from our customers supporting my wild dreams and buying real books.
- What is your favorite 33 1/3 and why?
Kate: Patti Smith’s “Horses” by Philip Shaw. Since I first heard the opening words of that album “jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” I was able to finally feel free. I believe it to be the best rock and roll record of all time and this book make a much stronger case for that than I ever could.
Katie: Pixies’ “Doolittle” because I love this album, and I loved reading about the surrealist influence on the creation of this iconic piece by an iconic band. I’m also looking forward to Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew.” I’m excited to see what I can learn about music that’s so compelling but sometimes feels difficult for me to access intellectually.
John: “Swordfishtrombones” by David Smay. Tom Waits is a musical genius, and Smay’s essay on “16 Shells From a Thirty Ought Six” explains why he metaphorically trapped a crow in his guitar and strummed until it drove the crow mad. On a completely unrelated note, I’m in the market for a Washburn and I’ve taken up bird watching.
- Would you rather live in a world with no books or a world with no music?
Kate: I really don’t like this question. I’d argue that books are music as music at its most fundamental level is the ordering of tones to produce something with unity. Books are what come from composed sentences strung together for a larger cause, and we’ve created a system that’s attached sounds to those words (aka language). Our best musicians are poets. Are we saying no written lyrics or liner notes? No booklets with albums? There’s no way you’re ever going to take either away from me.
Katie: I don’t think it would be possible for a world to exist without music or without books (these things are created so organically). That said, if I had to choose which depraved world I’d prefer to live in, I’d choose to live without books so that I could participate in their re-birth and the help to get ancient stories on pages.
John: It might be easier to choose between my heart and my lungs, but I guess I would rather live in a music-less world. Most of everything we’ve learned has been recorded in books, and I don’t believe it would have been possible for us to progress as quickly as we have without that collective knowledge. But then again, learning about the quadratic equation and cell reproduction might have been much more interesting they were taught through song.
- What does the future look like for your store?
Kate: It’s gonna be great. It’s already blown my expectations completely and we’ve got so many ideas for doing so much more. And as one of our facebook reviewers shared it feels like a place where “anything and everything is possible” and we’re gonna do our damnedest to dream big and work hard to make more great things happen here.
Katie: Our future holds lots more awesome books and events. I hope in the coming years we’re able to sustain our reading community and bring even more readers in to pick up great books and continue to host authors who interest and engage, and keep improving our store and our neighborhood. We’ve got some big ideas, and we’ve got the love and support from our customers to make it all happen.