Thursday, July 31, 2008

New York Bookstore News

My thrice-weekly email from the fabulous folks at Brooklyn Based was both exciting and chagrining this morning: a new bookstore in Brooklyn! With comic books and art installations by great local comics! That I'd NEVER HEARD OF before!

Desert Island (dude, also a great name), according to BB,

"is one of those places that shines in the consumer retail rough. Proprietor Gabriel Fowler opened the Williamsburg store in February of this year, with nothing more than a bank loan, a small community of artist friends, and a desire to share some of his favorite comics, zines and books. Fowler grew up around indie record and comic shops in Florida, which “were the only exciting places to hang out in a cultural wasteland.” Powered by his professed “obliviousness” of the weak bookselling market, Fowler built and decorated the store entirely by hand, with a few key installations from his friends: Marie Lorenz, who made a delicate and intricate paper chandelier, and Chris Patch, who made the store’s very first window display, an ice cave scene made out of cardboard and masking tape (a new installation by Williamsburg cartoonist Lauren Weinstein has just taken its place). Independent comics and graphic novels make up the bulk of the store’s inventory. The biggies, like Adrian Tomine and R. Crumb, share space with cult favorites Julie Doucet and Michael Kupperman, as well as occasional mainstream hits, like Watchmen. Local New York comics are also featured, including self-published work like “Paping,” whose creator John Mejias is organizing the Brooklyn Heights Soapbox Derby on August 23."

Damn, I'm jealous. And I MUST go there ASAP. The store is at 540 Metropolitan Avenue, in Williamsburg -- which is probably why I haven't run across it, as my inner nerd is still a little terrified of the hipster headquarters that is Williamsburg. I think I can brave it for the installations alone, though...

In news closer to home -- is there anyone I haven't talked to yet about the fact that McNally Robinson is changing its name to McNally Jackson? This may seem sudden and confusing -- but in fact, it's been a long time coming, and it should actually ELIMINATE confusion. See, Sarah McNally named her (independent, locally owned) bookstore after the McNally Robinson stores that her parents, Paul and Holly, own in Canada. She didn't mind the association -- the New York store is certainly modeled on those stores, and Sarah's definitely a Canadian. The problem was that folks kept ending up on the Canadian website when they were looking for us (if they forgot the "nyc" at the end of "mcnallyrobinson") and trying to order Canadian books from us (which we don't have and can't easily get), and kept asking us whether we were a Canadian chain. (NO, WE'RE NOT.) So Sarah was in the market for a new name to make our independent, local status clear, and make it less confusing for people to find us online.

At the same time, Sarah and her husband Chris Jackson (who's an editor at Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau) were expecting their first child. His last name, of course, will take from both his mother and father: McNally Jackson. And inspiration struck. Sarah could change just 5 letters of the name, and make it clear that this is her store, New York's store, and have a snappy name as well. So plans were made to change the name.

In addition to changing the store awnings, event posters, bookmarks, bags, website, etc., etc. -- we're marking the change by throwing a party on Thursday, August 7. It's also a great occasion to celebrate that McNally has been thriving and growing for nearly 4 years (since December 2004), succeeding beyond anyone's expectations and becoming part of NYC's literary fabric. (And we're celebrating the birth of the littlest McNally Jackson, who was born on Sunday!)

We've got a bunch of our favorite authors featured at the event -- and in the spirit of changing identities, they will be acting as bookstore staff for the night! Kate Christensen is working the cash register, Peter Sis is helping out in the kids section, Colson Whitehead is pouring champagne, Daniel Pinchbeck is recommending books in the culture section, and lots more. All of our customers and supporters are welcome -- you just have to RSVP via email before the party.

So all in all, it's a good time to be a lover of bookstores in New York City. (And just wait until you see what the Independent Booksellers of New York City have been working on!...)