BY CHRISTOPHER HIRSCHMANN BRANDT | When I first moved to New York’s Lower East Side in 1972, one of the first stops I made was the Strand bookstore, where I’d been told I could find used books at prices I could afford. That must have been when I first laid eyes on a tall, shaggy-haired fellow who was employed there. That was Ron Kolm, though I did not yet know his name. Not entirely by accident, when he moved to employment at other bookstores in Manhattan, I saw him again, whenever I went in search of books.
Brief and delightful, “The Bookstore Book” is full of Ron Kolm’s bookselling adventures. It serves up literary feasts to both well-known masters of the word (Allen Ginsberg, Philip Roth) and scruffy, off-the-street bargain hunters (me). Kolm is a skillful storyteller, and his voice is authentic — I can hear distinctive Kolmian inflections throughout as I read.
The memoir is divided into two sections — prose sketches of the bookstores where Kolm worked and some of his customers — and poetry, which, as he embodies it, is another form of storytelling. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has shopped for books in Manhattan, especially in the time before rampant gentrification and the Internet.
“The Bookstore Book: A Memoir” (Pink Trees Press, May 2023), by Ron Kolm, paperback, 98 pages.