Tuesday, May 09, 2006

To save Burke's Books

Human beings used to be browsers--that funny word that has been taken over by computers. Now one more green pasture for thoughtful people is in danger of being lost forever. The 131-year-old tradition of Burke's Book Store in Memphis is in danger of being forever 131. The store has been in trouble for the past year and is sinking under a weight of debt.

If you're a writer or a reader, think what you can do to save this landmark bookstore. Buy a book there, order a book from there, donate a box of signed books, make a cash gift without strings attached. When the world has no more independents, it will be a poorer place for writers and readers. It is the independents who save the necks of writers like me who are not perceived as "bestsellers," who are seen as "mid-list" and "literary" by the business people of publishing. When independents go down, writers and readers go down as well.

Corey and Cheryl Mesler
Burke's Book Store
1719 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
fax 901-272-2340

Since 1875...

Besides, you have to love a guy like Corey Mesler who would be so astonishingly foolhardy as to be a poet, a short story writer, a novelist, and a bookseller. That's somebody living on the front quad of risk! Then there's Cheryl, bookseller, mother of two, spouse-of-Corey: undoubtedly among the intrepid of this world.

The photograph above, "The English bookshop in Paris," is a royalty free photograph taken by the alliterative Pasqualantonio Pingue of Pisa, Italy. I had to go all the way to Paris to find a photograph of browsers fit for the romance of 131 jazzy years in Memphis, Tennessee. Thank you, 'Paskelius'! www.sxc.hu/


  1. If you'd like to interview Corey about the struggles and the delights of operating an independent bookstore, I'd be happy to run it on my blog.

  2. Hi there, Susan--

    I'll check in with Coriander Himself, the Man with the Hat, and see what he has to say.

    More anon...

  3. Please stop by http://www.southerngothic.org where you can find in the archives one story by Corey, and many poems.

  4. Jeff Crook is a grand name. I am impressed by your manic energy. 27 stories and 4 screenplays out... Here I am in exile from the South with nothing to do but write and do laundry (and, of course, all the etcetera) for a family of five, and I don't have 27 stories and 4 screenplays out.

    And I knew about the story and poems--Corey really gets around for a guy who never goes anywhere. Which is in itself rather interesting.

  5. Hi Marly,

    I just wanted to let you know that I am finally sending money for your book offer.

    Also did you get an e-mail from NCCAT Linda? She e-mailed me that the anthology was finally ready to be put into the form, and that Carrie was getting ready to do that.

    I am impressed with all you have coming out by the way.

    Much congrats,

  6. BQ,

    Oh, good.

    And I don't think I got that email, though she mentioned earlier that it was nearly done--and how much more work it was that she had thought it would be!

    Thanks! Wish I could look at it with your eyes--mine say what an irregular customer I am.



    Haven't heard as yet but will let you know. He wrote me about something else entirely--his poem on this morning's Writer's Almanac. I'd written to say that he had 14 minutes of fame left...

  7. Susan, I've written you at your blog email. If you don't see anything, please check the abyss of Spam.

  8. Have an open mind and read this about independent booksellers

  9. Yes, I know that article. You are quite right to point it out. It is very reasonable and level-headed and makes sensible points. It is, in fact, a model of common sense and practicality. But I don't really see why it mandates the demise of independents and handsellers and stores of character, all the same.

    Of course, the advent of a big chain store means that frontlist sales vanish for the neighborhood independent. But that doesn't mean that a community doesn't suffer a loss when that independent then vanishes.

    My vegetables will serve me just as well whether I buy them on the cheap at the Walmart in Oneonta or at the local farmer's market. But somehow I am loyal to the local market, all the same. And when I look at the Walmart in my old home town, I feel a very deep pang for the mountain that used to be there, and the white house in a grove of yellow trees that stood on top. I have, I think, suffered a not inconsequential loss with the building of that Walmart, where I can buy my vegetables and my books as well.

    When I make a purchase at my farmer's market, I show that I value a certain civility, order, and beauty. I also vote for my community and what I want it to be with dollars. I think that my little village would be diminished if the independents or Willis Monie's used bookstore blew away in the winds of change.

    Perhaps all this shows that I do not have common sense. I would not, of course, be a writer in this age if I did have an excess of common sense, and so I freely admit that I have an insufficient supply of the stuff.

    I buy both new and out-of-print books in many places. I buy them at my local used bookstore, at my two independents (each also sells other things), and on line. There are no chain stores here, though I certainly have been to visit them for readings, and I have bought books at them. And particular stores can have notable people who make a genuine difference to writers and their community: the late Julia Caspary at the Durham/New Hope Commons Barnes & Noble was a sterling example.

    Yet I would wish that the mountains with little white houses remain, just as I prefer that eccentric shops of all kinds and wonderful independent bookstores remain--because I prefer to live a life that contains such things, and I'll try to keep them, even if they are passing away.

  10. the Postscript girl11:01 PM, May 16, 2006

    And if you want to be really be a man or woman of "open mind," make sure that you read all the responses to that article!

  11. With a name like Burke's Books, you have to save it.

    Burke's Nook For Books


  12. Halloo, Ned Burke--

    I see why you found my particular needle in the great haystack! Best to your Burke's books as well...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.