Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two Nice Stories About Running Into People at Boswell

One of the things I like about Boswell is that people no where to find me. In the old days, if a friend came to town, they had to feel close enough to me to call my home, or brave enough to stop by my office. With a bookstore, there's far less of a commitment; you're coming in to shop and the guy you worked with 15 years ago happens to be there, so much the better.

Here are a couple of stories about bookstore-driven meetings that made me smile. I use only first names because they don't have a book I can plug.

1. A lot of out of towners make their way to the store in conjunction with visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum, being that we're only five minutes up the lake.  The new exhibit, Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper, is likely to lure more of my old friends. Organized by the Albertina in Vienna, it's a collection of more than 100 drawings, watercolors, and pastels by Manet, Degas, Renoir and others. The show runs through January 8.

So last Saturday, I was running around Boswell, negotiating our holiday market and I see this vaguely-familiar-looking guy, smile knowingly. Uh oh, I have to figure out who this is. My memory file cabinets are a mess, as I have acknolwedged previously. But somehow I pull out that it's Chris, my former Chicago bookseller friend turned teacher.

It was great to catch up. Chris (or it might be Christopher--he is now given permission to call me "Dan" in his blog) graciously complimented the store and asked, by chance, if we might have some New York Review of Books Classics. In fact, we keep them up at the front of the store, which for some reason, delights many customers. Because I don't remember which one he chose, I'll just show a copy of Charles Simic's Dime Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, because I for some reason, keep referring to his art boxes in conversation. And before you chide me for the book's location in the store, note that we 1) carry it and 2) shelving is an art.

2. Dan (and he is officially a Dan, not a Daniel), the lawyer who helped us create the llc for Boswell, has moved closer to the store, and it's been a great pleasure to see him and his wife Karen more frequently. Dan had been recommended to me by Anne, one of our startup angels, who as I've said before, gave me invaluable advice in creating a business plan. So I'm chatting with Dan and he tells me that he's brainstorming writing a blog on legal matters (I'll link to it when it's up and running) and I mention that I used to read and enjoy Anne's jury blog before she left law to become something else equally great, or perhaps even greater, since we now get to do events with the Wisconsin Humane Society.

And then I sort of realize that Anne's wife Tom is browsing social criticism right next to us. So I note each other's presence, assuming they have met each other, but even though they know each other by name, they actually haven't met. Just to get you in the mood, I think Tom, who loves his Yale books, would be pleased for me to mention Steven Ozment's The Serpent and the Lamb: Luther, Cranach, and the Making of the Reformation, a revision of modern thought on the German renaissance and reformation through the eyes of two key players.

And now I paraphrase:

Daniel: "These unexpected meetings are the best part of shopping in a bookstore."

Tom: "No, books are the best part of a bookstore."

I was thinking of meeting in a broader sense, in the way you spot a book that might capture your attention online, as well as the serendipitous collision of personalities. Of course Tom is correct, but can the community aspect be a close second?

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