The Book Stalls of Al-Mutunabbi Street

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Marking the Anniversary of a Disaster in Iraq
For my part, I think it’s important to try to remember all of it, to remember as much as we can reasonably hold in our hearts and minds.
by
Claudia Lefko

A car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad on March 5, 2007. Thirty people were killed and an estimated one hundred others were wounded. Car bombings were common in Iraq in those terrible an terrifying years. So many bombings over so many years, they barely made the news here in the US.

But the bombing on Al-Mutanabbi Street got the public’s attention. The street is a cultural, literary and intellectual hub famous for its print shops, book stores, book stalls and cafes. The bomb destroyed the famous Al-Shabandar Cafe, killing four sons and a grandson of the owner, Mohammed Al-Khashali, the cafe’s owner, the great-great-great-grandson of the original 1917 owner. The dead and injured might respectfully be considered as collateral damage here, because the target—what was targeted for destruction—was ideas, culture, words and books, freedom of expression. This struck a nerve. People, maybe especially activists, artists, poets and writers, took notice, San Francisco poet and bookseller Beau Beausoleil responded by organizing Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, an ongoing project calling on writers and artists around the country and the world to respond on the anniversary of the bombing each year. This year, the eleventh year of the project, there will be some thirty readings and exhibits in cities around the country and around the world: in New York and San Francisco, in Baghdad, Paris, London and Dublin; in New Delhi, India and Craigieburn, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia to name a few.

“Why remember? Why commemorate this particular event when there has been so much mayhem, death and destruction in Iraq over the last three decades.”

I’ve heard people wonder about this project. Why remember? Why commemorate this particular event when there has been so much mayhem, death and destruction in Iraq over the last three decades. After affirming the value of life , the significance of so many lives lost and altered, someone in the audience will inevitably and rightfully suggest that an act of destruction targeting a community or a country’s history, culture and ideas is more worrisome. Such an act, poses an existential threat. Yes, fair enough.

For my part, I think it’s important to try to remember all of it, to remember as much as we can reasonably hold in our hearts and minds. Understanding what has happened to Iraq and Iraqis over the last thirty years helps to understand Iraq as it is today, and Iraqis. It’s easy to forget, and many people have forgotten, their minds and hearts filled with concerns about other—new and ongoing—wars.

George Bush the senior launched the First Gulf War on January 19, 1991; four days later the US and allied forces announced they had flown more than 12,000 bombing missions. That massive bombing campaign essentially destroyed the country. In his report some weeks after the war “ended” UN Under-Secretary-General Martti Ahtisaari wrote: “Nothing that we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation which had befallen the country… Iraq has, for some time to come, been relegated to a pre-industrial age, but with all the disabilities of post-industrial dependency on an intensives use of energy and technology.”

On February 13, 1991—on the 28th consecutive day of intense bombing in Baghdad —a “bunker-busting smart bomb” crashed through the roof of the Al-Amariyah bomb shelter killing an estimated 400 women, girls and young boys. Men and older boys—fathers, grandfathers, brothers and sons—had left for the night, leaving their wives, mothers, sisters, sons and grandsons in imagined safety.

The second Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq began on March 20 , 2003 with the now infamous Shock and Awe campaign. Whatever was left of infrastructure, electric grids and water systems was further damaged or destroyed in this second assault on the country.

My own short list barely scratches the surface of infamous events and dates, but it gives you an idea. Still, despite decades of tragedies, miraculously but of necessity, life goes on. Al-Khashali rebuilt the Shabandar Cafe and reopened it for business in 2008. He told reporters, he didn’t want to “…dwell on the past.”

“Life is returning in Baghdad, but it is not the same life. It is changed beyond belief and beyond recognition…”

It’s difficult to imagine the strength needed to undertake rebuilding given the enormity of his losses that day. But time, as everyone knows doesn’t stop for these tragedies; it moves on. Evidence of death and destruction is cleaned up. Rubble is removed, people’s bodies are buried and put to rest. Buildings are rebuilt. Order is restored.

Life is returning in Baghdad, but it is not the same life. It is changed beyond belief and beyond recognition, not for young people, but for Iraqis who came of age before the 1991 war, who survive and continue to live and work in the country—by choice or by default. Education in Iraq was mandatory for both girls and boys, and free through university. Now, this country, once recognized for having one of the highest literacy rates in the world is facing significant illiteracy, especially for women and girls. A country that once had free health care and a top-notch system of hospitals and clinics, with excellent medical schools, is struggling with crumbling hospitals and outdated equipment, struggling to train doctors and nurses and to keep them working in a still- dysfunctional Iraqi medical system; struggling to meet the basic medical needs of its people. Suffering goes on and on and on, for the most-part out of sight and out of mind of the international community.

Think about Iraq and Iraqis on March 5, remember Al-Mutanabbi Street. Think again on March 20. Try to remember what has happened to Iraq and Iraqis, to Syria and Syrians—to the world—as a result of that invasion. Make a vow to work to put an end to war, an end to war-making technology and research, an end to the preparation, governmental consent and execution of war—demand an end to all wars around the globe.

(Article reprinted from www.CommonDreams.org)

New DVD on Paul Laurence Dunbar at Esowon Bookstore

Brand New DVD 118 minutes
$22.95

“Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond the Mask” is a documentary on the life and legacy of the first African American to achieve national fame as a writer.Born to former slaves in Dayton, Ohio, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), is best remembered for his poem, We Wear the Mask” and for lines from “Sympathy” that became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”  A clip of Angelou reciting Dunbar’s poem on the David Frost Show is featured.

Dunbar’s story is also the story of the African American experience around the turn of the century. The man Abolitionist Frederick Douglass called “The most promising young colored man in America” wrote widely published essays critical of Jim Crow Laws, lynching and what was commonly called “The Negro Problem.”
Yet, to earn a living, Dunbar worked as an elevator boy and wrote poems and stories utilizing “Plantation Dialect.” He also composed songs for Broadway that bordered on blackface minstrelsy.
More than 8 years in the making, “Beyond the Mask” received support from Ohio Humanities and major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is a production of the Central Region Humanities Center based at Ohio University.

Hopefully the DVD will stimulate some of the young folks to grab a book and read his poetry and prose.

Thanks for doing business with us.  Now over 30 years its hard to express how much we appreciate your support.  Now more than ever We at EsoWon think the need for an alternative source of knowledge is needed.  Our books represent some of the finest minds in our Nation’s History and Your continued support of our store keeps good books like these in print.

Sincerely,

James, Tom & Sam
and the loyal friends of EsoWon who help us whenever called upon.

The Bookseller’s Bell of Doom Rings For Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica, CA

Huge Rent Increase Forces Flagship Store to Close Its Doors

by Paul Hunt

 

Dateline: January 11, 2018

Today was the sad ending for the beautiful Barnes and Noble book store in Santa Monica.  At the end of a 20 year lease, they faced a large rent increase that made the profitability of the store impossible,  Everyone has heard of the expression “Greedy Landlords”.  In many areas, the wonder is that there is any room left for ever more rent increases before the commercial and retail locations just shut down.  The rent-increase euphoria that has seized the corporate real estate world is mind-boggling.  They must be led by younger folks, with no past memory.

Midnight Special

There are many factors driving this insanity.  Remember the old Midnight Special book store on the Prominade?  The store was a leftist carnival, a literary beacon for the Progressives.  The building was owned by an old guy who was, let’s say, beyond “progressive”.  He kept the rent down and let the store flourish.  I don’t remember any store quite like it, and if you dug politics you were in socialist paradise.  Then the old ownier died or went into a long-term care facility.  The owner’s “kids” (not so young as the owner was in his 90s as I remember), got an offer they couldn’t refuse.  A major clothing company offered to pay around $45,000 per month rent.  The Midnight Special was paying about $5,000 at the time, so  guess what happened?  The “kids” got a windfall.  The progressives got the capitalist boot.  The kicker is that the clothing company, Levis, did not look at it as a retail store.  They considered it as a “billboard”, a place to showcase their jeans.  Compared to a two-minute television commercial in the Los Angeles market, the retail space is cheap, even at the outrageious price they are paying. So how can any bookstore compete with that?

Here is a blast from the past, an old timer shouting out to the current real estate corporations.  I am probably not the only one who remembers the Third Street Prominade in the 1980s.  Most of the stores were empty or filled with third rate shops, none special or exciting.  The Prominade was dead.  It was packed with homeless people.  It was a little scary, with a lot of crime. Think it can’t happen again?

Bad Times in San Jose

The bad times are forgotten by the next generation, especially if they didn’t have to live through them as adults.  Back in the 1960’s there was a terrible recession in California.  I had a sales job that took me around the State.  L.A. was “economic bad,” but when I got into San Jose, I was floored.  Miles of businesses were gone, hundreds of them empty, closed down.  Supermarkets gone, huge shopping malls gone, car dealers gone.  Miles of recession devestation, an economic disaster. Driving down the main drag was like driving into the end of a Zombie movie.   So be advised, it can and might happen here.

The Barnes and Noble store in Santa Monica was a beautiful bookstore.  It had three levels, elevators, escalators, great lighting, and a stunning design.  The event room on the second level was the best I have seen in a book store, a mini-auditorium where many great authors came to discuss their works and sign books.  We filmed there on occassion.

In other articles on BookStoreMemories, we have covered some of the issues that have impacted B & N:  the online monopoly amazon.com being the main culprit, the destroyer of bookstores.  But  B & N has itself made many past mistakes that go into the mix. We are nevertheless sad to see Barnes and Noble close their Santa Monica store, it was a wonderful store and a great place to shop.   There is now a literary hole in the soul of Santa Monica.

Video Tour of Barnes & Noble Booksellers on the last day, Click Below:

 

Wall Street Site Questions Barnes & Noble

B & N Revenue Plunges From 6.75 Billion to 3.89 Billion Yet Still Paying An 8% Dividend – Big Shareholders Suckiing Out $$$$ ?

Seeking Alpha, a critical wall street and financial website, has questioned Barnes and Noble’s continuous dividend payout yielding 8%, asking if this is sustainable during recent huge drops in revenue.  Read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

Some comments on Barnes and Noble and Amazon for historiical background as follows (not part of the Seeking Alpha article):

B & N in past years made more bottom line money on the game business they purchased. The game sector, which was around 10% of revenue threw off about 90% of the profit. This has changed, but shows that their costs of selling books was always higher than the thousands of independent booksellers that they muscled out of business with the superstore fad. They failed to exploit their lead in the game business, which is now mainly online. They also failed years ago to play fair with the used book market when they had a chance to make a great deal with a company called abebooks. So guess who finally swooped in to buy abebooks? You guessed it, amazon, which now has a basic monopoly on online used book sales. B & N’s partnership with European giants in barnesandnoble.com also went south with huge losses until they were forced to buy out their Euro partners. 20 years of bad decisions has led to this moment. Is the high dividend just the mechanizim for big shareholders to suck the carcass dry?

Pickwick to B. Dalton to Barnes & Noble to Gone Forever.

Nobody wants to look under the hood of the B & N engine, where you would find that the 8 cylinder engine is down to 4. For instance, in Southern California, they have closed many of their best store locations. Gone is B & N from Pasadena in the Old Town District, gone is B & N from the Encino area of Ventura Blvd. And don’t forget the huge loss they got when they bought B. Dalton books, which operated 798 stores in malls across America. Their mis-management closed all of them, including the big Hollywood Boulevard Store that was called Pickwick Bookshop that B. Dalton had bought. How soon you all forget the decades of bad management, probably over 1,000 stores closed, the thousands of employees laid off, the financial losses to shareholders, the mess with the European media giants in BarnesandNoble.com. The question is really: Was B & N a stock fraud for the last 20 years, or just the worst management ever seen?

Barnes and Noble does a lot of things right. They have great selection. They have a nice clean website. They have a lot going for them with Nook, self-publishing, and many other strategies. They have nice Starbucks cafes, wi-fi, and good locations. So how can they improve and survive? Various articles point out the disaster from bad upper level management. Add to the list the recent dumb idea of in-store beer and wine restaurants.

They can turn some things around by having more in-store celebrity author events, use video marketing on social media, live stream the events from their stores with easy ordering from home couch potatoes, and everything to get folks into the stores where impulse buys will help the bottom line. For the stay at home crowd, they should compete with amazon by selling used, rare and out of print books. They did this at one time, with thousands of great vendors who dropped shipped. The program could be re-started to compete with amazon. It went away due only to bad management at the top level. Amazon has a lot of flaws and weakness in the way they treat their vendors. By being fair, B & N could lure many thousands of them away from amazon and add a huge income stream. Forget the beer, go with the books.

Amazon, which has a monopoly on used book sales in the U.S. and a stranglehold on new book sales, continues to erode sales at Barnes and Noble. Even President Trump has recently commented on amazon’s more than cozy deal with the U.S. Postal Service.  What he failed to mention was not only does amazon get special postage rate deals, but it also has the post office delivering mail on Sundays in selected cities.  This has got to be a loser for the Post Office, it totally obliterates the economy of scale needed for sustainability.  What is interesting is to go way back in the history timeline to the 1950s.  The Post Office delivered mail twice a day during the week in Los Angeles, and I assume, most other cities.  What happened to that?  We always think our civilisation as getting better every year, when the truth is far different.  Not only has the Post Office deteriorated, closed thousands of offices, etc., but now they seem to be tied into a losing deal with the amazon monopoly.

Let’s hope tha 2018 will bring some sanity back to the world. It’s just my opinion, but: Amazon is a monopoly and should be broken up.  Google should be seized by the U.S. Government and the search engine made a national public utility.  Barnes and Noble needs to get its act together, it has opportunities and possibilities, but the prognosis for them is somewhat grim.  Happy New Year everyone!

What do you think?  Bookseller and Book Lover comments welcome!

Update January 4th, 2018.   Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS) today reported that total holiday sales for the nine-week holiday period ending December 30, 2017 as declining 6.4%.  Comparable prior year store sales also declined 6.4% and online sales dropped 4.5%.  The stock price tanked to $6.50 per share.  A grim picture indeed.  The question now becomes can Barnes & Noble survive at all?  Is there even any time left for a new management turn-around plan?

 

 

R.I.P. William Dailey

Long Time Los Angeles Bookseller

William Dailey has had a long and intense relationship with books. Before opening his first bookshop in 1975 with partner Victoria Dailey he worked for legendary Los Angeles bookman Jake Zeitlin where he developed his life-long interest in rare books. Following in Zeitlin’s footsteps he continues to deal in a broad list of subjects including literature, medicine, early printing, typography, bibliography, and alchemy. Bill split with his former wife and partner in 1990 and opened his shop on Melrose as Dailey Rare Books. Over seventy catalogues have been published but business is now conducted primarily by the internet and book fairs.  The Melrose retail shop was closed in 2007.

 

 From Nicole Panter via Facebook December 16, 2017
 I am sorry to tell everyone that my darling William Dailey passed away yesterday at around 10:40 am. He was hit by a car three blocks from our house and I am told he died on the scene. I am beside myself with grief. The last thing I said to him when he left the house was “please be careful crossing the street.”

From Deanne Dailey Hansen via Facebook:

My brother, William Dailey, was a prominent rare book dealer and a leading authority on the subject. He donated a large collection of rare books on vegetarianism circa 1547 to 1970 to the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington. Last year, he and his girlfriend, Nicole Panter, traveled (via Evansville) to Bloomington where Bill gave a talk on the collection at the Lilly Library. Nicole recorded the talk and it is available on YouTube for those of us who would like to see Bill again!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVOoY6J2UhE&t=68s
Billl’s website Is:http://www.daileyrarebooks.com/

Bill’s book store from 1990 through 2007 was:  Dailey Rare Books, 8216 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA. 90046

Bill Dailey’s last book talk at the Lilly Library where he donated a large collection of books on vegitarianism.

Bucks on the Bookshelf Resumes Broadcast Saturday

WBFI Radio Show on Books and Bookselling Resumes Saturday

Saturdays Pacific Time is 10am to Noon. Steve Eisenstein is the host of this great show for all book people.

Steve says

MY GUEST TODAY IS NO ORDINARY “JOE” His name is Joe Corso. His awards are of olympic proportions. He has written 31 books which resulted in 32 awards. Which translates to a 4 time top 100 best selling author. Want to pick his brain I do, so join us for a great interview Saturday November 25th. For some early details Corsobooks.com

We also will be answering several questions we have received while we were off air the past two weeks. PRIZES WILL BE POSSIBLE TODAY. WE HOPE YOU WILL JOIN US FOR AN
AFTERNOON OF BOOK TALK. got a question or comment give us a call 1 727 498 0459. It is really nice to be back live Saturday’s were not the same without you.
In the second photo we prove our theory. THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH SPACE FOR BOOKS!!

No automatic alt text available.

 

Call in Number:   1 727 498 0459. 

Go To www.WDBFRadio.com

 

Nutty “Ling Ling” Autograph Law Replaced

Assembly Bill 228 New Law, Replaces Former Anti-Business Autograph Law

ABAA Waged a Successful Campaign for Booksellers in California

Thanks to the actions of the ABAA and other booksellers, the loathsome law that made it almost impossible to sell autographed books in California is now history, replaced in an “emergency” fashion by the State of California and signed into law.  This new law makes it clear that only sports and entertainment autographs were the target of the previous bill, and the new bill excludes signed books. The new law still requires dealers who are selling sports memorabilia or entertainment memorabilia, including signed photos, to follow strict guidelines by posting notices offering return privileges and other consumer protections.

Here is the link to the State of California’s new law regarding autograph materials, with an introduction and Legislative Counsel Digest.  The entire new law is at this link, so you can print out the new law and study it.  It is much better for booksellers than the former law, named after Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang that basically was so onerous that the sale of autographed books was halted by many California booksellers who were justifiably afraid of the severe consequences of being trapped by legal tricks and sued for 10 times the value of the book simply for not following strict guidelines.  The old law punished folks for making technical mistakes, not for selling bad autographs.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AND PRINT NEW AUTOGRAPH LAW.