Wednesday, March 5, 2008

West Coast Big Apple

On Saturday I ventured into Green Apple Books for the second time in my life, just to hatch the Bookstore Tour and to get a feel for Clement Street. Green Apple Books is another one of those San Francisco icons that is virtually unknown outside the City—you can tell how long someone has lived in the City by whether or not they know of Green Apple. Readers who live in the City and listen to KFOG might seemed shocked to know of newcomers or tourists who only know of the Financial District bookstores or those in the Mission. But Richmond houses a grand-daddy, and it’s one of the weirdest places you may ever see in the dunes.

City Lights is plenty bohemian, but Green Apple is a mess. Nope, correction, it’s a MESS. Whoever manages Green Apple wants the world to be comfortable and unpretentious. They encourage employees and visitors alike to stack books on the floor when they are done with them, and the bookshelves are stacked in there like a funhouse—I have seen more than one set of children get lost. In addition to the chaos theory of book merchandising, Green Apple has another quirk—it’s two stores about 50 feet from each other. One store is a bookstore, one store is a “Fiction and Music Annex.” There’s a man in the hole-in-the-wall store between them who sells Eastern books who won’t sell his store, and Green Apple is forever split.

Still, despite the fact that everything is shoved into both stores and checkout is a bit of a challenge, I love Green Apple. It’s a bookstore like my mother would have had. It isn’t the “ultimate” bookstore for me (my “ultimate” bookstore will have the poetry of Wendy Cope), and there aren’t a whole lot of places to sit (there is the occasional beat-up chair, but there are either people or books in them), but it’s a comforting place for those of us who think of books as furniture.

More bites of Green Apple to come…

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