Friday, November 03, 2006

A prairie home bookstore

Wouldn't you know it, I was in Minnesota last week, and so missed the opening of Garrison Keillor's new bookstore in St. Paul. I've been curious about the shop since hearing of the project a month ago, so I was interested to read the following in yesterday's St. Paul Pioneer Press:

In Garrison Keillor's new bookstore, you can find the historic novel "Mary, Called Magdalene," but not "The Da Vinci Code." You might spot the latest John Grisham work, but it could be placed on a table set aside for "Quality Trash."

Keillor's latest enterprise, Common Good Books, opened quietly Wednesday morning in a surprisingly airy basement nook at Selby and Western avenues in St. Paul's Cathedral Hill. The literary prince of public radio wasn't there, but his reading tastes were evident on the shelves.

Booklovers hardly need reminding that in recent years, even long-established and well-loved indie bookstores have been folding left and right, but the article goes on to say that

Keillor is starting up a bookstore in a cruel time for such ventures, having seen four St. Paul independent booksellers fold in the past decade. In a move to distinguish his shop from the national behemoths, he and his staff are placing special focus on local and regional authors and poetry endorsed by Keillor, host of "A Prairie Home Companion." Works by St. Paul native son F. Scott Fitzgerald fill an entire shelf.

While I'm disappointed (but not surprised) that Keillor chose not to stock romances in his store, I kind of like his low-key approach that calls fiction fiction instead of trying to slap a genre label on every book:

"Reading is reading. Fiction is fiction," said assistant manager Martin Schmutterer. "We're not so intent on categorizing good books."

What do you think? Will this store thrive? And if it does, how much of its success will be due to Keillor's celebrity?

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Julie Carobini said...

It'll be a curiousity, so that'll help. I think it'll draw tourists and wanderers, who have no agenda, rather than those (like myself, sigh) who want to run in, grab what they need, and check out.

If I ever get to that neck of the states, I'll stop in when I've got an empty hour...

pacatrue said...

I worry about the commercial prospects if there is a concerted attempt not to stock books that people want to buy simply because they do not agree with the tastes of the owners or managers. I can definitely get behind having more "seller's picks" on the front tables instead of whatever is the best seller, but a reader needs to be able to go to the Brown section and find the Da Vinci Code.

This is all assuming of course that there is room for both. If there is simply not room to carry lots of poetry and plenty of copies of Danielle Steele at the same time, then, sure, go for it.

Dr. Lisa said...

I actually am not a fan of Keillor's, but there may be a niche for this kind of bookstore, where you can browse fiction that is a little less well-known. You can get Dan Brown at the grocery in many US stores.

Brenda Coulter said...

Apparently, the idea is to sell the place as a shop for browsing rather than a bookstore where you can pick up everything on your shopping list. My question is, will that quirky charm--even with Keillor's name attached--be enough to sustain the store? I'm thinking, no.