It’s all over the library and bookish blogs that Cody’s, Berkeley’s great bookstore, has closed its doors. No doubt I should have some deep policy insight about how this tragedy could have been averted, and about its implications for the future, but I don’t. Rather, I’m taking a little time to remember and to mourn.
Perhaps 30 years ago, my father visited me in Ann Arbor and we went to Borders (The idea that fathers and sons should hang out in bookstores together is one of the things that I am both remembering and, prospectively, mourning.) This was before Borders had become a chain, back when Ann Arbor was its only store, and Dad remarked that it was really quite wonderful that Ann Arbor had a bookstore that reminded him of Cody’s, the best of all of the college town bookstores. And Cody’s remained the standard, even as Borders got glitzy and became a mall store in college town clothing.
On my last visit to Cody’s (and how was I to know that it was to be the very last?) the checkout clerk, looking at what I had bought, engaged in a conversation that led to my buying William Maxwell’s “So Long See You Tomorrow.” The title of the book makes the loss of Cody’s all the more powerful. And of course the clerk ran circles around “readers who bought X also bought Y.”
Great bookstores are places where one can reliably expect to be in the presence of books and the people who love them. There should be one around every corner, and certainly one in every university town, and Cody’s is gone. Weeping and gnashing of teeth are in order.