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NYFF: "The Booksellers"

by Jason Adams

Once upon a time in a land only as far away as blasted impossible time travel forces it to be there were blocks upon blocks of bookshops in New York City -- old dusty cavernous things, with stalactites and stalagmites of leather bound little readers piled up and down from the floors and ceilings. You'd need a miner's cap to traverse the places to dig up all of the glittering gold preciousness held within, but buried treasures abounded. Once upon a time, anyway.

D. W. Young's captivating new nerd-out of a documentary The Booksellers excavates that magical place, those treasured memories...

It bullet-trains us into the present, too, where the old system is in flux -- the gaping maw of the internet rolled up and swallowed the paperbacked businesses top shelf to bottom, leveled the field, and redefined what the base phrase "Rare Books" even meant. It asks what's "rare" when there's an entire library of whatever you wish, Poe to Bond and beyond, at only a keystroke away? And if you love books like these folks love books is that kind of access an entirely bad thing? Where and when does the "Art Biz" end but the "Art World" begin?

The film asks some hard questions but they go down smooth as silk. But listen, there's preaching to the choir, and then there's giving the choir their choice sexual favors. Putting in front of me, a person who blogs about bookshelves on the daily, a documentary that navigates the bounteous libraries of my favorite city, stretching from the distant past to a block from where I sit writing this review right this second, that's a full tongue in the ear from my favorite person. This shit's my catnip -- I swear I straight went into a trance and only came out ninety too-few minutes later, a fully satisfied afterglow about me.

Will it appeal to you? I don't think it depends upon you having that shiver of electricity coursing up your entire body as you finger the spine of some prized portfolio -- the film's entertainingly educational about the whos and whats of the history of bookselling in New York and the world, which naturally ends and begins in New York City. And it's as stuffed with wit -- when in doubt cut to Fran Lebowitz, always on the ready with a good zinger -- about the obsessives it lovingly documents as any of their apartments are stuffed with tome upon tome upon tome. The Booksellers is a rare book of its own sort, a true volume to treasure.

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Reader Comments (1)

Whoa, I didn't know this existed! As someone who takes pride in paying full-price for books from my neighborhood independent bookseller, I believe this movie is for me.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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