Borders just filed for bankruptcy. Authors have taken to self-publishing their great American novels online. People read the classics on their Kindles. So in this sad literary climate why would anyone want to open an old-school, brick-and-mortar bookstore?
According to Michael Deyermond, whose store Deyermond Books opened its doors on Main Street in Santa Monica this past September, “the vision was to restore the independent bookstore, art gallery, and community arts space to Main Street U.S.A. where it belongs, instead of on the periphery of some out of the way bunker.”
Deyermond said, “Santa Monica’s reception has been warm and strong.” The store seems small and spare from the outside, but looks can be deceiving. Walk through the bright, sunny entrance and up a small staircase and you will find yourself surrounded by carefully curated bookshelves lined with an eclectic array of titles ranging from Bukowski novels to kitschy 1960s coffee table books.
On Wednesday evenings in this cozy room, the bookstore holds a weekly “Recorded History” series in which anyone can grab the microphone, share their writing, and have their words recorded for posterity. It is an open-mike art project of sorts and anything goes, whether it’s poetry, prose, or a mashup of the two.
Deyermond explains that the idea for the Recorded History series comes from the lack of oral history in today’s fast-paced, digital world, and he was inspired by the efforts of places like the Smithsonian and StoryCorps that preserve people’s stories on a national level.
“I thought it would be great to do something on a local level,” explains Deyermond. “An oral history of Santa Monica, of our community, and our bookstore.”
So far attendance has been “small but steady,” said Deyermond, yet the series is growing. The bookstore also holds a weekly Scrabble night on Thursdays, with donation-based wine, beer, and snacks for anyone who wants to hang out and play. It’s a motley assortment of people and a fun way to spend a Thursday night. When you need a break from wracking your brain to find a high-scoring word using six vowels and the letter X, you can walk around and scan the bookshelves that house sections ranging from vintage self-help to surfing photography to “American nostalgia.”
As for the Recorded History series, it will be interesting to see – and hear – the outcome. You can’t exactly undertake an experiment like this via Kindle, and, as Deyemond said, “the book, and the bookstore – no matter how far it falls out of current favor – will always return. Everybody likes a good story.”