From The New Yorker Page Turner:
I used to work at Sotheby’s when it was on Madison Avenue, near Seventy-seventh Street. Often, I spent my lunch hour a block farther north, at 999 Bookstore. This was a bland, unimaginative space, with a big, unadorned window facing the street, and a low back wall, like a drugstore. Books were piled there at random. Inside, tall shelves stood along the walls, shorter racks down the center. In the back was a counter like a coat check. There was no décor. I didn’t care about décor; it gave me pleasure simply to enter a bookstore. Row upon row of other worlds, a silent reminder that reading was a way to live.
At that time, I hadn’t publicly declared myself a writer. I wasn’t, really: I wrote on the side, and mostly about art. So I went into the store disguised as a normal person. But I had declared myself a reader, and books were a kind of food to me. Bookstores were like soup kitchens, and I grew hungry whenever I approached one.
The clerk at 999 was a quiet, pleasant man in his fifties. He had a pointed nose, a lined forehead and bright dark eyes. His thick, graying hair was combed straight back into a modest pompadour. It was slightly oiled and showed the marks from the teeth of a comb. His clothes were neat and literary: a tweed jacket and tie. Only the hair gave a whiff of the dandy. He was quiet and courteous, with something silent about him—did he wear Hush Puppies? Because of his neatness and his oiled hair, I didn’t consider him a reader until the day I asked about an Edith Wharton book.
“It’s out of print,” he said, “but I can get you a copy.”
“You can?” This seemed like a miracle.
. . . .
At Seventy-fifth Street was Books & Co., slightly more literary and less glamorous. It was two-storied, and the first floor was slightly below street level. You stepped down to go inside, as though you were entering a student café. The walls were stuffed with books, and in the center of the room was a counter staffed by young geniuses. In the stairwell hung photographs of great authors who had read there, and upstairs were paperbacks: classics, poetry, belles-lettres, and a choice selection of literary porn. Everyone there loved books, and the young geniuses talked about Virginia Woolf or Gabriel García Márquez with equal ease. I gave my first reading here, and, as I looked out at the modest rows of my good friends (the only people who came), I thought I had reached the pinnacle of success: this what I had wanted most.
. . . .
I gave readings at Books & Co. until it closed. Jeanette Watson, its owner, reappeared later at the excellent Lenox Hill Books. This was on Lexington Avenue, just above Seventy-second Street, and it was a haven for me, because then I lived nearby. Jeanette still had readings by literary giants, and I heard Shirley Hazzard there, and Colm Tóibín. I used to go there in the afternoons with my dog, after going to the park. Once, Jim Harrison was there, signing books. Jeanette introduced us to him, and I bought a book, and Jim signed it to my dog.
All those places are gone now.
Link to the rest at The New Yorker