Cody’s, a landmark, 43-year-old indie bookstore in Berkeley, is closing July 10 due to declining sales (thanks, Saheli). It was attacked during the Satanic Verses fatwa in 1989:
Cody’s Books, Berkeley, California was firebombed about 4:30 a.m. when a pipe bomb was hurled through a back window just thirty seconds before a similar attack occurred at a nearby Waldenbooks store. One of the world’s finest general bookstores, Cody’s was bombed just fourteen days after Khomeini [issued a fatwa against Salman Rusdhie]… During the cleanup another bomb was found on the floor in the poetry section of the store. The owner of the store… stood across the street while the bomb squad worked with the bomb and as it exploded. [Link]
… the store announced that it would continue to sell Salman Rushdie’s controversial “Satanic Verses” — a decision that Ross called “our finest hour.” [Link]
Rushdie was pithy as ever:
“Rushdie came to the store once, a surprise visit when he was still in hiding,” Ross said. The author gave the bookstore 5-minutes notice to announce that he was in the store and would sign books. “There’s a hole above the information desk from the bombing. Someone scribbled ‘Salman Rushdie memorial hole.’ When Rushdie was here, he looked up and said, ‘Some people get statues, others get holes.’ ” [Link]
Cody’s blames the closure on competition from online textbook and academic bookstores and the general decline of Telegraph Ave., a street which rocks out with revolutionary flava but isn’t all that safe at night.
The owner of Cal students’ favorite
head shop plumbing supply store said:
“Sales are horrible right now,” said Al Geyer, founder of Annapurna, an eclectic store that’s been on Telegraph since 1968 and offers an array of goods ranging from pipes to spiritual music to sex toys. “I don’t think anybody is making any money.” [Link]
Reasons cited include crime, litter, homelessness, the mainstreaming of tokin’ supplies and sex toys, and the growth of lame, overpriced on-campus retail. Progressive bookstores are still businesses, and they ding the city council’s tolerance for broken windows:
“The city has let Telegraph slip… It used to be cool and hip and the center of the city, but people don’t want to come here anymore…”
“They have their heads in the sand… They’re stuck in their own ideology.” … he cited the ongoing problem of People’s Park [owned by the university], which, he says, attracts homeless people who discourage shoppers from coming to the area. He said the city has treated it solely as a social problem, ignoring the crime and quality-of-life implications… At the same time, he said, the city reduced the number of police patrols on Telegraph because of budget cuts. [Link]
p>The city of Berkeley was never very good at tackling crime without gentrifying. When I was a Cal student, I kept hearing of drunken, 5’6″ college friends getting mugged by 5’11″ 15-year-olds from Oakland. One evening I moved into a ground floor apartment close to Telegraph; the next morning I arrived at my new place bright and early, just in time to see someone sleeping on my bed, in my clothes. Startled, he bounded away through the bedroom window. He was welcome to my tie-dyes and butterfly collars. I moved again the same day.
Cody’s two other, smaller stores — on Fourth Street in Berkeley and on Stockton Street in San Francisco — will remain open. [Link]
Cody’s eclectic selection has always been cool, but in school I was always too far behind to read much for fun. These days, kids in the know buy their textbooks from India. Blame Crossword for Cody’s coda.
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