All Eyes on Longfellow

By now, you've surely heard about the terrible turn of events at (perennial Best winner) Longfellow Books this weekend -- during Blizzard Nemo, pipes froze and burst on the floor above the much-loved independent bookshop, causing the in-store sprinklers to go off, damaging at least one-third (probably closer to 40 percent) of the business's inventory. Hundreds -- no, THOUSANDS, no, TENS OF THOUSANDS -- of books ruined...a community stalwart, brought to its knees by Mother Nature (and crappy plumbing). The idea of all those soggy books makes me very depressed, tbh. 

It's a testament to Longfellow's position in Portland that this incident has received blanket coverage (from most local news outlets and a few that are more far-flung). The Maine writing community is reaching out with open arms (and checkbooks), ready to repay the favors that co-owners Stuart Gerson and Chris Bowe have done for them over the years. (This includes yours truly; both of my young-adult fiction books celebrated their release days with wine and friends at Longfellow Books, which has been hugely supportive of my writing in general. I also spent a day working there in 2010, the year the store celebrated its 10th anniversary.)

Thank the literary gods that the store's insurance policy is expected to cover most inventory and lost wages. Still, this non-chain entity -- already struggling to compete against that goliath, Amazon -- needs more help to get back on its feet.

The best sort of assistance is also the simplest: GO THERE AND BUY BOOKS. The store expects to re-open on Thursday (and their Valentine's Day Pussy Riot benefit reading is still on!) and I know I, for one, will be there with V-Day affection in my heart for one of the first places to make me feel at home in Portland. 

In closing, here's a quotation from my 2010 story (linked above) about Longfellow: " 'The folks at Longfellow's sell books but they also offer de facto psychotherapy for writers,' Portland novelist and writing teacher Lewis Robinson tells me. 'What better place is there to go if you're worried that the world of books and readers is on the ebb? I love Portland in big part because of the literary nerve center they've fostered.' "

The Phoenix loves you, Longfellow!


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