Archive for July, 2010


Finding “it,” right here

I often fall victim to an ailment common in twenty-year-old people: the delusion that I am much more worldly than I really am. The goal of my two decades has been, so far, to become as cultured as possible. I can immediately locate my favorite art pieces in the MFA, recite Shakespeare by rote and carry on a (pitiful) conversation in French. I have done my fair share of traveling to far off lands seeking to find art, local traditions— anything unique. Unfortunately, I learned that chain stores trump all, as I stared sadly into a McDonalds 4,000 miles away from my place of origin.

It was with the attitude of a disillusioned romantic (or, a kid growing up) that I began working at Cornerstone Books. To my astonishment, slowly but surely, color began to seep back into the world. It all began with the in-store events. While shelving books I would hear authors read exerpts from their books and riveting discussions would pop up out of nowhere. I started to meet local characters with fascinating stories to tell. Just last Saturday I was taken by complete surprise and delight when Fretless
 Capella serenaded the entire bookstore for a very memorable hour.

 I would say that the eureka came when I worked a Thursday shift and discovered the charming clutter of Salem’s Farmer’s Market, where all the
artists and craftspeople come out to play. While walking around on my lunch break I realized that I had been to Salem many times before, but I had never really experienced it. In this charmingly vintage area usually devoted to witch trial history I found what most of us as starving for in our world of perpetual Walmarts: one-of-a-kind artisans! Food, clothing and artwork that came from inspiration, almost literally made with love. “Charming” and “unique” are too condescending to describe what downtown Salem really is.

To put it simply, Salem is where it’s at.

Of course I would learn such a lesson at Cornerstone Books. I tell friends who have not yet experienced its delight that it is indeed a bookstore, but it double-functions as a local hangout spot—the living room of Salem, if you will. I am obliged to Cornerstone for my new obsession with and patronage of everything local. Perhaps if my nose hadn’t been so preoccupied with the aroma of what lies abroad, it would have been able to sniff out the creative hubbub that was directly underneath it.

Citizens of Salem, learn from my mistakes. You need not purchase that
1,000 dollar ticket to experience a novel world, for it thrives in your
own backyard.

Rozena Crossman joined the wonderful world of Cornerstone Books this past May. She attends college at Queen’s University in Ontario and is working towards a BAH in world religions. Although she’s usually reading fancy adult novels, her true passion lies in the children’s section.


Revaluing the marketplace

by Jonathan Simcosky – originally published on ArtThrob

This past Thursday I sat at the Salem Farmers’ Market community table representing Cornerstone Books and had the opportunity to participate in a marketplace that gives me hope for humanity’s future – if not America’s economic supremacy.

Gathered in Derby Square were hordes interested in eating seasonally and organically.  They wanted to know where their food was coming from and to develop relationships with those folks responsible for bringing it into the world.  They were looking for good value, though not necessarily an unbelievable bargain.

It occurs to me that the role mass-industrialization of food production and distribution has had on the way we eat and buy groceries is analagous to what’s been happening in my own world of publishing with global distribution chains and volume driven pricing determining what we read and how much we pay for it.

Generations of consumers have now been trained to consider value synonymous with cheap; if it can be had faster and for less money elsewhere, it must be better.

What the farmers’ market showed me, though, was that there is a marketplace where other values come in to play.  There are consumers who are as interested in supporting innovative producers as holding out for the lowest price.

Just as we would never buy a work of art without developing a relationship with the artist or working with an established gallery, we’re learning that we eat much better when intimately connected with our food’s supply chain.  To wit, most of us are now willing to pay a premium for the assurance of that heightened experience.

Why then when shopping for literary art – i.e. books, our soul’s nourishment – are we comfortable anonymously searching online for the best price? What values are informing this transaction?  What values should?

As an independent bookseller and lover I’m especially interested in cultivating a revolution in the literary arts like what we’re experiencing in the culinary arts: re-thinking methods of creation and distribution that value originality and beauty over volume and discount.

We should read at least as well as we eat, right?