“You should definitely buy something from this store,” award-winning Brooklyn-based author Jonathan Lethem says on a Sunday afternoon at WORD bookstore. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be my book, but you should buy something.”
Lethem, who is currently on a reading tour publicizing his latest novel, Chronic City, which has brought him to large-scale events like last month’s New Yorker festival, made a pit stop at Greenpoint’s favorite bookstore for an event dubbed “Leftovers with Lethem.”
While it seems like a pretty cozy idea to have one of the most well-respected contemporary fiction writers around reading on the small basement stage on Franklin Street, what exactly is the purpose of having a writer like Lethem read at a small independent bookstore like WORD?
“Having in-store readings is community building,” store owner Christine Onorati says. “Yes, we want to sell books at these events, and yes, the publicity for the events is great too, but establishing ourselves as a place where people can go to spend time in a fun and interesting way is much more important.”
The way Ororati sees it, making WORD into a community space in the literary hotbed that is North Brooklyn is a work in progress. “Slowly we’re gaining momentum as a cool place to be in Greenpoint, and that’s all I can ask for.” Taking a look at the two-dozen or so brunch attendees—all munching on bagels and sipping coffee provided in the spirit of the event—you would get the impression that it’s working. One brunch attendee, Angela Vassar, 29, has stumbled into two WORD events while browsing for her newest book. “This is actually the first time I’ve come to WORD with the intention of seeing somebody read” she said. “It’s usually just been a coincidence. But it’s always such a wonderful environment.”
Even in the midst of holiday shopping madness, when all businesses are trying to maximize sales, WORD has still put an emphasis on promoting live events, even throughout the busy gift buying season. While some of WORD’s December events, such as their holiday open house on Dec. 5th and 6th will feature some of their favorite writers coming into the store to lend a help with gift wrapping, some of the stores events are too big to fit inside the tiny basement. Such is the case on December 9th when an event promoted by WORD, featuring actress Isabella Rossellini showing her series of short films portraying the sexual habits of animals, “Green Porno” will be held at the bar Coco 66. Whether this outsourcing to another venue helps the business at WORD is unclear, but it certainly speaks volumes of Ororati and her staff’s commitment to bringing not only the best book selection to Greenpoint, but also intelligent, quality programming to area. Of the events put on by her store, Onorati is a bit more more modest. “If we are giving the impression that great things are happening at any given time at the store, we’ve done our job.”