Ross & Tilley

I’m not sure if Harold Ross ever made the cover of any magazine other than this August 1948  issue of The American Mercury (the twelve page in-house New Yorker parody, dated November 6, 1926, with Ross in silhouette as Eustace Tilley, is an exception).  The Mercury’s nine page cover story by Allen Churchill is a quick and fun read.  Dale Kramer’s 1951 biography, Ross and The New Yorker, is a step-up from Churchill’s article.  Thomas Kunkel’s Ross biography, Genius in Disguise is the final word.

Book Store on a Dirt Road

Sundays usually make me think of books – don’t know why, can’t explain it, but that’s the way it’s been for a long long time. It’s the day I traditionally set out for my favorite bookstore in upstate New York.

Twenty some years ago a friend suggested the store to my wife and I, saying it was a bit of a drive but worth it.  We followed his van ( between the friend’s family and ours there were too many kids and parents to fit in one car) up the Taconic Parkway, then off onto back roads, past broken down farms, and ancient cemeteries, and finally onto a rutty dirt road where we stopped at a low barn with a few cars parked out front.  I admit I didn’t expect much — after years of haunting used bookstores, I thought I could judge a used bookstore by its cover.  I’d been to too many barn bookstores filled with battered books at high prices.

Walking into this place, it took only a few seconds for things to go very right.  Inside, and just to the left was the humor section; before I had time to scan the room my eyes fell on an Otto Soglow collection that had been on my “want list” for years (this was before the days of the internet when used book searching was door-to-door, and not site-to-site).

The visit was already a success, and even better:  the store was a delight in every way, from the wood stove heating up a kettle filled with a concoction of spice and water,  to the organization of each jam-packed room, to the proprietor, whose friendly but low-key manner is key to the store’s charm.

There were a number of used book stores in our area back then; Main Street Books, up in Germantown, was another favorite, but sadly, it has closed its doors. Only this one, on the dirt road, has survived.

Note:  The New Yorker’s blog, “The Book Bench,”  posted a piece about The Book Barn back in July of 2010.  You can read it here

(Photo: courtesy of Gretchen Maslin)