The Strand Bookstore, on Broadway and 12th Street in New York City, was a smorgasbord for book-lovers. It was impossible to walk out of there empty-handed—I know my bookshelves would be less interesting without the Strand. In the front were current best-sellers (many of them reviewers’ copies, sold back to the Strand and offered at half-price); as you walked deeper into the store, more books stacked on tables and seemingly endless shelves of used books. It was easy to believe their slogan “18 miles of books” (upped from 8 miles when the store expanded in the early 2000’s) wasn’t hyperbole. The last bookstore standing of the nearly 50 that lined Fourth Avenue in the first half of the 20th century, the store was run by Fred Bass, the son of the Strand’s founder, Ben. Fred, who died Wednesday, was a constant presence at the store, haggling over prices of books he bought, or just walking through the aisles, chatting with customers, making recommendations.
The Strand not only nourished readers, working at the Strand was a rite of passage for many New York-based artists, musicians, and writers. Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, and Mary Gaitskill are just a few of those who rang up sales, shelved books, and took the store’s famous quiz, which prospective employees had to pass before they were considered for a job. Ownership passes to his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden (wife of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden), we send our condolences, and wish her and the Strand another 90 years of success.