Book people are a strange, obsessed lot. We love books, we love to look at them, touch them, smell them, possess them, have them pass through our hands. I worked on and off for a dozen years in a new-and-used bookstore like no other, the Phoenix Bookstore in Santa Monica, run by Michael Goth, a race driving, motorcycle riding warrior mystic with an encyclopedic knowledge of history, religion and philosophy who once punched a rival bookseller he caught copying down the titles we carried–but only after the guy shoved him. I loved working there; every two weeks, half my paycheck went to books, a habit that continued even when I got a job at a record company. And I continued to work at the Phoenix, filling in on weekends and manning the register and gift wrap every Christmas Eve until the store closed in 1996, the victim of megachains and rising rents.
In under four minutes, Andrew David Watson’s short film There’s No Place Like Here: Brazenhead Books takes us into the world of New York City bookseller Michael Seidenberg, who moved his secondhand bookstore from a storefront to his apartment, creating a literary speakeasy, a secret bookstore where people browse and meander through the stacks and shelves, caressing, discussing, buying the volumes. At the same time, the film also touches on the changing face of the urban landscape where independent businesses are squeezed out; and the losses we face as our ways of learning and leisure shift.
This Labor Day celebrate with us Seidenburg’s labor of love and love of books along with Watson’s chosen vocation as a filmmaker and his love of the art.