Paperback Booksmith

Paperback Booksmith, Paperback Booksmith.
Dear Sir or Madam, will you buy my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Fallen out of my copy of Dwight Bolinger’s Interrogative Structures of American English (1957), this yellowed bookmark from the early 1960s:


It once was a chain, but now, apparently, only the Brookline store survives, as Brookline Booksmith. From the company’s website:

Brookline Booksmith opened its doors in 1961 as Paperback Booksmith with the slogan “Dedicated to the fine art of browsing.”  And for more than 50 years the Booksmith has been exactly that. Constantly changing with the neighborhood around it, Brookline Booksmith has served the people of Brookline and Boston with its eclectic mix of titles, literate and helpful staff, and seemingly neverending schedule of book signings, talks and poetry readings.

The Cambridge shop was in a building just below Harvard Square, in a set of one-story structures built in 1930 and surviving today, but with essentially all of their contents changed from when Ann and I roamed Cambridge (1962-65).

A map of the Harvard Square area, featuring Brattle St.:

(#2) Also: Concord Ave., the road to our house; Mass. Ave., the road to MIT; Christ Church (Episcopal), our church

The Paperback Booksmith location today:

(#3) At 37 Brattle: Concepts (accessories, shoes, men’s clothing)

Independent bookstores in general are threatened, but Brookline Booksmith seems to be thriving. Meanwhile, here in the Bay Area, we have (among others) the venerable Books Inc. From their website:

We are an independently owned and operated bookseller with 11 locations in California.  We can trace our history back to 1851 making us The West’s Oldest Independent Bookseller. Our main office and warehouse address is 1501 Vermont Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

The Palo Alto store is about 5 blocks from my house.

Read to the music. Paperback Booksmith is metrically SWW SW (plus a rest foot, so that as verse it functions as a double dactyl). That metrical pattern took me right to “Paperback Writer”:

(#4) You can watch the music video here

“Paperback Writer” is a 1966 song closing track recorded and released by the English rock band the Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney), the song was released as the A-side of their eleventh single. (Wikipedia link)

First verse:

Paperback writer, paperback writer.
Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear,
And I need a job,
So I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.


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