As I walk past with my Chandler and Adams, a workbooted Sout’ Sider stood in the aisle in jeans that had seen a lot of labor, a baseball cap cocked to the sky and a cup of coffee in his hands.
He was eying either “Madame Bovary” or “Lord Jim” if I was following his eyes correctly. He was eying them in a bookstore in Beverly stuck next to a 7-Eleven. For 24 years.
“It used to be a White Hen but otherwise it’s been pretty much the same,” the woman at the counter told me that cold February day as I killed time in a bookshop on the far South Side.
In the little strip-mall space designed for convenience stores, Bookie’s Paperbacks & More is piled to the ceiling with books, shelves cobbled ’round forming an intricate labyrinth of Mystery, Classics, Romance, History and categories not seen in other stores. Eight shelves dedicated to books on Vampires. Three dedicated to Ireland, fiction and non mixed as long as it’s Irish.
Bookie’s knows its market. Outside the little storefront, along the long, broad streets where city blends with suburb, the lamps were lined with banners for the then-upcoming South Side Irish parade.
“You’ve got some books for me,” I hear the woman at the desk say as I’m lost in Mystery.
A man who came in, presumably with a box full of books for Bookie’s huge used paperback trade, responded in the affirmative with what my notes called “redic SS accent.”
She asked for the name on the account. That ludicrously South Side accent, one you could practically hear ordering mustard on a hot dog, listed his wife’s. My notes say “redic Irish name.” Mary Reilly or something.
The story of Bookie’s the South Side bookstore isn’t a story of what’s there. Books and South Siders. Done.
The story is what’s not there.
There’s no artifice at Bookie’s, none of the air of smug overknowledge that pervades many establishments. There’s none of the arched-eyebrow hipness of a Myopic, none of the firm impatience of the old guy at Ravenswood, none of the academic lack of nonsense of a Seminary Co-op.
If Myopic is Wicker Park and Seminary Co-op Hyde Park (and Ravenswood Used Books Lincoln Square for some reason), then Bookie’s, in it’s little suburban style strip-mall front next to a 7-Eleven, is Beverly.
No fuss. No pretention. Just nice folk from the Sout’ Side.