On the Other Left Bank

Kicking off election week, I decided to post another bookstore review from the turn of the century. I am proud to have helped procure some funds from the Grateful Dead's Rex Foundation for Books to Prisoners - I've got the t-shirt to prove it.

Left Bank Books

Inventory: Radical politics, anti-authoritarian, independent, left-wing, small press

Left Bank Books is probably best described by their own hand-out sheet.

It is collectively owned and operated, community-based, not-for-profit, now in our 25th year, the oldest anarchist collective in the U.S. The collective is composed of a couple semi-independent projects, operating with a small paid staff and the aid of numerous volunteers who generously donate time and skills. We operate a retail store with new and used books: Left Bank Books; a wholesale and mailorder book distribution service: Left Bank Distribution; and we also sponsor, house and assist Books to Prisoners.

It is located at the entrance to Pike Place Market between Pike Place Flowers and the Pike Place Bar and Grill. The blue $.25 bookstall in front benefits Books for Prisoners. The jawbreaker machine sports a “Solidarity Forever” sticker. The shop is brick-fronted below the windows, which are framed in old scuffed green trim and filled with magazines: Mother Jones, Wildearth, Alternative Press Review and a button board: “Free Mumia,” “I read banned books,” and “I’ll have the enemy du jour.”

Books visible in the window can include The World Trade Organization, A Guide to the Framework for International Trade and Harp Song for a Radical, The Life and Times of Victor Eugene Debs. A rack by the door has newsletters like Earth First, Fifth Estate, Industrial Worker and The Funny Times.

Posters proclaim Friends Don’t Let Friends Shop at Corporate Chain Stores. An ancient paper sign in the window, black on white, seems to be the original name sign for the store. Be warned. As you enter, a sign on the door reads We reserve the right to refuse service to people wearing fur.

The floors are painted red, and lead from the entrance up two more levels. A stairway from the second level winds up to a small second-floor section. The first level is devoted to fiction, by and about men to the right, by and about women to the left. The magazine rack is under the front window with choices from Erotica to Anarchy, Green Egg to High Times. A black-painted rack of “New Arrivals” heralds Crimes of War, Prison Writings, My Life is My Sundance, by Leonard Peltier, and Ecology of Fear, Los Angeles and the Imagination Disaster.” The left corner shelf is dedicated to the Pacific Northwest; the right corner shelf to The Beatles.

The New York Times
and The Seattle Times are available. The circular desk has more books, coffee, and soft drinks. The maps on the meeting room walls, and the world map mouse pads seem to indicate that Left Bank Books considers the world its neighborhood. I wish them luck in bringing the neighbors together.