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Film Review:
The Booksellers

D. W. Young’s documentary studies the New York (and slightly beyond) rare book world, and investigates the ever-changing nature of collecting and publishing while pleasingly damning the internet.

Young (a veteran editor who here writes, directs, co-produces and assists with the cinematography) naturally focuses on the expected handful of interview subjects while also managing a nicely wistful mood, as we keep returning to that sadly inescapable truth: so many of us no longer read.

Beginning with a glimpse of buyers, sellers, enthusiasts and oddballs at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, we watch as a series of prominent writer and media types (notably Fran Lebowitz and Gay Talese) talk to camera before the story settles on our individual figures.

They include: Dave, who says he isn’t fit to do anything else, and that “It’s all about the hunt!”; Adam, who has masses of books chaotically jammed into a small studio apartment; Justin, whose business was helped by pal Maurice (Where The Wild Things Are) Sendak; Jim, co-owner of a warehouse with 300,000-plus books; and strange sci fi fan Henry, a guy seemingly present to help up the weirdness quotient.

There are melancholy details about the loss of important NY bookshops, with senior sisters Judith, Naomi and Adina at the much-esteemed Argosy store reminiscing about their family’s lives in the trade, and glimmers of sweet humour as they and others describe the old-school Big Apple, with its book dealers aplenty. But why do you need community bookshops  and sidewalk sellers when you’ve got the oh-so-impersonal internet? It takes most of the fun and thrill out of it – but, it seems, who cares?

Partially narrated by Parker Posey (who signed on as executive producer), this should be embraced by book lovers, New York devotees and Net-haters alike, and reminds us that we really should be reading real, non-Kindle, honest-to-goodness books more.

Reviewer Rating
8/10

The Booksellers (PG) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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