Current Issue #488

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

The Booksellers (PG) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

See Profile

Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox

Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox