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  • Writer's pictureJerry Della Femina


I’m always reading or listening to 5 … 6 books at a time.

Right now I’m reading:

“Past Tense” by Lee Child

“Fear” by Bob Woodward

“Gun Street Girl” by Adrian McKinty

“The Witch Elm” by Tana French

“Wrecked” by Joe Ide

And when I’m in my car I’m listening on Audible to “These Truths: A History of the United States” by Jill Lepore.

Want to know the sad part about that?

I bought every one of those books on Amazon.

It’s so easy.

I’m lying in bed at 2 AM in my pajamas.

A friend emails and tells me “Past Tense,” a new Jack Reacher book by Lee Child, is great.

I take my cell phone, push a button here, a button there and presto, the book is delivered to my phone. It takes one or two minutes at the most.

Damn you, Amazon.

You’ve made buying a book so easy, but you’ve taken the joy out of looking for a good book.

You’ve left us with a generation of non-reading idiot millennials who spend every minute of the day hypnotized by their own cell phones.

You’ve destroyed bookstores and the book business in Manhattan.

A whole generation of young people will never know the joy of spending an hour browsing through a bookstore.

Doubleday has been gone for more than 20 years. Borders is out of business. Who knows or cares about Rizzoli and Scribner’s. They looked down their noses and never invited browsing.

Barnes and Noble’s fast-disappearing bookstores are now made up of 25% books and 75% tchotchkes.

For those of you who don’t know what a tchotchke is, the Urban Dictionary describes it this way: “Look around your house or someone else’s and whatever you see that a burglar wouldn’t steal is probably a ‘tchotchke’.”

When I was young, a visit to a bookstore was always the best free entertainment there was.

Bookstores were where lonely people went on a Saturday night so as to not feel so all alone.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, I haunted the Doubleday Book Shop on Fifth Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets. I was broke and couldn’t afford to buy a book but I could always walk up and down the aisles.

I would read a page here, a page there. Sometimes as much as a full chapter. Sometimes I read classics, sometimes I read trash. I learned about writing by reading.

One Saturday night I spotted author Mario Puzo rearranging the section where they displayed his book “The Godfather” so that his book was more prominent on the shelf than all the other books.

The Doubleday Book Shop was more than a bookstore – it was a place for people to meet. Many a friendship, many a romance, was started over strangers talking about Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” or Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Doubleday’s also served a dubious purpose for a friend of a friend of mine, whom I will call Norman, who was, to say the least, a bit oversexed.

If Norman didn’t go to bed with at least two or three different woman a day, he would get a migraine.

Today he would be the poster boy for the MeToo movement. Some of the more militant MeToo people would send hit squads out to snuff him.

Norman’s modus operandi was to concentrate on two New York institutions as places where he could find women to feed his insatiable sexual appetite.

Bloomingdale’s on Saturday mornings was the “happy hunting grounds,” he would say.

Norman would go to the housewares department because Saturday was when young women who had just moved to New York City would shop for housewares for their new apartments.

He would hang around the electric can openers, toasters and coffee percolators and he would introduce himself to as many young women as he could find.

Norman claimed he rarely left the store without a woman who, somehow, he talked into bed a few hours after they met. Note: Please remember this was the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s – a time that many of you reading this (both men and women) now fondly remember as your “Anything Goes” period.

On those rare Saturdays when Norman would fail to score, he would come out of Bloomingdale’s with at least three phone numbers of future prospects.

Then on Saturday night, Norman would saunter off to the Doubleday Book Shop on Fifth Avenue. He shunned other bookstores.

“You don’t want to approach the Rizzoli or Scribner’s bookstore type of women. They’re too snooty,” Norman would say.

Then he would add, “On the other hand, Doubleday’s on a Saturday night is filled with women who have just broken up with their boyfriends or husbands or are just feeling lonely and looking to make a new friend.”

For hundreds, maybe thousands of women – perhaps some of you who are reading this now – Norman was that new friend.

Norman is dead. Everyone who knew him believes it was the success of the feminist movement that killed him. Norman was a sexual shark; when he stopped, he died.

I’m sad to say I don’t mourn his death as much as I mourn the death of Doubleday, the bookstore where plied his trade.

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