Stephen King writing about the 2009 World Series, in which my beloved though oft beleaguered Phillies lost to George Steinbrenner’s Cash Machine? Where can you find such a treasure? Look no further than a supplemental section in Issue Number 33 of McSweeney’s Quarterly, a one-time only version of The New York Times on Steroids entitled the San Francisco Panorama, luxuriously illustrated by David Thomson and authored by none other than Stephen King.
McSweeney’s is a sweet little publishing house in San Francisco with off-the-beaten path publishing instincts that fills an eclectic niche. Not being a big Stephen King fan (nothing personal against Stephen – I’m just not into the genre) I had no clue he was a baseball junkie. Turns out he’s quite the Boston Red Sox devotee and has written a fair amount about baseball, most recently a novella ealier this year.
This really isn’t about Stephen King. Nor is it about baseball. It’s more about about finding diamonds in the rough. So where does one find a reader’s delight like McSweeney’s quarterly in the form of Issue Number 33? Frankly you don’t typically look for such things; you just fall into them serendipitously. Such was the case last weekend in Cincinnati, when my daughter, knowing of my bookstore addiction ranging from the large to the small, told me that I had to visit Joseph-Beth. I hadn’t heard of Joseph-Beth Booksellers before, so I figured what the heck – I trust her judgment – let’s take a ride over to see what the story is.
What a pleasant surprise! Neil and Mary Beth Van Uum opened the first Joseph-Beth store in Lexington, Kentucky in November 1986. In December of 1993 they opened their second store, the location to which we arrived, as one of the centerpieces of the pretty Rookwood Pavilion shopping plaza in Cincinnati, the city of their college alma mater, the Bearcats (whose football team mascot was arrested that day for pelting fans with snowballs).
I know I tend to fall in love with bookstores too easily, and Joseph-Beth was no exception. How can you resist the charm of a hybrid bookstore cafe that combines the quaint with the moderne? The small scale feeling within a large scale space? If you’re me, you don’t. You just walk around like a kid in a candy shop.