Little Shop of Horowitz
By Baylis Greene
John McWhinnie, a partner of the bookseller Glenn Horowitz, at the team’s newest outpost in East Hampton, a shop he said was “so small, it’s meant to be a jewel box.”
(5/21/2008) It will be a far cry from Steph’s Stuff for the narrow storefront at 38 Newtown Lane in East Hampton. Come Saturday, the formerly cheek-by-jowl Paddington Bears and Snoopys, who long since beat it across the street to new digs, will see their places filled by a different kind of cultural ephemera — a copy of Jack Kerouac’s “Lonesome Traveler” inscribed to Neal Cassady, Mario Puzo’s heavily annotated manuscripts and screenplays, even Francis Cugat’s original artwork for the dust jacket of “The Great Gatsby,” one of publishing’s most famous images.
The new shop will be many things: a sister store to Glenn Horowitz Bookseller at 87 Newtown Lane, an extension of a business on 64th Street in New York called John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, and an expression of the personal tastes of Mr. McWhinnie, an art and rare books dealer who has a house in Northwest Woods. Its name itself is a hybrid: John McWhinnie and Glenn Horowitz Bookseller.
“This shop is so small, it’s meant to be a jewel box, a showroom, a display space,” Mr. McWhinnie said last week as he paced the still-empty, whitewashed shop. It measures 8 feet wide by 30 feet long, expanding to 11 feet wide at the rear. “There will be 50 books, maximum. I’m a minimalist by training, if not by inclination. One of my overriding concerns here is that it look spare and clean. One thing I’ve always noticed is that the more books there are, the more people miss things.”
“In the city, the majority of the business is in rare books. A $50,000 book that’s sold is never put out on display cases. A store like 87 Newtown Lane,” which he managed from 1998 to 2005, “shows just the tip of the iceberg. The idea here is to show what’s behind the scenes, the absolute cream of the crop” — an Edward Ruscha art book inscribed to Bruce Nauman, other art books by Andy Warhol and Richard Prince decorated with their drawings, Raymond Chandler’s manuscript for “The Long Goodbye,” correspondence between Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s drinking flask, Alberto Giacometti’s leather suitcase.
One thing that’s changed in the rare books business is that rare books often aren’t rare enough. A dealer with a nice Hemingway first edition won’t make it when 20 others offer it as well, Mr. McWhinnie said. “Collectors are looking more and more for the unique — the unique copy that the author inscribed to someone important to them. And Glenn was a pioneer in this.”
Take Fitzgerald, for example. A book Mr. McWhinnie will have in the new shop is “Taps at Reveille,” with an inscription in which the author takes giddy or alcohol-fueled flight:
For Jim Boyd
Statesman, sailor, devoted son of old Eli Wheelright, piano tuner, opthamalogist [sic] and founder of the National Pornographic / from his loyal (over) and devoted constituency
Hung Lee Song
Chief Horse protection
(Notre Dame ’27)
Father (“Pa”) Coughlin
F. Scott Fitzgerald (sec.)
Baltimore, March 1935
To hold such items, Mr. McWhinnie had Jameson Ellis, a Sag Harbor artist, design and build four maple and aluminum vitrines with innovative spring-loaded pins that allow shelves to lock in an upright position as cases for display.
|THE ATOMIC SUBLIME Jameson Ellis|
“I did some studio visits with Eric Fischl and David Salle, and I saw a display case and artist’s table he’d done,” Mr. McWhinnie said. “The plexiglass covers are by James Ashley. These are some of the most incredible display cases I’ve seen. The warm wood front and the cold metal” will complement Mr. Ellis’s art in the shop “in mixing the industrial and the handmade.” A new series of his works on paper, with a similar color palette and metal frames, will hang above the vitrines.
The two Newtown Lane shops will also complement each other. “Three shows at 87 Newtown are planned for the summer, and we will have a related selection here,” Mr. McWhinnie said. “When we open on Saturday, there will be a David Levinthal show down the street. The reception here will point people to the new show.”
“We found that people often didn’t cross the barrier to get to the old store,” he said of the no man’s land that starts with the middle school and Herrick Park. Now there’s a cultural bridge.