St Marks Books

31 Third Avenue
(212) 260-7853

Located on the corner of 9th Street and Third Avenue, the name of this bookstore is more a testimonial to the spirit of the St. Marks locale and bohemian spirit than its current location. Though it has the slick dust-free feel of a B. Daltons, the books lining she shelves have a distinct bias towards the eccentric, perverse, and sophisticated tastes of the traditional East Villager. In the new releases section, you are very likely to find a Philip K. Dick re-release, an anthology of radical feminist erotica, a brick-heavy book of philosophy which makes Umberto Eco seem anti-intellectual— and much stranger things. This bookstore shrewdly acknowledges that the bestsellers of the East Village are quite different than those of the rest of the world.

The sections blend together well, making it seem as if it is perfectly natural to put counter culture books right next to French literature or New Age religion books. Of course, this works rather well, making this a great stop for pretty much any literary need. The store manages to have a wide selection of books while maintaining an edge. Their magazine and zine section contains many punk, alternative and queer publications, as well as more run of the mill magazines. Their poetry section is extensive, and local poets' publications are accepted and sold on commission, which is something few stores do in this day and age. Large format hardcover photo-anthologies are available to thumb through, and can be an excellent way to blow an hour.

The selection of counter culture, art, and history of NY books is also some of the best in NY. St. Marks Books is one of those places where there is a sense of pride over the past, present and future of this artistic town. It is impressive that the store goes to an effort to support local artists, when few stores seem willing to do so. For this especially, the store deserves a look. The diverse selection will keep you coming back for more.

Commentary by Clifford Low and Joan Rachel Dennis, Tuesday, July 5, 1998.

Photo: Rachel / Model: Sue Borg