Magazine article The New Yorker

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Magazine article The New Yorker

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Steve Crowley is the first to admit that his bookstore's success has a lot to do with what he calls "Strand spillover." Having that behemoth right around the corner from his shop, ALABASTER BOOKS (122 Fourth Ave.; 982-3550), insures a steady stream of patrons. "Once people come in, they usually find something. We're sort of arts and literature, but we stock all categories," Crowley says, sitting behind an old wooden desk that holds a Chopin bust ("I thought it looked bookstore-y--it's actually plastic") and a selection of paperbacks laid out to lure customers, including, on a recent afternoon, a bright-pink copy of Pauline Kael's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" ($5) and an edition of "Lennon: Up Close and Personal" featuring an impossibly youthful John and Yoko on the cover ($4). Crowley was a musician working in an Upper West Side bookstore to pay the bills when he opened Alabaster, six years ago. "You know, this used to be bookstore row," he says. "People still come in all the time and say, 'Did you know there used to be fifty bookstores along here?' Now there's me."

Though SKYLINE BOOKS & RECORDS (13 W. 18th St.; 759-5463) has been in Chelsea for only twelve years, the place feels like it's been around since the fifties, long before Bed Bath & Beyond opened on the corner. "We try to keep that balance between unkempt and orderly," says Rob Warren, the owner, surveying his domain, a scruffy, comfortable place with an exhaustive Beat Generation section just inside the front door. "My tastes are literary first editions and sixties stuff--and photography," Warren says, opening a case to show off volumes he's especially taken with: a first edition of Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" ($2,500), a signed copy of Avedon's "Portraits" ($200), Updike's "Rabbit, Run" with its distinctive striped green cover ($1,000), a "Frankenstein" that has woodcuts by Lynd Ward ($150). …

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