Fred Bass, Maestro of the Strand

The news this week of the death, at age eighty-nine, of Fred Bass, the legendary bookseller who made the Strand into the cultural landmark it is, put me in mind of an afternoon I spent with him more than a decade ago. I had gone to the Strand to learn something about the store’s highly-trafficked used-book buying counter, and the people who worked there. It was a place with which I had a more than passing familiarity. Like any number of young literary-minded New Yorkers with more ambition than money (or storage space), I had long made the trek to 12th Street and Broadway, my satchel laden with review copies. There was something ignoble in this, but it was an authentic part of a hoary, if not frequently discussed, literary tradition.

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