Dorsey: Ukazoo Books offers a home for literary communityWritten by John Dorsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On a recent trip back to my hometown of Philadelphia, I was sad to see that the city’s literary landscape had greatly diminished since my wonderfully drunken college years. The City of Brotherly Love has a lack of good independent bookstores, and it’s not alone. In a bad economy, arts and culture always seem like the first things to go, and one can hardly blame patrons who might be a little more worried about that next mortgage payment than the next gently used paperback. That’s why Ukazoo Books’ recent opening in Toledo has me really excited and hopeful about the future of our literary community.
When I first made Toledo my home in 2003, Thackeray’s Books was still in full swing. Coming from a much larger city I have to admit I was less than impressed. Looking at things now, I wish we could have that store back — and every other bookstore that had to close its doors here over the last years. I’ll admit I searched through Leo’s, Frogtown, A Novel Idea, Fireside and everywhere in between, rarely finding what I was looking for, but we were a better community for having those used bookstores.
Still, when I heard about the opening of Ukazoo Books, I didn’t really expect to find much that would interest me. Walking into the store a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised. What I found were rows and rows of wonderful used books with a staff that was ready and waiting to answer any questions I might have. All of this at affordable prices — the average cost of a paperback book hovers around $3.50.
Now anyone who knows me at all knows that I mostly read poetry and most of that comes from the 20th century’s American underground. Yes, Ukazoo has poetry, but it’s largely academic, though I did manage to find some Jim Carroll. What got me about Ukazoo was its overflowing selection of fiction. From Russell Banks to John Kennedy Toole to Michael Chabon, I was more than surprised — I was impressed. I forgot my wallet to first time I was there, but the manager was kind enough to hold my books for me and I went back to the next day and came out with a bag so big I could hardly carry it out. The good news is that I wasn’t the only one — people were lined up, hungry for words. The night I made my purchases, there also happened to be a poetry reading in progress.
The reading, in support of the publication The
Mill, featured a number of Toledo’s literary mainstays, as
well as a number of young writers I had never seen before. There was energy, there was passion, there was someplace for Toledo’s writers to stretch their wings.
Better still, it looks like this series is set to continue there with the next taking place on March 16.
Ukazoo Books is located at 830 N. Westwood Ave., between UT and the Scott Park Campus. For more information, call (419) 972-1986 or visit the Ukazoo Books Facebook page.
Until next time … keep your pencil sharp.
John Dorsey resides in Toledo’s Old West End. His work is widely published and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.