Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Between the small art galleries attached to CVS, a couple of far-flung bookstores and a smattering of restaurants and interesting shops, Porter Square had some minimal tourist attraction. The opening of Porter Square Books, by virtue of its presence in the square itself, is a significant improvement.

It’s exciting to have it there, although it isn’t quite all there: The coffee, pastries and periodicals are to come, and many shelves are bare or barely inhabited. There are curiosities and counterintuitions in the stocking, as well, which could have various explanations. There are two of the four Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, but not the introductory “Eyre Affair.” Five of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are here, but not “The Great Gatsby.” Michael Chabon’s “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” is here, accompanied by his McSweeney’s anthology but not “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay.”

But the store falls into cliches, as well. Among all of Joseph Heller’s works, the only one warranting shelf space is “Catch-22.” The only work by Richard Adams is “Watership Down,” but there are two copies — different editions, both softcover.

On the positive side, I found the books I wanted, Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and the latest Elizabeth George softcover. The just-released National Geographic World Atlas is in stock already. This store’s buying philosophy may be the equivalent of Newbury Comics’, with a carefully thought-out (but more spare) assortment of works relying on rapid replacement instead of redundancy.

Or it may be more or less random.

If only the Nuggets used-music shop (once found across the bookstore’s parking lot) had lasted, the square would really have something. As it is, with the rug shop that replaced it shutting down, that space is open again and has the potential of becoming something fun, like a small billiards parlor — or something appallingly dull, like a real estate office.

No matter. It’s nice enough to have Porter Square Books in the neighborhood. And so cleverly named, too.