From early days until near closure, J.W. Beecroft brings light to Superior
Today, instead of reviewing a book, I'm reviewing a bookstore. Opening a letter this week from J.W. Beecroft, I expected good news about a book event, an author, or some fine literary occasion. Upon reading that the exquisite repository of tomes ...
Today, instead of reviewing a book, I'm reviewing a bookstore.
Opening a letter this week from J.W. Beecroft, I expected good news about a book event, an author, or some fine literary occasion. Upon reading that the exquisite repository of tomes was closing, I felt as if a car had hit my right leg; I felt the spirit whoosh out of me. I felt sad, so sad. But glad too.
I've learned a lot from Jan and John Murphy and Amanda Parker and the whole J.W. Beecroft crew over the years, and I'm heartbroken to realize that both Superior and my life are losing a vital organ. It feels as if the doctor just told me that one of my kidneys has stopped working.
But I'm glad that Jan has done what she's done and, for the last 10 years, has brought the light and love of books to Our Fair City, and I'm glad that she and John and the whole crew are embarking on new and exciting life adventures.
In the first days of Beecroft, back when I was a crass and insensitive individual (as opposed to my current sensitive and caring state), I was standing in the corner of the bookstore smarting off and talking trash about the place to my friend Mary. A few seconds later, Jan Murphy steamed up to me and said, "You know Mike, people can hear you." I was embarrassed and filled with regret. But I was so impressed that Jan had kept her cool and not lambasted me and spoken in kind. I learned a big lesson in class that day from one classy lady. Many times since then when I've been coarse and crude, unfeeling and unkind, thoughtless and cruel, petty and persnickety, I've remembered Jan's lesson in restraint and decorum. Too bad I'm such a slow learner.
One day in Beecroft, after I'd published a book about the music of the Vietnam War, John Murphy quietly mentioned to me that the helicopter image we'd used to illustrate the cover was not a Vietnam-era chopper. When I learned that John was a Vietnam vet and recognized the tenderness with which he'd pointed out the inaccuracy, I felt a grateful warmth inside. Here was a highly successful man of great publishing esteem being kind to a beginner.
One of the great losses I will experience when Beecroft closes is laughing with Amanda Parker. When Beecroft first opened, my late friend Kevin Ahlstrom said to me, "Have you heard that ad for the new bookstore where they're using a woman with a cheesy English accent?" When I told Amanda, who is from Birmingham, England, she laughed and laughed. I am going to really miss Amanda's healing laugh, her incisive humor, her sparkling intelligent eyes, her nasty snicker, her razor sharp retorts. It feels like my sarcasm buddy is leaving town and not coming back. Bummer, man. Bummer.
I've learned a lot during my regular visits to J.W. Beecroft Coffee and Books. I learned that Ellen Baker rarely, if ever, makes errors of fact, and that even though a lunkhead book reviewer voices his opinion all too publicly, a civilized person will point out his shortcoming gently and privately. I learned that you don't lean on Loretta politically and that being mean to Jean results in guffaws and that writing poems about people is fine as long as you don't share them. I learned that a gloomy, foggy, cold spring day in Superior can be instantly turned into a brighter, better, happier day by stopping in for a cuppa tea and the off chance that Carrie's outstandingly delightful, ringing laugh will reverberate gaily to my ears.
I learned that old ladies from Duluth could come to Superior and publicly sleep beautifully and peacefully in overstuffed chairs with books resting on their bosom and not be disturbed in the least. I learned that books are important to people and that people are what make books important. I learned that a person can invest in her community and create an institution that gives and gives and gives in myriad ways, in ways unknown, until it is going away for good. I learned that the closing of a bookstore can weaken my legs and make tears come to my eyes, and that life goes on, but it is forever changed for the loss of something beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Thank you Jan and John and Amanda and all the lovely folks of Beecroft for the gift you gave me and Superior and the region. I, among many, will miss you terribly.
Life is good. Let's make it better, the way Beecroft did. I'm Mike Savage and I'm done.
Mike Savage is a Superior-based author, publisher and radio commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or see his Web page, www.savpress.com .