“I worked part-time at the Eighth Street Bookshop,” Andrei Codrescu said, “the greatest literary bookstore of all time.” The downstairs room housed the traditional books with spines; poetry mimeos could be found in the store’s second-floor room, which was dedicated to books from smaller publishers, such as Something Else Press. “The Eighth Street Bookshop was pivotal to a young poet in those days,” Ed Sanders recalled. “It was there I monitored little magazines such as Yugen and Kulchur and where I first purchased Allen Ginsberg’s epochal Kaddish and Other Poems.” Eighth Street bustled on the east and west sides of the Village, but the stretch between Fifth and Second Avenues seemed cursed. Odd-ball businesses—such as a French art store that employed both a classical painter and a modern painter, wearing berets—would open and then disappear, though the area came alive around the Eighth Street Bookshop. Another jewel in the downtown’s literary crown was the Paperbook Gallery, on Sixth Avenue around the corner from the Eighth Street Bookshop. Cabaret performer and Off-Off-Broadway music composer Paul Serrato managed the Paperbook, which stayed open until midnight—a practice that encouraged people to socialize. “The area was like the Times Square of the Village,” he said, “In those days, everybody hung out there, and Paperbook Gallery was the epicenter of all the independent publishing.” Frank O’Hara, Ted Joans, Diane di Prima, LeRoi Jones, and others came in to drop off their mimeographed publications, which were displayed on a series of shelves that looked like mail slots.
From Chapter 5 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore