News that "the venerated Politics and Prose bookstore" in Washington, D.C. was up for sale inspired a story by Yeganeh June Torbati Wednesday that resembled a scroll of the D.C. social register, so stuffed it was with names of liberal personalities and pundits: "Bookstore in Capital Seeks Its Next Chapter." But the only clues Torbati gave of the book store's dark-blue hue had to be inferred from the names on the bookstore's fan list.
First came shock - the venerated Politics and Prose bookstore here was up for sale. Then, almost immediately, the fantasies started - what would it be like to be the new owner, an influential tastemaker at the intersection of the nation's political and literary worlds?
In the weeks since the owners said the independent bookstore was on the market, a variety of potential buyers, including literary agents, authors and investors, have stepped forward to express interest.
The roll call of the bookstore's D.C. cult made clear that its wailing fans share a left-wing urban sensibility (indeed, the store made news in 2007 for the disrespectful way it treats conservatives authors and books). Torbati apparently didn't notice.
Esther Newberg, a New York literary agent whose clients include the writers Thomas L. Friedman, Seymour Hersh, Maureen Dowd and Caroline Kennedy, said what makes Politics and Prose so attractive to authors is that Ms. Cohen and Ms. Meade manage to get large audiences for even relatively unknown writers.
Prospective buyers need not apply if they are only seeking to make a sure profit or would just relish the chance to hobnob with the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Hendrik Hertzberg, both fans of the store. All viable candidates will be subject to a "good long talk," [co-owner Barbara] Meade said, "about what they plan to do with the store."
If those "plans" include inviting right-of-center authors to read, those perspective owners might not make it far. Reporter Ryan Grimm of Politico noted the book store's "liberal bias" in a February 2007 article.
The idea that Politics and Prose has a liberal bias has caused the store some consternation, but it's rooted in reality. The bookstore draws a graying, turtleneck crowd in a neighborhood known for its liberal politics in a city that gave George W. Bush fewer than 22,000 votes in 2004. Would you expect the shelves to be buckling under the weight of Sean Hannity and Co.'s latest books?
The bookstore's most well-known snub went to Matt Drudge, a conservative and the creator of The Drudge Report. Cohen reportedly called him "a rumormonger and a troublemaker" in 2000 when the store rejected his request for a reading.
Two years later, neo-conservative Joshua Muravchik made some trouble by telling The Washington Post that the bookstore had refused him a reading in deference to members of a Trotskyite sect of the International Socialist Organization who shopped at the store. They apparently took umbrage at what they felt was a negative gloss on communism in his book "Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism."
You can follow Times Watch on Twitter.