May 5, 2009
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The Seven Stairs

by Stuart Brent

Stuart Brent ran a legendary little bookstore in Chicago for decades, first on Rush Street and later on Michigan Avenue. Brent was at the center of a remarkable cadre of Chicago writers, critics, artists, and psychiatrists. (The latter seems out of place nowadays, but it made perfect sense at the time.)

This fine book captures the challenge of running a good little bookstore in a world that doesn’t care enough about books, or about anything thoughtful. Brent can write, and captures some of his own distinctive voice. When I was a boy, he was the oldest angry young man I could imagine, sitting at the big round table that served him for an office, bellowing on the phone at a Scribner’s rep, telling him (and everyone in the store) in great detail just how Scribner’s new policies were destroying American letters and indeed the Western Tradition. I was terrified, I still am.