From the abq journal 1996
Living Batch’s Last Day Dec. 24
The Living Batch, one of the oldest bookstores in New Mexico, is closing next month, after being in business on the same block for 27 years.
On Dec. 24 it will shut its doors at 106 Cornell SE, which is next door to the Frontier restaurant.
“The main reason we’re closing is that I don’t want to do it any more,” said owner Gus Blaisdell, a parttime film instructor at the University of New Mexico.
But that decision is influenced by several factors.
One is the arrival of the mega-bookstores in the Northeast Heights.
Their immediate effect is that a variety of customers no longer shop at the Living Batch.
“Before the superstores, we discovered that the most interesting sale days in our store were weekends. People drove from all over the city to come and shop,” Blaisdell said.
Another factor is his disenchantment with mainstream publishing.
“The price of books is excluding young readers,” he said, noting that three hardback books can retail for as much as $100.
Blaisdell said he’s considered, and rejected, the notion of reducing the store’s space and narrowing the subjects to what the Living Batch specializes in — alternative fiction, poetry, politics, art and architecture, psychoanalysis and works from small presses.
If the store changed its direction and size, Blaisdell said, there probably wouldn’t be sufficient readers to buy books “in these prices, in these times in Albuquerque.”
In addition, he said, none of his children nor present or former employees expressed interest in maintaining the bookstore.
“A literary period of mass readership for the small bookstore is passing out of democratic politics,” Blaisdell said. “I think inexpensive books should be available to a large number of people, if they want to read.
“So, through various circumstances, we have become extinct.”
Some wonderful history of poets and writers and a community bookstore.
When I received the email from Nikki Blaisdell-Ivey and Larry Goodell about their proposed Living Batch book, I had just been indulging in a Living Batch moment. I was reading my used paperback copy of The Good Soldier Schweik, remembering how I’d bought it—ostensibly at the one dollar used cost, but forty percent discounted because I was a Living Batch employee way back there in the 70s. Funny, I’d read the book soon after I purchased it, and now, almost forty years later, I am reading it again and the past comes rushing in on me like a pack of unfed dogs. I’d been thinking often lately of the Batch, how it had been an important part of my life for a large amount of time—two tours as an employee (eight years in the 70s, and then after a two-year hiatus of hiding out in Arkansas, a six-year stint…
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I came to the Batch in the mid eighties. I had been managing the UNM Bookstore’s general book department for a number of years and shared many book conversations with Gus [Blaisdell]. Gus invited me to join the Batch as buyer and manager together with Jeff Bryan. I joined Sigrun, Larry, Geary Hobson, Seth Fiedler, Eileen Jackson. The store deeply felt the loss of Carl Christensen. The recent move around the corner from Central to Cornell had been jarring, and perhaps my arrival was also a jolt.
The storefront at 106 Cornell SE was a narrow space but it reached quite surprisingly far back. Over a few years, we cleared out moribund used book inventory, a new clerestory brought in more daylight, a floor plan evolved in a zig-zag down the center guiding the browser – like a pin-ball machine – all the way to the back. Some particularly dilapidated couches…
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photo by Nicole Blaisdell Ivey
Gus Blaisdell for twenty-seven years ran an “alternative to an absence,” the Living Batch Bookstore, always close to the Frontier Restaurant. He continues to teach film at the University of New Mexico. He runs a small press, Living Batch Books , that continues to present his alternative to absences. A special line of his books is called Drive, He Said, after Creeley’s poem “I Know A Man.”
Note: scroll down for a Timeline . . . I just added . . . & a few photographs . . .
“I is now a living Batch”
Ed Dorn, Gunslinger, Book II
I welcome any comments reflections accuracies emendations corrections amplifications of this generously offered material . . . I will put it all together plus more into a tribute to the independent bookstore in America, in this case, as a great example, the Living Batch Bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I worked, mostly part time from about 1978 to 1991 . . . and I did everything I could to help with poetry readings, book signing events and I’m grateful to everyone who worked there . . . Sally Blaisdell, Joe, Pancho, Mike, Carl Christensen, Sigrun (Siggy) Fox, Geary Hobson, Jeff Bryan (who did fantastic newsletters that vibrated with visuals and word book energy), Kevin Paul, Gus Blaisdell…
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Dear Nicole,The book is a clear mirror of the man. It is beautiful and moving. Gus and I made a legendary journey to Rainy Mountain in the hard weather that shapes mind and memory. It was a quest, a journey eminently worth making.With deepest thanks.Scott