I visited Pittsburgh's pop-up bookstore, housed in the old Borders Eastside, late in the afternoon yesterday, its inaugural day. My first impression: fewer books but more people than when I last visited the former Borders's second-floor space ... when Borders still occupied it.
That's maybe a little unfair. After all, Fleeting Pages is mostly using only that top floor of the East Liberty building (which sits practically next door to Whole Foods). Still, you have to be impressed that a volunteer-run enterprise with zero advertising budget drew such a steady stream of interested customers.
"It's been constant all day, since before we opened," said clerk Jennifer Collins, citing a man who stood outside the space's glass doors that morning, until Fleeting Pages organizer Jodi Morrison finally let him in early. "At one point, we had four people sitting in chairs just reading, which to me is a sign of success."
Indeed, I arrived at about 4:30 p.m., and for the next 45 minutes there were usually two dozen or more people in the store, most of whom lingered to browse.
Unlike Borders, Fleeting Pages is all about independent publishers, zine-makers and artists, with a decidedly local focus.
When I entered, the first book table I saw held: the Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Pittsburgh-based); Colorado-based literary journal Ruminate; an array of tiny $2 "artists' books" (like "Great Dog Walks in Hamden, Connecticut") from Fiji Island Mermaid Press; Murdaland, a Pittsburgh-compiled anthology of crime fiction; Fragments, David Carl's experimental novel from Chicago-based Green Lantern Press; a selection of notecards adorned with original art of Dowtown Pittsburgh architectural landmarks; and the 30th-anniversary edition of glossy New York art mag Bomb (featuring a Skype conversation between Sufjan Stevens and writer Thomas Pletzinger).
"A house without books is like a room without windows," reads the Heinrich Mann wall-quote left over from Borders' décor. While Fleeting Pages can't stock even the remaining shelves like the big chain could – the big, well-windowed room still feels rather bare, with the old café tables and magazine rack forlornly empty – there's plenty more.
The shelves hold fiction (plus a separate horror-and-mystery section); indie comics; zines (like "Zombie Sarah Palin"); poetry (lots of poetry); travel books (from California's Whereabouts Press); more literary journals; and nonfiction (from autism to Al Capone).
There are also handmade political posters from the Just Seeds cooperative, handmade journals and more. On one wall, local artist Bob Ziller's portraits of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were so well-placed I had to make sure they weren't left over from the Borders days.
People are actually buying books, too. Morrison, of Braddock, said Fleeting Pages had already sold out of copies of local art book Encyclopedia Destructica. "For me, local people getting rid of their stuff is really good," she said.
By design, Fleeting Pages will last only a month. But at least as important as what's for sale is what will happen there – lots of readings and literary workshops are planned, even literary-themed movie screenings and a May 31 poetry slam. In fact, Morrison told me that one date, May 21, will see six events at the space, and only two dates in the month were still unbooked for events.
Fleeting Pages remains open to more events, by the way.
More books, too.
Around 5 p.m. Sat., as Morrison stood behind the checkout counter, a woman approachedd. "I'm a local author and I wondered if you could carry my book?" she asked.
"Sure!" said Morrison.
Eileen Reutzel Colianni had self-published Watching A Miracle: And Other Essays That Touch the Heart, and now she could stock it at Fleeting Pages.
Fleeting Pages is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For a complete schedule of events and more, see www.fleetingpages.com