Sunday, April 1, 2018

Ben McFall -- Nearly 40 years at the Strand Bookstore

Ben McFall at the Strand, May 2016

This coming August when Ben McFall arrives at the Strand, it will mark 40 years since he first began working at the bookstore. Of my many thoughts and experiences concerning book culture, certainly Mr. McFall holds a most special place.

If you've visited the Strand during the day and especially if you had questions about fiction, then you may have encountered this guy known in some quarters as “the oracle” of the Strand because of his vast knowledge and time spent at the bookstore. For quite some time now, he has worked in the fiction section of the store – tagging books, stocking shelves, and answering questions and offering reading suggestions for customers.

Although I had visited the Strand for many years, I only formally met Mr. McFall in 2013, after reading an article about him in The New York Times. I had previously seen him in the store, but I had somehow not introduced myself to him. Since meeting him in 2013, we have stayed in contact, and I spend time talking to him during my yearly visits.

When we meet, we're often talking books and authors. We're noting things we've read and enjoyed, and we talk about changes we've noticed. McFall has expanded my considerations of the workings of book culture in a major bookstore over a long period of time.

A series on black book culture
Ben McFall, the Strand, and NBF director Lisa Lucas (2016)
Ben McFall at the Strand (2015)
Meeting 'the oracle' Ben McFall (2013)
Meeting Ben McFall at the Strand (again) (2013)
Meeting Ben McFall at the Strand (2013)

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