We asked former Observer editor Geoffrey Rips to return to our editorial columns to observe the passing of Mrs. Florence Rosengren. WHEN I WAS TWELVE, I thought Rosengren’s Bookstore in the old Crockett Hotel in San Antonio was the way the world was. In a family ritual observed on frequent Saturday mornings, my father and whoever else so desired would go to Rosengren’s to browse. We entered off the exhaust-filled street behind the Alamo into an oasis of calm serenity. There was the smell of coffee brewing, the little candies by the cash register. And there were the books. I just “browsed” one or two sections back then, the rest serving as a subconscious energy source, radiating understanding, order, and ferment all at the same time. It was the kind of feeling you get in the great reading room of the New York Public Library, where just sitting at the long table surrounded by the world’s thought you become enlightened through absorption. But it was not just the books we went for at Rosengren’s. It was that moment when Florence Rosengren would look up from her paperwork in her perch at the back of the store, let her glasses hang down from her neck, smile, and descend, book in hand, to greet us. \(As Bryce Milligan pointed out in the San Antonio Light, it was always with Two Funds Set Up to Benefit Lind Scott Lind has been an occasional contributor to this magazine and a courageous reporter for the McAllen Monitor. In July he was admitted to a Mexico City hospital in a coma and diagnosed with viral encephalitis. He has now been admitted to the Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital in Gonzales, Tex., where he is listed in fair condition; he has come out of the coma. Contributions to defray Lind’s growing medical expenses he is not covered by health insurance can be sent to two funds: The Scott Lind Fund, FirstCity BankMcAlien, PO Box 1300, McAllen, Texas, 78502; and the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists, PO Box 2171, San Antonio, Texas, 78297. a new book that she wanted to show my father or me. More often, she would ask what I was looking for or thinking about, then go to a shelf, and return with one, two, or three books opening in her hands as the world opens up. When I was 16, I knew the world a little better. I knew that Rosengren’s was not the way the world was, but the way the world was only in its finer moments. Rosengren’s was an oasis. For years, readers and writers had found their way to its doors. They included Dobie and Webb, Robert Frost and Alfred Knopf. It turned out that Rosengren’s, and more specifically Florence Rosengren, was not merely a beacon of light for the Southwest but provided a clearing in the thicket of this world sought out by pilgrims from across the nation. Had Rosengren’s existed in 1836 on the site of the Crockett Hotel behind the Alamo then the suicidal defense of that scrap of land would have been more understandable. By the time I was 23, I knew that Rosengren’s was the way the world was not. It was a refuge and a place to gather strength. Florence Rosengren, however, was no anachronism. She very much understood the world. She led me through the labyrinths of her wall of contemporary fiction to Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez before he was Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And to the past to the journals of Cabeza de Vaca in the “unknown interior of America.” Now at 37, I know that Rosengren’s is the way the world should be but may never be again. In the book world, there are various circles of existence. The lowest circles are reserved for the publishers who will not publish except to make money. Then there is the circle of airport newsstands. There is the circle for bookstore chains, serving as a bridge from hell to purgatory, keeping some writers and readers alive while starving others into oblivion. In purgatory we find the unpublished, the unsold, and the unread. There is a circle for bookstores larded with cookbooks and Jacqueline Susann but knowing better, carrying a Don DeLillo and Joyce and Yeats and Toni Morrison on the shelves in back. Crossing into Paradiso, there are the booksellers the Gotham Book Mart and St. Mark’s Place in New York and City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco come to mind whose stories add to the world’s light and space and whose books present ,,,, THE. TEXAS 1 IP server SEPTEMBER 16, 1988 VOLUME 80, NO. 18 FEATURES Inside an Israeli Detention Camp By James C. Harrington 4 Texas Republicans in New Orleans By Louis Dubose 6 A Few Facts About the “Other America By George Williams 10 A Day on the Hustings By Ann Vliet 11 The Spotty Record of Lauro Cavazos By Brett Campbell 13 Abortion Rights and Reverence for Life By Christopher Hitchens 15 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Political Intelligence 14 Books and the Culture Martin Scorsese’s “Last Temptation” By Michael King 17 God and Man at Universal Studios By Stephen G. Kellman 18 Afterword The Speed of Flight By Dave Denison 22 a breadth of vision. And in the uppermost circle there was Florence Rosengren, who died last month, not many months after the closing of her store. As Dante wrote of another resident of Paradiso, hers was the “double light of natural intelligence and enlightening grace.” On second thought, Florence Rosengren was really a Virgil to all the Dantes writers, readers, and tourists alike who wandered into her store looking for something. “Wise Men Fish Here” reads the sign hanging outside New York’s Gotham Book Mart. If wisdom came to those who entered Rosengren’s, it was due to the medium between writer and reader provided by Florence Rosengren and her “enlightening grace.” -GEOFFREY RIPS EDITORIAL `Enlightening Grace’ THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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