Happy New Year
By Tony Weller
A decade ago on January 6th, Weller Book Works opened in Trolley Square following the two-week move from Main Street that included time off for Christmas and New Year’s Day. Bookstore activities have kept me so busy, I barely noticed the years passing. We are pleased that new generations of readers discovered us here and like the bookstore we operate, and that Main Street customers value what we do as well.
This August we will celebrate 93 years in the book trade. We are a very different bookstore than the one of our founding, and would not have endured had we not evolved with the culture. One must be very stubborn to avoid influence in a bookstore. Reading, like true education, chips away at cultural assumptions. I suppose this is why so many traditional cultures feel threatened by freedom of the press and educators. Until I was grown, I didn’t know how much my outlook had been formed by this cornucopia of culture, where no knowing is sufficient and the vastness of human knowledge is a constant nagging and humbling portent. In my reading I discovered Zen, and for nearly forty years now I cannot wreck it. The One and The 10,000 things shape my bookselling.
I worked on Main Street for nearly 40 years. The neighborhood felt like home. It was then the heart of Salt Lake City’s cultural and commercial district, crowded with shops and eateries, mostly of local ownership. When we left downtown, there were no retail neighbors left around us at all.
Now we have sold books from within Trolley Square for a decade and it feels like home. We enjoy the historic architecture and easy parking that attracted us initially. I like the vaulted ceilings—high enough for our antique streetlights—the Water Tower, and the old trestle bridge from Tooele’s Anaconda Mine that crosses Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. In Trolley, we are once again members of a community where we provide real-world shopping experiences to shoppers we share with neighbors. I am particularly fond of Tabula Rasa and Spark. Sometimes, after a day of bookselling, Catherine and I walk around the corner in our building to enjoy a meal and drink in The Desert Edge.
I have always felt that selling books was much more than retail work, that the curation and dissemination of ideas, stories, art and dreams is a cultural mission of important calling. Choosing books, we choose influence, to grow our minds, enrich our souls, and deepen wisdom. It is mind-bogglingly and breathtakingly propitious.
COVID’s disruptions – Can COVID lessons disrupt destructive dogmas?
Last year, I truly believed that 2021 just had to be better than 2020, but I overestimated the efficacy of our pandemic response, thinking it might be about what we know and what we’re able to do versus the colors of our shirts. Civilization is presently challenged by many troubles, some of which are fully apathetic about our beliefs, our pride, and our cultures. Possibly the impersonal and unbiased threats of the coronavirus and climate change will compel the disparate and feuding cultures of our stressed planet to see beyond cultural differences to our mutual interests in addressing these urgent concerns. Cultures and economies constructed around traditional premises of subordination and unregulated growth will not only fail our environmental needs, but are systemic causes of our climate degradation.
Shared hardship can bring people together. I am not so fond of hardship, but I suppose if humanity cannot move forward the smart way, we must hope for progress the old-fashioned, tragedy-ridden way. We can learn from the past, but we do not get to live there.
Our collective wisdom is available in books. Reading them, one discovers commonality and difference, and one’s mind, soul and vision grow. There are very real challenges in our future. They will require reconsideration of nearly everything our cultures take for granted. With proper wisdom, we can build bridges of love. Let’s break the walls of fear and become citizens of Earth.