July 31, 2014

Desperate Literature opens in Madrid


Claire Kelley

Three booksellers with experience running bookstores in New York and on the island of Santorini in Greece have joined forces to cultivate an international bookshop in the center of Madrid near the opera house. Desperate Literature features a curated collection of books in English, and a small selection of Spanish and French titles.

Corey Eastwood, owner of Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg and Human Relations in Bushwick; Craig Walzer, founder of Atlantis Books in Greece; and Michael McCanne—who has written for the New Inquiry, the Brooklyn Rail, and founded a publishing collective called Lightful Press—are the three behind the new initiative.

The name of the shop—Desperate Literature— comes from a line in the Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño:

There are books for when you’re bored. Plenty of them. There are books for when you’re calm. The best kind, in my opinion. There are also books for when you’re sad. And there are books for when you’re happy. There are books for when you’re thirsty for knowledge. And there are books for when you’re desperate.

They say that they want to be a place where “good literature serves as a vehicle for dynamic cultural, linguistic and social exchange between Madrilenos, extranjeros and travellers from around the world. In this spirit we look forward to hosting readings, meetings, gallery shows, lectures, and more.”

The bookstore officially opened on June 1st with a launch event, and they’re still receiving shipments of books that they buy from library sales in New York as they set up shop. They’ve had a write-up on a website, Naked Madrid, and have hosted musical performances over the summer so far.

While I was in Santorini at Atlantis Books earlier this month, I asked Craig about his new bookstore venture. “It’s an urban bookstore for readers,” he told me. “We hope to fit in the with low-key elegance of Madrid if we work really hard. People are glad to see an international bookstore, and we’ll make it a presence quietly and slowly.”

Atlantis Books—Craig’s first bookstore project that he founded with friends, turns ten this year. I asked him if running a bookstore can be a successful concept. “Yes, if you do it right,” he replied. “I never thought I would open another bookstore, but I’m doing it with two good men and the opportunity presented itself. Atlantis Books is a shop that was founded by boys and girls in our 20s. This time we’re men in our 30s.”


Spanish singer Natali Castillo performs at Desperate Literature in Madrid.

Natali Castillo performs at Desperate Literature in Madrid this week.

Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.