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UNTIL LATER COMES: A COVID-Era Elegy for Rodney’s Bookstore


On my window’s ledge there’s a photobook of Texans at work. They herd cattle, reap oil, and develop microchips. It’s a book whose back cover is a little crusty from one too many spring storms gusting through an unclosed window. This birthday gift greets my just-waking eyes each morning when the now-gone birds chirp awake this side of Boston.

This book of monochromes came into my life after a residence at the most distinguished of bookstores on either side of the Charles River. Of the four or five bookstores on Massachusetts Avenue, I say with cowboy conviction that it’s Rodney’s in Central Square where all new and used books aspire to rest their peripatetic spines.

A collection of thought, subjects, and genres and thousands and thousands of sheets fill a single Rodney’s bookcase. All sorts of textual and nontextual odds and ends seem to be welcome here. This is the bookstore where Romanticism stares down Criticism from across a cramped, carpeted room. Where diasporas emerge from every aisle, where lifetimes play out across notecards. The stories of many and all of us lay here until some day arrives when we shall step inside this bastion of literature at 698 Mass. Ave. and come across pages waiting patiently to be seen, read, and turned.

Rodney’s Bookstore will shut down its shop in Cambridge’s Central Square at the end of October, this year 2020. It intends to later reopen elsewhere which I reckon will indeed happen, but who’s to say when and where, in this city of gentrifying development and storefronts? When later does indeed come, I’ll think back to Rodney’s erudite charm, dingy elegance, and central place in the Commonwealth’s capital.

See your book-stacked floors, chairs, and shelves again when later finally comes.


Video filmed and edited by Ramón Galván with some camera shots by Marina DeFrates

Music composed by Jacob Lurye.


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