The Tomes, They Are a-Changing

Many bibliophiles regard chains like Bookstar, Borders and Barnes & Noble as the Great Satan. They are put off by the supermarketlike layout, the uninspired service and the rows and rows given over to romance and self-help dreck--and even more, one suspects, to the lack of quaint atmosphere.

If you try to tell such a person that this can be a reasonable trade-off for finding the book you want at a discount price--be it Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me or Melville's Omoo or The City of God by St. Augustine--you feel like you've got the word "Philistine" tattooed on your forehead.

"I recognize the utility" of book chains, admits Gayle Shanks, owner of Tempe's Changing Hands Book Store, grudgingly. "They're fine if you want clerks who wouldn't know Melville from . . . well, if you asked them for The Confidence-Man, they'd probably send you to the business section."

The "anti-chain" movement isn't without a point--some chains, like Waldens or B. Dalton, really are contemptible, and the charm of a good indie bookstore can't be denied. Changing Hands, one of the Valley's best, is happily--some might say Quixotically--expanding. It's opening a new location at 6428 South McClintock in Tempe; the grand opening runs from Friday through Sunday.

"It's going to be unlike any other bookstore in Arizona," Shanks insists. "We're going to mix new, used and sale books on the same shelves. We could have a first-edition hardcover right next to a mass-market paperback."

The new store will also be big on atmosphere--the walls have been decorated by the muralist James O'Connor--and just plain big: It's about three times the size of the well-loved current store at 414 South Mill. "It's huge, and it's really beautiful," says Shanks.

An admirable slate of festivities and hoopla accompanies the grand opening, starting at 10 a.m. Friday, May 1, and continuing through Sunday, May 3, including:

* A food buffet/book signing from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday by cookbook author Hallie Harron (Vegetarian Times Low-Fat and Fast Asian).

* A Maypole-raising and dance from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, to give a properly pagan springtime blessing to the new store.

* A "book brigade" relay run throughout Saturday afternoon, which will transport a volume hand-to-hand from the Mill Avenue store to the new site. This commemorates a similar "human chain" used when Changing Hands moved, 24 years ago, from Fifth Street to the Mill location.

--M. V. Moorhead

Changing Hands: 966-0203. Regular hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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M.V. Moorhead
Contact: M.V. Moorhead