I confess: I grew up in big-box bookstores. In New Jersey in the 1990’s, monolithic Barnes & Nobles and Borders Books had already bought out most local bookworm haunts. When I had extra pocket money I would take a ride to the mall and lose myself in a veritable labyrinth of discount bestsellers. I loved how cavernous the stores were: ceilings to the sky, endless square-footage in which to hide from my mom.
Becoming a writer morphed my feeling for these stores. The likelihood of one of my books, or the incredible work of any of my friends or colleagues ending up next to a Nora Roberts novel in the lobby of a Borders? Next to nil. So imagine my bliss when I walked into Fleeting Pages, a local bookstore / co-op / writers’ collective lodged in the empty space left by Borders Books. Located at 5986 Penn Circle South, Fleeting Pages is an oasis in the arena of glaring concrete that is Penn Circle South.
Seriously, it really feels like an oasis: cool and open, the space feels refreshingly sparse without Borders’ characteristic “30% OFF” and “NEW TITLES” signs. In Fleeting Pages, everything is a new title: poetry chapbooks by Pittsburgh writers; a collection of books by Wayward Press, which illustrate travel destinations through writing by local authors; a section of graphic novels that you wouldn’t find next to the latest Marvel issue in a comics store. For a young writer like myself, the section of Fleeting Pages devoted to literary journals was particularly useful: usually, I would have to order a copy of WEAVE or Falling Star Magazine online. Instead, I grabbed a stack of comics and journals and chapbooks and sat at a long dining-room table in the corner, poring over the writing of people who live in my zip code but whose names I’ve never heard. If nothing else, Fleeting Pages is a somewhat rude awakening: before spending an afternoon there, I had no idea how much of a writers’ community there really is in Pittsburgh.
And isn’t that what book stores should do, in the end? Connect customers to other readers, other writers. Fleeting Pages does just that, hosting readings and workshops and serving as a space for local artists. Apart from its collection of tables and chairs that lines the windows and a Tazza D’Oro coffee shop extension, the store has a screening room for films. Upcoming events include a writing workshop hosted by WEAVE literary magazine (Weds. May 18, 7 pm); a reading by writers from Literazzi (Mon. May 23, 7 pm); and a brainstorming meetup for artists of all mediums (Tues. May 24, 6.30 pm). Fleeting Pages is a brief interlude in the Penn Circle South norm; events (and the store) end June 1st.
One of the most interesting things about Fleeting Pages is also the most jarring: it is very clear that you are in what was, mere weeks ago, a fully-operating big-box book store. One of Borders’ slogans is still painted on the wall, half torn-off to make room for a shelf of donated books. It says, “Borders is exactly what you want it to be: a place to find what you’re looking for or to discover something exciting and unexpected.” These words are remarkably apropos to Fleeting Pages: walking in, I was looking to feel refreshed. I walked out with a long list of books to read, wondering how many of their authors I’ve seen on the street.