Go to the corner of 13th and Sansom streets. Ignore the high-end bars and J. Crew-clad 20-somethings. Open the creaky door at 110A S. 13th St. and mount the narrow, two-story flight of stairs.
Pity the 20-somethings down below — you’re in for a good evening.
What will you find atop the narrow stairway? I have no idea. Will you hear poetry ranted in Romanian? Bursts of laughter from a comedy routine? The chilled-out sound of local Jazz? Or silence, which is still a rush at Robin’s Bookstore?
Robin’s Bookstore and Moonstone Art Center hosts over 200 events each year. Stop by anytime — you’ve got a 50/50 chance of finding 40-odd people doing something awesome. With a $5 to $10 cover charge, you can easily skip thirsty Thursday.
Owner Larry Robin, who’s grandfather founded Robin’s Bookstore in 1936, can barely keep track of all the action he hosts. When he tries to count the past week’s events, he runs out of fingers before he hits “Friday.”
“We started this month with a history writer who is a violinist. On Wednesday we did an event at the historical society called the accidental slave owner. Thursday we started our series called class warfare in Philadelphia. On Friday, we had a jazz concert,” Robin said.
Let’s say you’re unlucky. You walk under a ladder en-route to Robin’s. When you get up those stairs, the place is empty. Maybe thirsty Thursday after all, right? Wrong.
“We have a really interesting, somewhat eclectic collection of books. A little heavy in literature and poetry and African American studies — everything we have is half price,” Robin said.
Robin means what he said. Lying on a wobbly desk near the entrance was a book titled “Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut’s Life and Novels” by Gregory Sumner.
Sumner’s book comes out Nov. 8 — it was Sept. 24. Black block letters on the cover read “pre-publication review copy.” I challenge you to try to find that at Barnes and Noble.
But odds are that if you stop by Robin’s bookstore, you won’t have to “resort” to browsing books. Here’s a list of cool stuff going on at Robin’s this semester, and nothing’s over $10.
Event times and other info will be posted on the Moonstone Arts Center’s October calendar soon. Check it out at https://www.moonstoneartscenter.org/events-calendar/.
Friday, Oct. 7
“Martin Woodside has just edited an anthology of Romanian literature and poetry. The poems will be read in both Romanian and English,” Robin said.
Wednesday, Oct. 12
“We’ve starting doing a monthly comedy piece, first Wednesday of every month. Where people need the most help is when they’re starting. If you think you have something you need to say, you need a place where you can say it. I can supply a venue,” Robin said.
Friday, Oct. 14
“Our monthly Jazz — two bands, BYOB, cheap date — and [the musicians’] taste in music is phenomenal,” Robin said. “It’s the atmosphere of a bar with the respect of a concert hall.”
Monday, Oct. 26
“I’m really happy about Oct. 26 when Nelson George, who’s both a novelist and music critic comes over,” Robin said. “He wrote “The Death of Rhythm and Blues and The Plot Against Hip Hop” and a series of mystery novels. And he’s a consultant for Def Jam records.”
Author Gregory Sumner
Tuesday, Nov. 15
“The New Biography of Kurt Vonnegut is coming out November and the writer is coming over to visit,” Robin said.
Carl O’Donnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.