In January Passages bookshop in Portland, Oregon was broken in to and by burgerlers, who stole over 100 rare books, including complete lyrics by singer-songwriter Patti Smith. Many of the pieces were irreplaceable and the store’s owner, David Abel, has been forced to shut shop for two weeks. The news was reported by Oregon Live, and it wasn’t long before Patti Smith herself got in contact with the store.
“The name didn’t register, I just heard ‘Smith’, and the caller explained that she had seen Doug Perry’s piece about the incident in the Oregonian,” Abel said on Facebook this week. “In the week after the story appeared, I’d gotten a few crank calls and emails, so I was a little wary. But when she said she had read that one of her books had been taken, and that she couldn’t replace the missing Warhol but would be happy to send a box of signed copies of her books, I realised that it was Patti Smith calling.”
Abel said he was “stunned” to receive the call and said “That’s so kind.” Smith replied: “Well, I really love bookstores.” Abel has since received a box full of signed first editions of Smith’s books, which are now on sale. “I’m thinking of them as kindness copies,” he said.
Coincidentally, it has just been announced that Smith is the recipient of the 2020 PEN America literary service award, which is given to “a cultural luminary whose work helps us understand and interpret the human condition in powerful and original ways”. The free-speech organisation said it was recognising Smith “for her prolific and multifaceted career, across which she has written arrestingly lucid memoirs and poetry; paired vital literary and raw punk sensibilities in her music; and, through it all, demonstrated an unflinching determination to protest injustice and speak truth.”