Pioneer Books

The bookstore on Pioneer Street gets bigger, by Matt Caprioli

Pioneer Books is located at 289 Van Brunt Street.

The long windows pull you in from far away to the petite space about the size of a food cart. Red Hook’s only bookstore is small but mighty; with impeccable curation worthy of its name, it’s the sort of place where smart books can easily find you.

It’s also a space where you’ll frequently find people mingling with authors of fanzines, and kids exploring children’s books appropriately placed at their eye level. The bookstore carries anything that may enhance the creative process: from science and cutting edge poetry, to Jewish mysticism occult traditions.

Pioneer Works recently expanded their bookstore to include a sizable exhibition space behind the small storefront. For the new year, they also plan to host many more readings and events.

Store Manager Camille Drummond oversees the first exhibit in the new space, an ongoing project by the artist-librarian Andrew Beccone called “Reanimation Library.”

Previously housed in Proteus Gowanus and the Queens Museum, the exhibit features more than 2,000 out of print books. “The travelling collection” according to Drummond “is a living time capsule of books.”

“Reanimation Library” includes works on life science, space, and synchronized swimming, “all sorts of human phenomena and phenomena in nature,” Drummond said.

One of Drummond’s favorites is on synchronized swimming. Weighing in at 724 pages, Exploring Aquatic Art was published in 1963; the images primarily feature white smiling ladies in diving caps.

On his website, Beccone describes how each work in the library was selected: “Chosen primarily for the images that they contain, they have been culled from thrift stores, rummage sales, flea markets, municipal dumps, library sales, give-away piles, and used bookstores across the country.”

Pioneer publishing

“Pioneer Works doesn’t yet have literary arts as a discipline,” the store manager noted, “but we have an in-house press.” Their latest publication, CHARAS: The Improbable Dome Builders, follows a group of ex-cons in the 70s as they alter the living conditions of the LES following principles laid out by architect Buckminster Fuller.

Pioneer Works also has a well-received annual arts magazine, Pioneer Works Journal; previous issues have featured dialogues between marine biologists and art historians, David LaSalle and Daniel Mendelsohn, and interviews with musicians from MGMT and The Flaming Lips.

“We’re publishing a lot in-house here,” Drummond said. “And we also have a bookstore that is reflecting a lot of the thinking going on at Pioneer Works. And now with the arrival of Reanimation Library, we’re thinking how to marry all those things together to make that presence of book arts here more rooted in the mission.”

For the new year, one big step toward the curation of literary arts is a Jan 24 performance by BELLADONNA*. This is part of Pioneer Works’s new reading series called “And/With.”

BELLADONNA* is a collaborative group of multidisciplinary artists. The Jan 24 event will feature readings by Baseera Khan, Göksu Kunak, and Maryam Monalisa Gharavi.

Later in 2018, Pioneer Works will host another Press Play Fair, “an annual celebration of publishing in general,” Drummond said.

Last August, Pioneer Works saw over 80 exhibitors, from large publishers to passionate zine producers, exhibit at Pioneer Works, and they’re hoping for an even larger turn out for the all-day event this year.

Pioneer Books is located at 289 Van Brunt Street, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon – 7 pm.

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