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Pondering Life After Death at Metrograph’s Holiday Party

The theater's holiday book fair will return this Saturday. Plus, more links for your Tuesday.

9:37 AM EST on December 12, 2023

(Hell Gate)

A couple Saturday evenings ago, I went to Metrograph's holiday book fair, but upon my arrival, I only saw some mostly empty, picked over bookshelves. The devastation, I heard, was caused by a large group of young people who had descended upon the items on sale—books and ephemera (mostly movie posters) once owned by the prolific film critic Tony Pipolo—like a horde of locusts. 

Until his passing in March, Pipolo had been a professor emeritus of film and literature at CUNY. "The first apartment that we had together was in Woodside, 51st Street, a one-bedroom apartment," Carole Pipolo, Tony's widow, told screenwriter Nick Pinkerton in an interview for Metrograph about the book sale. "Every single night when I went to bed, I would make a little prayer that that bookcase in our bedroom—the bookcase that's upstairs in my study now—would not fall on the bed. Because it was floor to ceiling books."

Most of the remaining books on sale at the fair, I noticed, carried Tony's signature. "He never lent books out to people in his adult life," Carole told Pinkerton. "When he was younger, he did and never got them back. That was when he started writing his name in the front of every book he owned."  I asked a group of excited-looking young people picking through the remnants of Pipolo's collection what brought them there, and though, like me, they hadn't known Pipolo's work in life, they were thrilled by the idea of learning from a real person's library, to see how they curated their collection for an audience of one, themselves.

I was thinking of that at the Metrograph holiday party last night as I was talking with the theater's publicist about Pipolo's books, and how it's nice to think that after you die, a group of young people who had no idea who you were in life, will excitedly pore over your treasures. I compared it to the Tom Verlaine book sale just a few months ago. "That was a lot of old rockers," piped up Screen Slate's Jon Dieringer, who said he'd walked through the sale on his way out of a film screening. This crowd was really young and hip, he said. Philip Thompson, a Brooklyn filmmaker, told me he wanted to be a film critic, like Pipolo, and we talked about what we get out of reading criticism from before our time: not timeless wisdom, necessarily, but the unlikely endurance of a singular perspective.

(Metrograph)

The fair went so well that when it returns this Saturday, December 16, sponsored by the Paris Review, it's no longer branded as solely Pipolo's library—but if you're interested, look among the books for a signature at the front: "Anthony T. Pipolo."

Will these links endure?

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