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May 7, 1998

Barnes & Noble to buy Lucy Parsons Center
Takeover will save left-wing bookshop from eviction

CAMBRIDGE — Barnes & Noble yesterday announced the purchase of the Lucy Parsons Center, the left-wing bookstore that has for years been a fixture of Central Square in Cambridge. Officials at the large bookselling chain are hoping that they can boost sales at the Center, which had faced eviction due to skyrocketing rents and sagging revenues.

“There’s a sign on the Center that reads ‘You Can’t Evict the Spirit,’” said Barnes & Noble CEO Charles Dane. “You can, however, repackage the Spirit to make it more friendly to consumers, and that’s what we intend to do at the new Lucy Parsons Center.”

As such, the ‘Barnes & Noble at the Lucy Parsons Center’ will take the Center’s hardcore leftist themes in and move them in a new direction. For example, the store will now feature an ‘Espresso Bar of the People,’ brewing only coffee that has been picked by collectives of Peruvian guerrillas. Faux woodcuts of Marxist authors like Antonio Gramsci and Che Guevara will adorn the walls. The store will also feature Barnes & Noble’s familiar oak paneling, but it will be billed as ‘Proletarian Paneling’ and come exclusively from oak trees hewn down by working men in acts of sensuous and unalienated labor.

The Center will also offer an expanded inventory of books, most of which will continue to have revolutionary themes but with a more popular twist. John Grisham has agreed to launch his new Communist-themed novel The Apparatchik at the Center, and staffers are eagerly awaiting Sue Grafton’s new mystery, I is for Inevitable Class Conflict. Other featured books will include The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Revolutionary Cadres and romantic best-seller The Bridges of Shansi Province.

Reaction from Lucy Parsons customers toward the merger has been generally positive. “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you or me,” said longtime customer Susan 334. “He said, ‘don’t mourn for me — check out all the Books on Tape!’ I’m hopeful that Barnes & Noble is finally going to put the ‘materialism’ back into dialectical materialism.”

Other customers are wary of the change, however. Brad Lowmanski, a 23-year-old machinist and Amercian Communist Party member, noted that “the rate of surplus value, i.e. the degree of exploitation of labor-power, and the value of labor power, i.e. the amount of the necessary labor-time, being given, it is self-evident that the greater the variable capital, the greater would be the mass of value produced and of the surplus-value. Plus, I don’t want them to change their liberal return policy.”

Dane of Barnes & Noble is tired of this sort of grumbling. “If anybody’s a friend of total revolution, I am,” he said. “My accountant did the books for the Marxist-Leninist Union des Jeunesses Communistes during the May ‘68 uprising in France. Also, I won Leonard Peltier’s freedom in a poker game once, but then I lost it going for an inside straight.”

In related news, rival bookstore chain Borders announced that they were considering acquiring the Revolution Bookstore in Harvard Square. Said a spokesman for Borders: “We hope to offer even more bomb-throwing leftist fare, like a children’s section featuring Barney Frolics on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”

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