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Bookends: Two Women, One Enduring Friendship [Hardcover]

Leona Rostenberg , Madeleine Stern

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Book Description

30 July 2001
The rare book dealers who delighted readers with the history of their bookselling days in "Old Books, Rare Friends" now offer the other side of their story -- an intimate look at the joys of a relationship that has lasted more than half a century. When their friendship and business partnership began in the 1940s, Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern were pioneers in a man's world. Now approaching their nineties, the duo, who -- among their many discoveries -- unearthed Louisa May Alcott's pseudonymous blood-and-thunder stories, remains a vibrant institution in the rare book trade, even as the Internet changes their field -- and their community -- forever. After publishing "Old Books, Rare Friends," Rostenberg and Stern received a flood of fan mail asking about their personal lives, and they have responded with poignant honesty and the warmth for which they are famous, as they reflect on their lives and their remarkable partnership. "Bookends" recounts their fascinating histories: family backgrounds, business adventures, the men they did not marry, and their approach to the bittersweet trials of aging. More than just a dual memoir, "Bookends" is also a chronicle of the cultural changes of twentieth-century American life and a loving farewell to the golden age of book collecting. Filled with wisdom and humor, this volume is a tribute to Rostenberg and Stern's passion for the written word -- and for life itself. Catching us off guard with their candor, they offer their insights regarding their business, their way of life, and their worldview. Above all, they present the story of a special relationship. At a time when people find it increasingly difficult to connect, here wehave the seamless story of a shared life. It is the unique product of an earlier time, yet it is a timeless reflection on the very nature of friendship. Though their fantastic partnership is un-reproducible, the ideal they have established, for the integration of one life so completely with another, contains lessons for all of us. Without husband or children they created a loving home when this was uncharted territory for women. They nurtured a business and life partnership that has lasted more than half a century and has only gotten stronger with time. When the passing years began to claim one's hearing and the other's sight, they became each other's eyes and ears. A meditation on aging and togetherness, this book is also the narrative of two pioneering single, Jewish women making their way in tandem through a world largely organized to keep them in their place. It is a gentle, wise story, told in their inimitable style, sparse, unadorned, and honest. Their affirmations supersede their uncertainties. As they write, "Bookends support books and come in pairs...If the word encapsulates our past, it looks also to the future, and to the books -- lived together, written together -- that will follow." They confront the challenges of aging in a no-nonsense tone, and, in facing them, give us an ideal of enduring human friendship that can't help but touch the heart.

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Nicholas A. Basbanes author of "A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books" and "Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture"In the world of antiquarian books, Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern are living treasures, and a new memoir from them relating their further adventures in the trade is cause for great celebration. May there be many more.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Old Books, Rare Friends" is a better read 6 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
If you haven't already read "Old Books, Rare Friends" by the same authors, then you may enjoy this title.
However, if you've already read "Old Books, Rare Friends," you'll probably be very disappointed. "Bookends" is a much shorter work, and much of it simply repeats "Old Books, Rare Friends."
"Bookends" leaves out most of the stories concerning the authors' book collecting and instead focuses on their relationships with others (e,g,., men they didn't marry, mothers, dogs).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare books and an even rarer friendship 5 Sep 2012
By Lyric - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lovely book about two women pioneers -- two women who entered young adulthood at a time when the majority of women were destined for a life of marriage and children and not working outside the home. Both women were the products of Jewish families of means so it would have been easy for both of them to accommodate to the expected norms of their background and society at that time. Instead -- they chose to pursue education and intellectual pursuits. At the time they became antiquarin book dealers, they entered a field that was "men only." Undeterred by obstacles they forged ahead and became very successful in that field because they were so very good at what they did.
This is a lively and lovely look at not only the evolution of women in 20th Century America but also the story of a deep friendship -- of commitment to an ideal and commitment to one another. You'll like having spent time in the company of these two women who in their own quiet way helped to change the way women were viewed in business dominated by men.
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Vital Women, One Unforgettable Read 7 Jun 2012
By carolinMn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a joy this book was for someone who loves books and spirited, vital old women! Had seen them interviewed many years ago and was so impressed that I ordered this book when I stumbled on it. About half of the book provides a clear picture of what it was like to be young, bright, female and Jewish (albeir privileged)in the first half of the twentieth century and the barriers to be surmounted. The other half is about their profession (rare book collectors and sellers). I learned a lot about that profession, but was also fascinated by their account of several literary mysteries solved (most notably, discovering works not previously attributed to Louisa May Alcott and shedding new light on her life). I will not forget them or their story.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressionistic but generally interesting memories of a long life with books 9 Dec 2012
By S. Smith-Peter - Published on Amazon.com
These intertwined memoirs cover the lives of Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern, who blazed a new path for women in the book business. The stories are more sketches than portraits, although I enjoyed most the section on book selling, including a listing of all the ways in which the bookstores of their past are now just memories.

I suspect that the reviewer who states that Old Books, Rare Friends is better probably has a point, although I haven't read that book. There is a sense here of oft-told tales. Still, it's worth reading for the part on their lives together selling books.
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