Monday, January 21, 2013

Meet Ben McFall, Fiction Manager at The Strand

The Strand may or may not be "home to 18 miles of books," but it can sure feel that way. Entering the world-famous bookstore, at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, you're immediately struck by how massive it is. Its sheer size can make finding a particular book an overwhelming task. So out of necessity - or perhaps sheer exasperation - you seek out a store employee. And if you're trying to find a work of fiction, the store employee to seek out is Ben McFall.

Be sure to ask Ben! Ben McFall, fiction manager at Strand Bookstore.
Photo credit: Julie Glassberg for the New York Times

Ben McFall is the fiction manager at The Strand. For 35 years, he has sorted, priced, shelved, retrieved, and set aside for customers countless works of fiction and poetry. Even though the inventory in his section runs in the thousands, McFall is able to mentally keep track of everything. Modestly explaining this miraculous ability, McFall told the New York Times in an interview, "It seems like a feat, but if it were your house, you'd know where things are, too."

His vast knowledge has made McFall a much sought-after expert. So, walking around the bookstore, he suitably wears a name tag that says: "Benjamin. Ask Me." And ask him, people do. All kinds of people - from students to professors, to published authors and journalists, to book collectors and fellow store clerks - find McFall to get his input on matters related to fiction and poetry and The Strand's selection of these popular genres. "If you really need to know," said book collector Llew Almeida to the New York Times, "you go to The Strand and ask for Ben."

The 64-year-old McFall has been at The Strand since 1978. (Before then, he was at a bookstore in Connecticut.) Over the years, he's encountered many big names in arts and literature. Some worked alongside him at the bookstore, such as writer and critic Luc Sante ("He did paperbacks all by himself," McFall told the Times). Others were routine customers, such as author and filmmaker Susan Sontag and novelist David Markson. And some stopped in and got McFall's help specifically, like actress Cicely Tyson, entertainer Lena Horne, and newsman Tom Brokaw.

Mr. Ben McFall is undoubtedly "the dean of the clerks and the institutional memory of the fiction section" at The Strand. To read more about him, check out the New York Times' profile of him HERE.

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