The El Pendulo bookstore chain is one of the great pleasures of living in Mexico City. As the neighborhood bookstore vanishes north of the border, the American reader can’t help but wonder how El Pendulo has managed to stay successful in a rapidly changing publishing world. Some of it has to do with diversifying beyond just books: like Barnes & Noble, El Pendulo will sell you a wacky novelty gift if that’s what you’re looking for (they also run restaurant-cafes at most branches, and have a little concert venue in La Roma). But their success also seems to have something to do with capturing the spirit of the city of Fuentes, of Paz, the city where Bolaño traipsed around with his ne’er-do-well friends, poor, righteous, and itching for a literary spat.

And yet, in the U.S., so many bookstores that captured the spirit of their own literary communities are long gone.

On June 9th, the Condesa Pendulo will be celebrating the chain’s 20th anniversary with a “Liberacion colectiva de libros.” Chilango magazine says that means that they’ll be letting 1,000 books loose in the wild somehow, each with a stamp that reads, “This is a free book. Read it and return it to another public place.”

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