1. This is not what a book warehouse should look like.
But it is the scene after Hurricane Sandy flooded the Red Hook warehouse where Kicks Books and Norton Records stored their books and records.
Miriam Linna, founding owner of the publishing house and co-owner of Norton Records with her husband, Billy Miller, was devastated when she lost an estimated 15,000 books from the company as well as several thousand books from her personal collection. Norton Records lost about 250,000 albums, she said.
2. Linna founded Kicks Books in 2009 to fulfill a promise to publish Sweets and Other Stories, the book her friend Andre Williams wrote while he was getting sober — “a wild and wooly story,” she said. Kicks has now published six titles, including this one:
Linna said Kicks Books was founded with the same spirit that bore Norton Records back in 1986: to put out “material that we know is important” and “that nobody else is doing.”
The paperback collector also liked the idea of publishing printed material, “something these days that people could wrap their little hands around.”
3. After Sandy, Linna didn’t just have her lost merchandise to worry about — her collection of blue “nightstand” paperbacks was also doused in hurricane.
Linna keeps a small part of her collection — published generally in the mid-20th century (“I really cut off before the ’70s”) — in her home, but the bulk of it was in the warehouse, and “thousands of books were underwater.”
She said members of the Brooklyn Historical Society swept in to help, encouraging her to try to save as many as possible (she thinks about a quarter of the total books were pulled from the flooded warehouse). “They were important to [me]; they weren’t important to anyone else,” Linna said of her collection of thousands of titles, including a large selection of paperbacks dealing with juvenile delinquents, or “J.D. books,” as she called them.
Her friend the writer Harlan Ellison, who published a book called Sex Gang under the pseudonym Paul Merchant in the ’50s that Kicks republished stories from, would call Linna in the middle of the night to check on the status of her collection. The cheap paperbacks weren’t meant to stand the test of time, let alone the test of a hurricane, but Ellison was adamant about saving them; during these late-night phone calls, Linna recalled, “He would say, ‘Now DRY THEM.’”
Days after the hurricane, the house Linna shares with Miller was filled with books lying open, soggy pages flapping before the fans.
4. You can’t resell a book that’s been through a flood, but Kicks Books has been able to weather the storm financially because Linna’s printer reprinted a lot of books at cost.
5. Volunteers aided Norton and Kicks with the cleanup. This box of vinyls needed help:
Linna said the vinyl was surprisingly hardy — the soggy jackets and labels were hurting the records more than the seawater. “This kind of situation has not ever happened in recorded history,” she said, word-playfully.
6. They had to meticulously clean the records they pulled from the warehouse.
The labels and the jackets of the records couldn’t be saved, but the vinyls themselves were so sturdy that you can buy a discounted HURRICANE SANDY SURVIVOR PACK from Norton Records.
“People kinda dig the fact that they’ve been baptized in brine,” Linna said.
7. This month, after leaving them in boxes for a bit, Linna and members of the Brooklyn Historical Society are planning to take the books out of the boxes and let them bake in the August sun.
Baptized in brine, scorched in the sun.
8. The home office is now a bit overstuffed with rescued books.
When she sent the photo, Linna described the office as “Showing a bit of a mess in trying to reorganzie what was left.” Pictured above are some titles from Kicks Books (Save the Last Dance for Satan; Lord of Garbage), and some are from her personal collection (Tough Kid from Brooklyn; Girl Gangs; Children of the Dark). Made it.