By Lauren Foliart
City on a Hill Press Reporter

<div style="float: right; clear: right; text-align: right; width: 300px; padding: 5px; margin-left: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;"><img alt="" src="img/literaryguillotine2.jpg" style="margin-bottom: 5px; border: 1px solid #000000;" /><br /><img alt="" src="img/literaryguillotine4.jpg" style="margin-bottom: 5px; border: 1px solid #000000;" /><br /><img alt="" src="img/literaryguillotine3.jpg" style="margin-bottom: 5px; border: 1px solid #000000;" /></div>

<p>At 204 Locust St. resides a discreet, 1,500-square-foot shop with a literary explosion of titles, authors, and genres. Mounds of books overlap the ceiling-high bookshelves, leaving a labyrinth of texts in which to get lost. </p>

<p>Traditional, humble and quaint, the Literary Guillotine takes pride not in the new hip author displayed in the front window, but rather the eclectic intellectual genres and innovative minds filling the shelves. Walk left through the front door and behind a desk framed by the book stacks sits the man behind the Guillotine, David S. Watson. </p>

<p>“It’s not always like this, you know,” Watson said, referring to the cluttered state of his store. “The books that are on the floor in stacks are the books for classes. Once the quarter starts winding down that will all be gone.”</p>

<p>As many students know, the Literary Guillotine sells a great number of books for the courses at UC Santa Cruz. While extraneous to departments such as sciences and mathematics, students of philosophy, anthropology, literature and sociology are accustomed to spending a significant amount of money here every quarter.</p>

<p>But not all students realize that their money sustains a business independently making an effort to revive the passion of intellect. </p>

<p>As a student of anthropology at UCSC in the late 1980s, Watson was first exposed to the idea of an academic bookstore when Bookshop Santa Cruz used to sell texts for courses on campus. After they stopped, Watson felt the need for a place downtown where students would come to buy books for class but also be exposed to a plethora of alternative academic literature. </p>

<p>“I opened the shop right after the earthquake,” Watson said. “Before that it was just a mail-order business, but I decided there was room for an academic bookstore in Santa Cruz.”</p>

<p>Prior to the store opening in September 1990, Watson’s business was strictly based out of his catalog “David S. Watson: Rare Books.” An image from the cover of “The Literary Guillotine,” a 1903 book of literary criticism, graced the front of his catalogue. After people started referring to his catalog as “The Literary Guillotine,” Watson decided it would be a suitable name for his new store.</p>

<p>“I started the store with just doing used and out-of-print academic material of all sorts,” Watson said. “Then I slowly brought in new books just from academic presses, from university presses primarily, and that got the attention of some faculty on campus because those kind of books weren’t being represented in Santa Cruz.”</p>

<p>The Literary Guillotine provides both students and the community with an alternative outlet for literature. Watson purchases books from independent publishers, and steers away from large companies selling books to chains like Borders or Barnes and Noble. </p>

<p>“I have over 500 independent suppliers for the books we stock here,” Watson said, “and that’s a lot to manage. Most people don’t want to deal with it. They want to centralize their buying so the paperwork is a lot easier to process, but it creates a certain level of censorship.”</p>

<p>While this means more time and effort for Watson — he files through hundreds of catalogs, only ordering two or three books from each — it gives his store the independence and erudition that scholars find hard to locate in other mainstream or local bookstores. </p>

<p>Watson works personally with Cambridge University Press independent bookstore sales representative Michael Baron in order to know the latest academic book selection and titles. </p>

<p>“In comparison with more general interest or neighborhood-type independent bookstores, David has this specific thing that he does with a great deal of precision, care and passion,” Baron said. </p>

<p>The diversification of texts and writings Watson seeks out for the Literary Guillotine is a rare gem in a secluded city like Santa Cruz.</p>

<p>“I think it’s the most intellectual piece of real estate in Santa Cruz,” said Jody Greene, associate professor of literature at UCSC. “I can buy the latest book by any major intellectual published in English at the Guillotine, and it makes it possible for me to live in a small seaside town like Santa Cruz.”</p>

<p>The array of books flooding the shelves of Watson’s store reflects the passion and purpose he finds in academics. Even though he provides a place for collegiate course texts, Watson wants his store to be a source for students to further their education without limitation.</p>

<p>“I think for those students that still care about books, which there are still a number of, they have a positive experience when they come down here,” Watson said. “Most bookstores like this are starting to disappear and the ones that do still exist, they don’t have the depth of material that we stock in here.”</p>

<p>Independent bookstores like the Literary Guillotine are slowly becoming harder to find even in places like Santa Cruz, making the need for stores such as Watson’s even more important, Baron said.</p>

<p>“What David carries in his store is not just some other bookstore. He puts [the books] together for a specific reason and he wants to make these books available for a particular reason,” Baron said. “I think the culture in the store helps students become excited and have a passion about what these books mean.”</p>

<p>Forrest Robinson, a professor of American studies at UCSC, has been ordering his course books from the Literary Guillotine for almost 10 years. Wanting to provide Watson’s store with student business, Robinson also hopes to expose students to the essence of the store.</p>

<p>“A university town needs a store like this,” Robinson said. “[The Literary Guillotine] is not full of commercial publications — they have scholarly books, making them extremely well-rounded, and it’s owned and run by a man that truly loves books.”</p>

<p>Professors on campus express their gratitude toward Watson and the resources he provides the academic community by sending their students to buy texts at his store.</p>

<p>While textbooks started as a small offshoot of Watson’s out-of-print bookstore, in the past five years course books have accounted for about 50 percent of the store’s sales.</p>

<p>“We get orders for between 80 and 100 classes each quarter. It has been a slow progression, but that’s where we’ve gotten at this point,” Watson said. “We started with about half a dozen, and now it’s a lot and it’s keeping us afloat.”</p>

<p>On top of all the work in running an independent bookstore and the role it plays in the functioning of the university, Watson started a nonprofit publishing company, the New Pacific Press, out of the Literary Guillotine in 2003.</p>

<p>Publishing the work of local UC faculty, the press reflects Watson’s values by furthering intellectual stimulation in an independent and alternative way. In addition, the relationships he holds with the authors of these books are personal and collaborative in producing material that he would normally seek to distribute in his own store. </p>

<p>UCSC professor of sociology John Brown Childs published the book “Hurricane Katrina” through the New Pacific Press and speaks highly of Watson.</p>

<p>“My relationship with David is almost an old-fashioned interaction that you find with classic writers,” Childs said. “All working together and knowing each other — it’s not like you’re working with some big corporation.”</p>

<p>Childs finished the book only a few months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Watson published it five months after that — fast for the publishing world. In addition, Watson took all the proceeds, except for the costs that went into making the book, and donated them to the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund. </p>

<p>“He has intellectual integrity and spirit,” Childs said. “I’m not saying there aren’t other people out there in the publishing world that don’t have that, but finding them is not so easy. Even if they are out there, they’re working for big companies that have certain policies around gaining profit.” </p>

<p>Rob Wilson, UCSC professor of literature and co-editor of “The Worlding Project,” a book conceived alongside New Pacific Press, prizes the fact that Watson worked collaboratively with numerous outlets to produce a substantial text that can now be found around the country, but still reflects the unique values of Santa Cruz as a whole. </p>

<p>“David got together a circle of people to start discussion about organizing a press,” Wilson said. “Then we started to think about doing a set of books and that would be reflective of some strengths in Santa Cruz, sort of between literature, politics and cultural studies.”</p>

<p>Watson coordinated with North Atlantic Press in Berkeley, which eventually led to the book being featured in Random House, a catalog that sells books all around the world, Wilson said. </p>

<p>Nonetheless, with big name companies coming into the picture for distribution purposes, Watson maintains the independent local community he finds important in the overall workings of his company.</p>

<p>“Being able to link up with Random House is quite amazing,” Childs said. “He’s able to effectively move around in the publishing world and yet maintain his very own distinctive, nonprofit, community-oriented identity.”</p>

<p>The solidified principles Watson holds for himself and his business radiate in all his efforts. Adding to the academic, local and professional community, his position is ultimately irreplaceable. </p>

<p>“Santa Cruz is a very distinctive place — it’s local on one level and very global on the other. It’s cosmic, it’s political and it’s spiritual,” Wilson said. “It’s like the holy cross, Santa Cruz, but it’s also the holy crossing of border lands, south, east, north, west, hip, straight and so on. David is a person that reflects and wants to embody all that, and his bookstore and press are something very distinctive and very wonderful.” <br />
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