Jason Rosette documents his time as a bookseller on the streets of New York City. Rosette takes us into a world of book lovers who set up tables on the streets of Greenwich Village and sell used books to passers by.
Rosette, a graduate of NYU, was down on his luck and took his book collection out to the sidewalk to make some money. He documented his experience along with the lives of several others who set up shop each day, making an unbelievable $150 to $200 per day. These were the days before New York’s so-called “quality of life” beautification, when sidewalk commerce was open to anyone with a milk crate and a couple of worn paperbacks. Surprisingly, many of these entrepreneurs not only made a tidy profit but also boasted an eclectic selection of books, with some displaying up to three tables of merchandise. We follow them as they hunt for their merchandise at New Jersey garage sales, library sell-offs and even in the good old garbage. As the Giuliani administration beefed up its campaign to rid the streets of undesirable elements, we see first-hand how these humble merchants were harrassed by police or out right forced off the streets. Rosette uses a variety of mediums or, as he puts it, “whatever was available and at hand” to take the viewer into the lives of folks just trying to make a buck at something they love. Book Wars paints a portrait of the new New York and raises questions about what quality of life really means to people in an urban center.