A year ago today, I packed up The Hoopty, two dogs and two cats and rolled 752 miles from Las Vegas to Denver. I’ve fallen in love with my new home and the exploration process this past year has been nothing short of a comedy of errors. One way streets, alley garages, recycling bins…SNOW. Christ on toast – you people really can’t drive on snow, y’know? All the more reason to stay at home with a book.
I love the smell of books. The sound of a cracking spine and the blurry, ring-shaped watermarks left on the covers. The way an entire corner of a book will curl back after being jammed onto an ill-sized bookshelf and how you have to peel each page apart the next time you read it.
More importantly, I love used books. I’ve long held that when you pick up a used book, you’re getting the wisdom and life experiences of the readers that came before you. I always wonder about the person whose name is scribed in pencil on the inside cover, especially cherishing that cursive characteristic of when men and women all were taught to write a certain way on ruled paper.
I stumbled across Mutiny Now Art, Books and Coffeehere in Denver about a month after I’d arrived. Its storefront perched innocuously on the corner of Broadway and Ellsworth, I floated in when I had some time to kill prior to a blind date at Michelangelo’s across the street. There behind the counter, a man with a salt-and-pepper pompadour and Buddy Holly glasses smiled at me and said “welcome.” I’ve felt welcome there ever since.
Meet the man behind the glasses: Jack Jensen. Proprietor, artist and admitted asshole. (On the latter, I beg to differ.) Mutiny Now is a Denver gem: used books across the broadest spectrum you could imagine, classic vinyl and walls lined with thought-provoking eye candy. From admitted bibliophiles to ardent devotees of the bodice-ripper genre, Jack Jensen’s built an artistic empire with something for everyone. Well, almost everyone.
If you’re looking for the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection – fuck off. Save that treasure A Million Little Pieces (which he proudly displays with the Oprah sticker on the cover on a storefront display when he can wrangle a copy – a disc-shaped middle finger to the icon’s discerning taste in literature). Popular fiction is a rare find at Mutiny Now.
Instead, what you will find is a treasure trove of art in words nestled amongst a coffee bar (with sub-*bucks pricing) and an eclectic assortment of pop art that beckons your glance from walls on all sides.
I stopped by the store last week to speak with Jack and learn more about his little book nook. Little did I know it’s not so little:
- A larger philosophy section than the Tattered Cover
- The largest collection of art & art technique titles in Denver, if not the state
- The single largest collection of Black Studies titles in the state
- The largest selection of romance titles in the state
- Many of his sections offer more titles than the Denver Public Library
Holy shit. No shit?
Mutiny Now earned its spot on my One Year Denver Anniversary Edition of Things that Don’t Suck column because it’s the first place I ever felt at home when I arrived in my new city. Whether I’m looking for a Stephen King title that I have somehow not read or I don’t know what I’m looking for at all, I go see Jack. He’s the real deal in customer service. Tell him what you like, love and hate and he’ll open your eyes to titles that will blow your mind. When’s the last time you got service like that at one of the corporate book behemoths?
There’s a single reason, however, that this place doesn’t suck: it’s not trying to be anything except exactly what it is. A bookstore, a refuge for those who want to use all five of their senses at once, a gallery that embraces artists and a cultural concierge at the helm to help you navigate. Simply stated, sheep don’t shop here.
I think this is the first time I’ve ever incited mutiny in an effort to get people on a ship. I know that the Kindle and the new Nook have techies all up in arms about the best new way to read a book, but I’ll tell ya:
You can all take your Kindles and whatnot and shove them someplace highly inappropriate.
You can’t crack the spine on a Kindle. The batteries on a book never go dead. The weight of a Kindle always feels the same. If someone else touches your Kindle, I’ll be you cry “thief.” Books are meant to be touched, read, cracked, dog-eared and shared. They’re a legacy. They’re like a dollar bill: one of the rare chances we have in life to hold something, if only for a little while, that’s taken a journey and traveled places we could never imagine.
Tell Jack that The Redhead says hi if you stop by.
Mutiny Now Art, Books & Coffee
2 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80209-1506
Hours: 11 AM – 6 PM daily (M-Sun) for the holidays / closed Sundays on regular schedule
- Book Acquisitions: Jack gets most of his stock from estate and private library sales, but if you’ve got something interesting, give him a call. He’d be happy to have a look.
- New Books: Yep, he’s got ’em. Look for selected titles from greats like Charles Bukowski under glass at the front of the shop (along with a pretty damn complete collection of paperback Peanuts comics!)
- Artists: Mutiny Now does gallery showings! He’d like to express that his store is your canvas and you’re not going to be looking at commissions that will make you wonder why you do what you do. Interested in showing? Give him a call. It’s your show. (He’s been showing art in Denver since 1979!)
- Pulp Fiction: Before your next trip, stop by the store and grab some pulp for the plane, train or automobile. Most mass market paperback fiction titles are a mind-blowing $3 each and there’s always a “blowout” section up front with tons of kickass titles you wanted to grab but never bought.
- Out of Print: Where else are you going to find literary tidbit that the behemoths don’t/won’t/can’t carry? Stop by and tell Jack what you’re looking for. For example: a guy came into Mutiny Now looking for Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and was treated to a shelf housing over twenty-two different Sinclair titles. Read more “weird stuff.” He’s also great with tracking down titles if it’s not in stock.
- The Holidays: Check out the art. If you have a love for Warhol and disdain for anything Georgia O’Keefe, I’m bettin’ you’ll find something you like.
*All images in this post are copyrighted by Jack Jensen and used with his explicit permission. Don’t be an asshole. Jack’s happy to share his art with you – don’t copy the images or use them elsewhere without his permission.