Birthed on a bar stool less than fifty feet from its front door, Prospero’s fills an historic 1890 building originally housing a grocery store its first 20 years and a hardware store for the next 90 – very possibly the longest continually operated retail space in KC.
In the front window, a chess board awaits a pick-up game. Colored pool balls top the curving stairwell into the book cellar. Further in, rolling library ladders cross the hardwood floors, pressed-tin ceiling and exposed brick are accented with eclectic instillations, original art and curiosities from the building’s former lives.
Within an easy walk of 30 ethnic and artisan restaurants, neighborhood bars and the tree-lined streets of Volker where one can visit the Thomas Hart Benton museum, the Scottsdale brownstone once owned by Harry Truman and the Volker Mansion.
On a cold November 19th, Prospero’s opened on the anniversary of Silvia Beach’s famed Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company – the birthplace of the Moderns (Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc.). Prospero’s quickly earned a reputation as home to a significant portion of Kansas City’s literary, music and arts scene. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and like Silvia Beach, before us, who published James Joyce’s iconoclastic work Ulysses, Prospero’s launched a sister publishing house, Spartan Press, in 1998. Since then, Spartan has published over 200 books of poetry, essay, memoir and short fiction.
Prospero’s has been at the center of some of Kansas City’s most notable literary happening: setting an internationally recognized record for the longest continual poetry reading (120 hours: 5days nonstop) in 2010, co-hosting both Plaza Literary Festivals. MOST spectacularly in 2007, Prospero’s unleased a firestorm (pun intended) with co-owner, Tom Wayne’s performance art piece BOOK BURNING.
A satirical statement on a culture that landfills books by the container-load as libraries and box-chain-stores throw away perfectly good books every day. Coupled with the NEA’s survey of 25-years of American reading habits that showed dramatically falling reading rates, allowed Wayne to hold up the art-life mirror and say “You’re burning books by the way you treat them.”
The ensuing hullabaloo drew national and international media attention, including CNN Headline news, NPR, 40,000 online posts, overseas radio and major print media, leading to the NY Times flying in a writer and photographer, Dan Barry, for an above-the-fold feature in its national section. GOOGLE IT, why don’t ya?
BOOK PEOPLE are simply different from others. During its off hours, Prospero’s maintains a selection of books outside on its sidewalks 24-7 for those visiting at the nearby KU Medical Center or traveling the bus lines after hours or those simply in need of a read. Individuals are encouraged to slip $ beneath the door. In addition, Prospero’s maintains free book boxes throughout the urban core.
At Prospero’s, we believe that NO ONE should EVER be caught without a good read…
PROSPERO’s is co-owned and operated by Tom Wayne and Will Leathem, both of who live in the neighborhood AND one of whom is almost always behind the counter.
The Abaton Calendar is a resource created for and by voice talent, to help create meaningful connections and forge and maintain professional and personal relationships. (And hopefully, have a hell of a lot of fun in the process).