Downtown's E. M. Wolfman: 'A Wild Vortex Of Books Flying Right At You'

Downtown's E. M. Wolfman: 'A Wild Vortex Of Books Flying Right At You'Customers browse at E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore. | Photos: Lauren Parker/Hoodline
Lauren Parker
Published on April 18, 2017

The slogan on the window of E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore might seem ambitious at first glance, but given the shop's multiple roles as an event space, screening room, publisher and gallery, "A Wild Vortex Of Books Flying Right At You," might be an understatement.

Tucked into a small space on 13th Street and hidden under the shadow of a patched green awning, E.M. Wolfman sells new and used books, as well as T-shirts and original art.

The store is on a quiet block around the corner from 12th St. BART.

Despite the traditional trappings, the bookstore also supports a residency program; last year, Oakland-based poet and visual artist Shiloh Jines explored the cultural impact of the ampersand ("&"), a common typographical symbol.

So far, store owner Justin Carder, previously Pirate Store Director and Director of Publishing at writing nonprofit 826 Valencia, has supported five residencies and published eight titles.

"Justin’s openness has made this a space in service to local artists that’s more conscious on preserving Oakland’s art base," said current artist-in-residence Christian Johnson. His short film, "A Moment of Truth and Sin," is about an interracial relationship in Oakland and the black husband’s descent into madness.

Artist-in-residence Christian Johnson.

“The store has developed a bit of a cult following,” said Johnson. “We draw in PhDs, artists, and activists. It’s a broad community. We’ve had film screenings, poetry readings, fine artists — even comedians have had shows here. ”

To facilitate events, the store has movable shelves that can be configured for movie screenings, performances and art exhibitions. Prior resident artist Ryanaustin Dennis launched a continuing film series called The Black Aesthetic, which spotlights work by artists like Cecil Emeke, Spike Lee, Haile Gerima and Cauleen Smith.

On Saturday, E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore celebrates its third anniversary with from 6–9pm with drinks, deals on Wolfman editions, and exhibitions of work by participants from its residency program.

Live music will be provided by band Real Life, and the store's small press will unveil a line of postcards, as well as a new tote bag available for purchase.

Upcoming Events At E.M. Wolfman

E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore (415-250-5527) is located at 410 13th St. and is open from 12-6 Monday through Saturday.