The Sunwise Turn

I’m reading a quaint little memoir called “Sunwise Turn: A Human Comedy of Bookselling”.  Two women, with no bookselling experience decide to open a bookstore in New York in 1916.  The book was written in 1925.  It’s a fascinating story of how they got started and how they survived.  The book downplays the fame of the store, but online you can easily find a history of the store which was also a salon for up and coming writers as well as an exhibition and performance space. 

Early on in the book, the author describes how they came to name their shop:

The name was one of the crises through which we had somehow to get.  There is sin and virtue in a name.  We wanted a name that would mean something.  Everything was to be significant.  All kinds of titles of the thumb-mail variety were offered.  My partner telephoned me one day that Amy Murray had drawn up in the net of her Gallic wisdom the name ‘The Sunwise Turn”. 


They do everything daesal (sunwise) here” – Father Allen had told her of the people of Eriskay – “for they believe that to follow the course of the sun is propitious.   The sunwise turn is the lucky one.”

The key goes sunwise; the screw goes sunwise; the clock goes sunwise.  Cards are dealt with the sun.  The Gael handed the loving cup around the banqueting table sunwise; he handed the wedding ring and loaned money sunwise  An old sea captain who once came into the shop told me that wind and weather go sunwise, and once when I called in our Swedish contractor, Behrens, to confer with him about the furnace, eh said: “It out to be in the other corner of the house, maam.  I always put my furnaces in the north end.  Heat goes with the sun.”

I’m pretty sure naming your bookstore “Sunwise Turn” breaks every rule you can find about picking a name for your business.  It doesn’t say anything about what the shop sells and it’s unbelievable obscure, but I really fell in love with the name and the thought and meaning behind it.  Makes me want to open up a shop of some kind, just to use the name again.  

Let’s say you are opening a shop of your own next week.  What would you sell?  And what would you name it?

40 thoughts on “The Sunwise Turn”

  1. Sunwise Turn may be quaint but in my opinion it’s really charming. As I mentioned before, I have a whole shelf of books about books, bookselling, bookstores and book hunting and few of them are as narratively and philosophically engaging to me as Sunwise Turn.

    You must have made some effort to find it. I notice it isn’t listed in the HCL inventory.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I suppose if I had a shop, it would have to be a used bookstore. For the name I might borrow the exhortation from a sign bookseller Malcolm McCosh kept in his window: “You Need These More Than I Do!”

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Oh dear. All the things I would want to sell are so labor intensive. I would love to own a bakery or fancy foods store, or a greenhouse. That would be so much work, though. I will have to think of the names a bit more.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hm…for a long time, I wanted to open a coffee shop. I hate drinking coffee but I love the smell of it. And I like the idea of providing a place to read, write, be social (for others!), etc. Not sure what I’d call it…would have to mull it over to find something witty and clever. I’d be tempted to try to make an acronym out of the line from Blackadder II, when he orders, “A cup of hot water with brown grit in it, please…unless, by some miracle, your coffee shop has started serving coffee…”

    Off-topic: In honor of April Fool’s, I’m going to zag from my usual electronic-based music this Friday. I’m doing a Silly Songs Show. So, I’ll be playing quite a few favorites from The Late Great Morning Show. Plus, I’ll play the 1/2 hour radio play, “Dr. Science Meets The Sea Monkeys From Hell!” Friday night, 8:00-10:00pm, on KFAI (90.3FM or at kfai.org) if anyone’s interested.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. It would have to be books – no WAIT, I’ve already done that. It was in the shop of a friend of mine, one wall of books, and I called it Barbara’s Books, which was problematic with regional distributors because there was (who knew?) a Barbara’s Bookstore in Chicago.

    So it would have to be… I know – I’ll open up the house, call it an Estate Sale, and people can take everything that’s not nailed down. I’ll have to nail some things down…

    Liked by 5 people

  6. OT – I compare notes on the various daily puzzles with a couple of friends. Today we discovered that apparently there are at least two different solutions to today’s Wordle. What’s more, the two solutions don’t share a single letter. Has anyone else experienced this? For the record, my word today has five different letters in it; the other solution has only four, and there’s no overlap between the two.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Got it in two. PJ: Some time back you pointed out to me that there were apparently two sources for wordle. I was using the site which allows you to play all day and my word was always different. One day I played three times. Then you gave the correct website for the original game which only provides one word per day. I’ve been playing that ever since. That’s the one that got sold to the New York Times. I don’t remember how I got that other version I was playing at the beginning but could this be what’s happening with your friends?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Nope, we’re all playing the same version. I did a little snooping on the internet, and apparently this has happened once before. How? I have no idea.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Sounds like me, Krista. My husband claims I’m the world’s worst sales person. We once had a perfectly functioning gas stove to get rid of. We had upgraded to a larger, better insulated one. I put the old one on Craigslist for $25.00, dirt cheap. It was clean and in good shape. I ended up giving it to a young couple who were interested, and paying Tommy, our former neighbor, $25.00 to help the “buyer” haul it to their trailer. That transaction pretty much got me out of all future such sales. Guess that’s why I like Freecycle!

      Liked by 5 people

      1. It rained yesterday through Colorado and Nebraska, then today through
        Iowa and S Mn. At Owatonna it snowed, rained and blew. I blamed Chris for that, wink, wink.

        Liked by 4 people

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