On a sunny Thursday afternoon in May, Enrico Adelman is sitting outside Zabar’s next to a table piled with Philip Roth novels — all of them, he tells the mostly indifferent passersby, signed. Adelman, 72, used to have a store, Bloomsday Books, on this block, but only the stand remains. He met Roth, who died a year ago, in May 1989 —“I can’t forget the date because it was Mother’s Day.” Roth and Claire Bloom, whom the author married the following year, stopped to look at a copy of Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. (Adelman remembers Roth asking her, “Do you want it, Mother? I’ll buy it for you.”) Adelman, starstruck, introduced himself. He and Roth became friends — “We’d have lunch together at Barney Greengrass, which he loved. He used to like the omelet with onions and lox” — and Roth agreed to sign copies of his books. Hundreds and hundreds of them over time. “When The Plot Against America came out, I knew that was going to be a big book, so I ordered a thousand copies,” Adelman says. Roth was in Connecticut, so Adelman rented a van, drove the books up to him for a marathon signing session, and stayed overnight. Today, Adelman still has “probably a thousand or more” copies of signed Roth novels, which he sells mostly through Amazon. Not so many at the stand — around 4 p.m., Adelman makes today’s only sale: A Collegiate School senior named Sebastian Chaves buys a copy of Goodbye, Columbus. “I just recently read American Pastoral,” he says. “I thought it was really good.” He takes a picture of the stand with his phone before leaving.
*A version of this article appears in the May 27, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!