Like mushrooms shooting up out of the earth after a rain, the conditions are finally right for Saturday’s grand opening of Fungus Books, the long-awaited book (and record) store in Wilkinsburg/Regent Square.
It’s not big, but extremely well-curated, with esoteric items of interest that lead you down many different literary trails, all of them fascinating.
Co-owner Ed Steck sums it up: “It’s a bit all over the place, but, generally, art, fiction, poetry, small press titles, weird stuff, books on film, books on plants, horror and weird fiction, science fiction, old pulps, strange little pamphlets, books on music, counterculture titles, and anything that fits into this shared realm of interesting books.”
If that’s not enough, the store also will have a selection of prints, posters and records.
It’s not about moving vast quantities of new bestsellers — it’s about finding the book that you probably didn’t even know you were looking for.
“Our collection will always be shifting, and we are always getting new items in,” says Steck. “Some of my favorite titles right now that we have include Sol LeWitt’s first artist book, a book on bonsai trees, a book on the band Crass, facsimile editions of (jazz legend) Sun Ra’s poetry chapbooks, some titles by the poet Joanne Kyger, and a cool copy of ‘Mount Analogue’ by René Daumal.”
The shop will sell both new and used books, which the owners will buy from the public.
“I have been selling or working with books and records in some capacity for nearly 20 years,” Steck says. “But, I began selling books more regularly about a year ago when I moved back to Pittsburgh. I reconnected with an old friend who was also selling independently. Another former friend of mine was selling records independently, as well. We decided to team up and it went well, so we decided to try to open up a space.”
Seth Glick, who works at the nearby Concept Art Gallery, is also a partner. So is Michael Seamans of Mind Cure Records, so expect the record selection to be equally distinctive and full of unexpected finds including jazz, experimental, punk, metal, Krautrock, classics “and whatever else in-between,” says Steck.
Steck, a published poet and author who teaches English at the University of Pittsburgh, describes his own writing as “informed by systems theory, role-playing games, world-building, fantasy, the mycelial network, concrete poetry, forest networks, biodiversity, ‘Star Trek,’ and information science.”
His books include “Interface for a Fractal Landscape,” “The Garden: Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation,” “The Rose” (with Adam Marnie), “The Necro-Luminescence of Pink Mist,” among others. Steck’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. He is a recipient of two Fund for Poetry Grants and an Artist Opportunity Grant from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
Steck hopes to eventually host live events like reading and writing workshops at Fungus. He’s also a big fan of cats and wants to have events for cat adoption — such as having cats get to be the “bookstore cat” for a day.
There’s a simple explanation behind the curious name of the shop.
“I like mushrooms and books, so it made sense,” says Steck.
Fungus Books is located at 700 1/2 S. Trenton Ave. It’s close to Madeleine Bakery & Bistro in the residential neighborhood away from the main commercial streets of South Braddock and Penn Avenue. Starting on Saturday, the shop will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.