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Step inside Berkeley's Dark Carnival of books


Berkeley’s Dark Carnival Book Store is hidden on a small commercial strip on Claremont Avenue. Inside it’s a sci-fi and fantasy lover’s dream. The owner for 37 years, Jack Rems, guesses that the store houses 25,000 books, lining the walls, staircases, and floor of the small store. KALW’s Dora Finklestein stopped by Dark Carnival and got a tour.

JACK REMS: My name is Jack Rems. I'm the owner of Dark Carnival Bookstore and Escapist Comics in Berkeley. It's the oldest science fiction store in this part of the world. We opened in 1976.

PAT LUPOFF: My name is Pat Lupoff. Hey Jack, how long have I worked here? Do you know?

REMS: I don't really know.

LUPOFF: I think I've worked here about six years.

REMS: I was a physics student at UCLA. I started working in a bookstore in Westwood that specialized in science fiction and I thought, "I could do this." And somehow, I imagined that Berkeley could be just like Westwood. I was wrong, but that's what I imagined and so I thought I'd try opening a store here. I was 21. Mostly we try to carry everything if it's science fiction, fantasy and we've carried mysteries for about 25 years.

LUPOFF: You can see that we sort of have a lot to deal with.

REMS: 25,000 maybe.

LUPOFF: I don't know if he has all of them in a computer database frankly, but he knows what everything is so it's easy.

REMS: Alphabetical, by author. There are a few things like "Dungeons and Dragons" or "Dr. Who,” where the author really doesn't matter. I guess I like to talk about the two times Douglas Adams was here. The second time he was here was the day he was supposed to appear at Cody's in Downtown Berkeley. They were bombed because of the satanic verses so they were closed. They called us about four hours ahead and said, "Could we do the signing at your store?" And we said okay. It was very strange because we were all thinking about bombs and stuff.

LUPOFF: Our bathroom is way in here and it's full of books.

REMS: I have two or three favorite books if you ask me what's the best book in the store I'll give you a different answer.

DORA FINKLESTEIN: What's the best book in the store?

REMS: The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies.

FINKLESTEIN: What's your favorite thing about owning the store?

REMS: Having people give me credit for some book that they loved.

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