Bernard Black is grumpy, very grumpy. He does not understand the ordinary world and has created his own safe haven within the grubby confines of the shop. Bernard is driven by his own alcohol-fuelled logic and anyone attempting to buy a book from him is more likely to meet with the full force of his foul temper than they are to leave his shop with a purchase. Bernard loves his books and hates his customers - a combination unlikely to earn him a businessman of the year award but a one that leads to many hilarious encounters. Bernard's devotion to the twin pleasures of drunkenness and willful antagonism deepens and enriches both his life and that of Manny, his assistant. Bearded, gentle, sweet and good, Manny is punished by Bernard relentlessly for the crime of existing. They depend on each other for meaning as Fran, their oldest friend, depends on them for distraction. Bereft of her loathed business concerns, Fran struggles to find significance in between struggling to find her cigarettes and reasons for another drink.