Monday, September 25, 2006

Bookshops I have known

The thing about a bookshop, especially a second hand one, is that it has nuances, slight (or major) differences and each has to be approached cautiously, skirting around at first (rather like Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, the Andrew Davies production). On no account are you to approach a bookshop directly, or, irritated by your clumsy arrogance, it will not yield up its delights to you, but keep them hidden, safe from your Philistine grasp.

"Go away please, we do not serve your kind here!"

Once you have made the approach in the required manner, you are allowed to raise your eyes to the volumes - old, new, paperback, possibly antiquarian? You take them in at a glance....oooh I like this bookshop, it has Claire Tomalin's Jane Austen biography. Ooooh I don't like this one, expensive, without taste...yes, you make your quick snap judgements, lower your eyes, once again and proceed to look for the shelf, your shelf, the one you came here to meet.

Once you find it....a certain rigidity takes your being and you sink down, goldfishy and subverbal. Please, please, leave me be for a while, I need to search, I need to run my fingertips over these precious spines, maybe take out a volume or two and open them and let that old book smell waft up to my nostrils.

Yes, OK, there is a kiddie size chair here I am going to wedge myself in and read the first few lines of this - Pelham Grenville? Who would have thought?

In Malaysia, it is definitely Kinokuniya, KLCC. Of course, Borders at the Curve is not bad and MPH at Megamall is sorta catching up. As for secondhand books, there is only Skoob, but you need to take a trip there, to the middle of nowhere, specially for your book expedition...there are treasures, but you have to be patient. Chat with Thor. Or his wife. They're both quite nice. Eccentric, but nice.

And in England - my favourite little second hand bookshop so far, has been in Winton. There are masses and masses of books, piled up on the floor, stacked in the shelves, still in boxes - you have to be patient enough to go through the untidy stacks, selecting the ones you want - presenting them to Mr Brown, who will usually say, £5 for three. If the books happen to be a little older, rarer, he may pause awhile, regard you quizically and tell you £15. But he usually shows you a cheaper alternative. If he has one. A genial soul, he keeps up an unending patter and laments the fact that people don't read books anymore. I wished myself upon him for a half day of work (he had let slip that he needed help arranging the books, never dreaming anyone would take him seriously, and I showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed, one windy Wednesday morning, and not knowing what to do with me, he set me to work with the old antiquarian books) Luvely luvely. Of course he cringed and snapped when I handled some with less than the required care. But he gave me a rare edition of Summoned by Bells by John Betjeman as payment. So cool! (Anyway, that one's Winton, in Bournemouth, OK?)

I loved the bookshop in Wimborne. It had the Jane Austen biography and the PG Wodehouse biography (by someone or other) so I considered it the best stocked second hand bookshop around these parts. When we went there was only a sullen teenager looking after the shop, staring into space (instead of reading a book, despite the riches all around, can you believe that?) but I still loved it.

The one at Lyme Regis (think Jane Austen's Persuasion) was pretty good, nice comfy sofas to sit on downstairs while you browsed through, and quite a few bargains for £1 each, but I still preferred the one in Wimborne.

We had a look-see at the secondhand bookshop in Dorchester but found it expensive and unimpressive. (The books were cold and forbidding, they didn't call, I didn't answer)

London, Charing Cross was so-so. Not as good as I expected or remembered. Neither was Foyle's, my favourite bookshop in all of England some 10 or 11 years ago, when I was here on assignment. (The other members of my troupe were off sightseeing. So was I. For me, bookshops are sight seeing). Borders was OK. I really needed to use the bathroom and they only had one. So, I didn't buy Paulo Coelho's new book there which was going for £3 pounds less although a cursory skim showed that this would be my kinda book.

Having said that, my bag is full of books. I am hauling back a frigging library.

And if you want me, I'll be at my club, er...bookshop.


Lakeside Ling said...

Sounds like a lovely haul. :)

goldennib said...

Heaven will be a cozy bookshop with big poofy arm chairs.

QuillDancer said...

There is a bookshop in Moscow, Idaho that you want to meet. It is in an old Victorian mansion and each room is decorated to suit .... forinstance all the poetry and "romantic" type books can be found in a room decorated in red velvet and gold brocade with fainting couches and love seats. The occult books are in a room painted midnight blue with stars shinging upon the cealing. And everywhere the shelves over flow and the books are stacked -- even the spiral starcase to the midevil tower (complete with suit of armor) in stacked carelessly with books).

Jenn said...

Ling: It was. It is. And I still want some more books. Books, books, books....

Nessa: You betcha!

Quilly: Gosh, I hope it remains there until I get a chance to visit it...the immigration officers will have to come haul me out of the place...

hotcoffeegirl said...

Lovely, Bubbles. Simply lovely. I felt as if I was there. (And wanted to be, to be sure.)

Jenn said...

HCG: Thank you my dear cappucino. You must get over to the old place soon? More tea, vicar?