Dauntless, Slightly Foxed, Foyle’s, the unnamed place off Hampstead Heath…

Bookshop Pigeon

What is it about bookshops? They always have some smell that either drags you in like a warm fire or shoves you away like a soul out of purgatory.

I’m a bibliophile, yeah. But I’m a strange sort of bibliophile because I haven’t actually read that many books. I think I’m a queer one like Stanley Baldwin. He was a Prime Minister way back when. Top of his class some might say. If I remember it right he used to sniff books. And you know, when you actually try it you can start to see why. But no, I don’t love books because I smell them. I love to see them, have them around, read little parts of them. Increasingly I read whole ones too, but a large part of my adoration has always come from that everlasting promise in them: that they have some real perspective, some fine and deep insight to give you. An insight which is stored in those fabricius (I only sort of made that word up) pages, those carefully printed letters, for an eternity.

Unless someone destroys the book that is. But we hope that won’t happen. (Where books are burned, men, also, will soon be burned.)

I have my own small collection over two and a half bookshelves. I like short stories and arty travel writing mostly. Also dark stuff. So you’d see Palahniuk, Carver, Welsh, Marquez, Wilde and “19th Century Short Stories” prominently placed if you ever came to visit. Oh and Jenny Diski. I’ll review some of her stuff eventually. But this is the allure of books for me: that there’s so much promised and delivered in each one.

There’s a story, which can be read and read-out in so many different ways, interpreted, reinterpreted, debated, translated, recalled, transliterated and then quoted whilst drunk at a photographer’s convention.

The reviews, they become new stories in themselves.

Translations too.

Then the lit crit (literary criticism) which can perfectly place something, or can unhinge it so comprehensively that you’re not sure how it’s still the same book when the critic’s done. I used to and still love doing that with poems. And The Great Gatsby. The possibilities are endless.

So bookshops. These are places where all the book energy gathers and spawns and lives and snogs and eats and breathes and decays. Not too much drinking though or the pages would get wet. Bookshops can even house cafés and lending libraries, host poetry open-mics and signings by the author. And the delightful weirdos you meet there…me, for example.

Therefore: Bookshop Pigeon, the column. Books, people, stories in reviews, book repositories, allusions to Heine where I can cope with the German…it’s perfect.



– Jack and me

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