I have never written before about the bookshop in which I work. This is mainly because it has always been so well summed up by the Bookseller Crow himself, but after HMV going into administration last week I am left wondering, what are the things that will keep people coming into the bookshop above all else? What is it that a bookshop can provide which will make them survive the rough times, now that the physical is disappearing?
|The Last Day of Woolworth in Penge High St 2008|
|Books will bend your shelves|
When in a bookshop you look up from the page, maybe over at the counter, you might approach it and perhaps ask a question thereby allowing yourself to feel exposed. While talking you can't g****e to check the correctness of your responses, or to see if your memory is correct. You can feel passionate then blush, or inspired then energised or confused, or, the other extreme, you can confirm your learnedness and have that discussion leaving as fully plumped as a pigeon.
|'Paradise' - do not read in a bar.|
On the displays in the bookshop, I have watched books curl with the moisture from the rain then shrink with the dryness of the sun, over and over, open then shut.
Then there's the other function of bookshops: the space for thinkers, writers and wannabe writers. I know how some people start to behave in bookshops, I've done it myself; they linger, they like to listen to the conversation between the person behind the counter and the person in front, to look at the synopsis on the back-sides of books and wonder 'How did they do that?' or 'Why?' 'Is it any good or is it just hype?' 'Is it shit?' 'Am I shit?' 'And am I angry because it looks shit, or because I know it isn't and I feel this because they have been published and I haven't?' In a bookshop you can say you thought that a novel was rubbish and someone else will chip in to disagree with you. In a bookshop there will be no internet trolls to hurt you when you have said what you think. We're not talking about just another review on A****n here. People will join in and people will spar. And this is good because you have to try to quantify your thoughts into words, in real time, and have an opinion, use actual speech to someone's face, or you will just lose face. On the spot. That's it! It's about being on the spot. Not hiding in a dressing gown with a screen heating up your lap, like a replacement cat, but being here, turning up, being who you can be or are, with the weight of the books all around you. It is the positive pressure to be better, read better, think bigger (or smaller with more detail) write with more knowledge. Get off your arse. Write something in the bookshop on paper, on a postcard, with a pen and leave it for me.
Come in, touch a book, give it a sniff and talk about it, or not talk, remain silent until you are ready to talk. Come back, buy it, come back. Talk. Think. Talk.
Because here in the Bookshop you are live on air!