All those books gave the room a wonderful acoustic and even though the space is vast it felt intimate. But then a good, well-stocked bookshop does tend to feel intimate, however large it may be. Insulated by books, the browser can forget the outside world for a while and relax. Well, that's what I've always done.
Books too are intimate. On the way home to Bristol last night I sat opposite a man rather older than me, who had his nose in an old, battered copy of 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' by Alan Sillitoe. He was completely absorbed, not even taking his eye off the page as he nibbled at his flapjack. I once read a similarly battered copy of the same book, as have countless other people, but what really struck me about the man on the train was his absolute immersion in the world of the book - a world that opens when you first lift the cover, and to which you can return whenever you like, for the rest of your life. This chap might have read the book for the first time when he was young, perhaps when it was originally published, and was now rereading it for the tenth or fiftieth time; Sillitoe (who died last year) might have been a lifelong companion...
|Blackwells at sale time...|
|The Norrington Room - cosier in real life... and less green|
|Much Ado Books, Alfriston - read this|
I once worked for an artist and gallery owner who would pursue customers down the street, refusing to leave them alone until they agreed to buy something. She knew that her survival depended on making sales, that no one was going to help her if she didn't, and that a certain proportion of people would give in and buy something. It's probably a good thing that bookshop people are less aggressive, but in fact the same principles apply; they either sell books or go under.
|Toppings, Bath - the perfect bookshop?|
By the way, I'm giving a talk at 6.15pm on Tues 6th December, at Foyles in Cabot Circus, Bristol. It's on Eric Ravilious and Paul Nash and you can expect lots of pictures to look at, the odd glimmer of humour and even a glass of wine. And it's FREE!