Friday, January 07, 2011

The Body of Bookstores

Nothing will ever replace the experience of wandering haphazardly through a great bookstore, no matter how many algorithms are developed to find matches for our tastes. That's because not only is there no accounting for taste, there is no predicting it either.

The best stores are stuffed with surprises--as is this one, Derby Square Bookstore in Salem, Massachusetts. Clearly I'm not the first visitor to have snapped the proprietor framed by the books piled on his desk.

One of my favorite bookstores is Book Culture in Manhattan; I like the branch off Broadway. I visited it recently to stock up on books about India. My son Alex had recommended that I read the novels of J.G. Farrell, a writer who was completely off my radar, but luckily the reliable NYRB series had snapped up the rights to his books. I bought three; I'm planning my reading for this week, when the boys and I are taking a train trip from NYC to San Francisco. (But more on that later.)

As I was paying up, a book about literary tattoos caught my eye, and I had to spend a few awestruck minutes browsing through its pages. I love words as much as anyone, I'm sure. Or at least I thought I did.
Part of me desperately wants a tattoo, the part of me that still loves Janis Joplin and thinks it would be fun to live on a commune in the country, a nice, tastefully-appointed commune, with those chickens around, the ones lay blue eggs, and lots of vegetable gardens...If I ever could get a tattoo, I would want such a nerdy-wordy one, right? But how to commit? What if that sad line from Wharton doesn't seem so apt in ten years--or next year? What if e.e. cummings makes you grind your teeth as you age? What if you decide you no longer like plums, William Carlos Williams notwithstanding?

Full entertaining piece on Dominique Browning's blog - slow love life

And from Don's Travels blog - A secondhand bookshop to die for

1 comment:

Don said...

You are right. There is nothing like browsing in a 'real' bookshop. Your photo, of the owner appearing through a gorge of books reminds me of John W. Doull Bookseller in Halifax Nova Scotia. If interested have a look at my blog at