You couldn’t give me a better way to spend Saturday afternoon.
With the fans thrumming slowly overhead, long tables and shelves of book stretched out endlessly before bewildered eyes and an unlimited amount of time on your hands, you really couldn’t want for anything else. Books, old and dusty, yellow and musty, fragrant and actually organised by author in the literature section. This has to be my highest idea of heaven. Second-hand books have an added charm; the names of givers and receivers inscribed on the first page with affection or disinterest, the curiosity such dedications naturally arouse, and the flight they give to your imagination. Nostalgia made a brief appearance, but I was too overwhelmed by the profusion of good reading that lay in front of me to give it enough credence.
I spent a happy hour getting black grime on my fingers and under my carelessly overgrown nails. I couldn’t bear to see the dust thickening on the books, and I had a compulsive urge to pick up and blow the dust off a couple of them. Books of all kinds were stacked all over the place, and it was a delight to see old-fashioned editions of LM Montgomery and Somerset Maugham, and editions of William the Outlaw that I didn’t know existed. Much as I tried to, I couldn’t steer myself to the section on contemporary fiction, and so I wallow (almost entirely) in classics again.
I picked up Anna Karenina (a book that has been endlessly raved over, and perhaps the best beginning for a ‘Tolstoy virgin’); what seems to be a 1922 edition of DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers– hardback and in a decent condition; The Woman in White, one of the precursors to the quintessential detective novel; Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night, a book recommended highly in the comments section of a post in the Guardian’s book-blog.
I have begun Mother Night and it looks promising. I cannot wait to go back there- I had a hard enough time tearing myself away from the place, so spoilt for choice was I. And next time, I intend to make up for the ‘heavy reading’ I have been accused of with a good dose of juvenile literature.
Oh, I can just see the long, happy hours of reading that lie ahead!