On writers loving bookstores

I’ve had a few great bookstores in my life, in which I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time, to the point of making lasting friendships with the staff (or cultivating derision from the snotty ones who gave me dirty looks for hanging around too much). Some of them have been so influential in my writing I sometimes wonder if I should thank them in the books I write. Some have survived, some haven’t. Book City on Bloor in the Annex (where I researched lit journals in the 90s), Three Lives in the W Village in NYC (where I met friends and famour writers), St. Mark’s in the East (same), The Strand up Broadway (for the penniless years), The Bookshelf in Guelph (where I wrote my fourth book upstairs), etc etc. There’s something about being surrounded by all those books that gives you a sense of awe similar to what I get looking up on a clear night. So many. I’m so small. But it’s also inspiring, and bizarrely adventure-like. Like you’re a nerdy Indiana Jones, hunting for treasure. Anyway, nice essay on the subject at LitHub.

Before books nourished the library in Alexandria, before sellers on the hoof sold books at Europe’s inns, before literary criticism and the novel and the printing-press were invented, before Diderot wrote, in his Letter on the Book Trade, that the “stocks of a bookseller are the base of his business and his fortune,” before the Roca bookshop opened in Manresa (we’re in 1824), or the Calatrava religious bookshop opened in Madrid (we’re in 1873), before Adrianne Monnier and Sylvia Beach opened and shut their legendary bookshops on Rue de l’Odéon in Paris, before—even—George Orwell worked in Booklover’s Corner in London on the eve of the Spanish Civil War and that bookshop turned into a café for chess players and then a pizzeria, well before all that happened, I went into the Robafaves bookshop in Mataró.

Because the others wouldn’t exist without our first bookshops. And if as a youngster you didn’t turn into a lover of bookshops, into a book junkie, it’s unlikely you’d then decide to pursue them on your travels and research their histories and myths and—in a word—read them.

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