To be precise, it involved more books than you can shake a stick at.*
This was no mere bookstore. It was instead a Giant Warehouse Stacked to the Sky. The sheer amount of books actually reduced me to round-eyed silence, and for a good few moments all I could do was pathetically poke book spines with my gloved finger, turning around every so often to look at Good Friend C with an expression hovering somewhere between dumb gratitude and awed wonder.
Books! Thousands upon thousands of books!
The next second I was gone. The last Good Friend C saw of me for at least two hours was my woolly hat disappearing around a stack of shelves.
I soon adopted the walk of the professional consummate book scanner (slow pace forward, head-at-slant, eyes flickering over book spines). Happily I began to accumulate treasure. A 1965 edition of Charles Webb’s The Graduate? Yes please. P. G. Wodehouse’s Summer Lightning? I thank you. Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange with that iconic graphic cover image? Yup yup.
Occasionally I’d bump into another book scanner; we’d apologise in hushed tones and continue on our way. And so I wound deeper and deeper into the warehouse, following shelves and stacks and piles and papers, until I came to the wild card of the warehouse: The unclassified section. ‘These books haven’t been sorted!’ the sign gleefully said, suggesting untold literary jewels might be hidden within the million copies of Giles, pet care annuals from the 1970s**, and instruction manuals for microwaves.
The way ahead looked dark and dusty. I texted good friend C to check she hadn’t expired of boredom but she was comfy in the coffee area way back at base camp. So I wrapped my scarf around me, and scurried in.
(You might get the impression from the gloves, hat and scarf that the warehouse was a little chilly. Don’t be misled. That warehouse was frickin’ freezing. I could see my breath in those lost back alleys of Unclassified.)
After a while even I had to call it a day. My Life Force urgently needed replenishing (anyone remember TV show Knightmare?). I had to find a hot coffee and a cake of some sticky description before my virtual eyeballs rolled away. Also, and more importantly; I couldn’t actually carry any more books. The Giant Warehouse had defeated me.
It’s only when you are physically surrounded by what looks like the entire stock of Amazon that you realise just how many books there are in the world. Billions of books – good books, bad books, books that surely only got published because someone along the line was squiffy. And then there are the invisible authors behind the books – hopeful authors, earnest authors, authors that dreamed big things, authors that stayed up late and got up early and typed their little hearts out, all to end up in the Giant Warehouse just waiting for someone like me to find their words again.
I love hearing their voices speak to me from the books and wonder about their lives, whether publication was the Holy Grail for them or whether it was a by-product of their academic progress, a sideline, so to speak. I wondered about the people that wrote the microwave cookbooks, the children’s fiction epics that were swept under and aside by Narnia, the books that didn’t have the sprinkle of fairy dust needed to make them shine.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
|Book treasure rescued from the Giant Warehouse|
* Surely you can shake a stick at anything regardless of its quantity and mass. I am quite capable of shaking a stick towards a mountain, for example. I can also shake a stick at my book collection. Apparently this saying came about because a confuddled shepherd was trying to count his sheep by waggling his crook at them, but couldn't do it because his flock was too big. I think he needed to come up with a more efficient counting method, personally.
**Old pet care books make me very sad. I can't even tell you why because then it will make you sad too. Let's think of something happier, like gambolling puppies and kittens. (Not gambling, though. Puppies and kittens are not known for their addiction to cards or pool-playing, despite what artist Louis Wain might have had us believe.)
And where is this large bookstore? Here: www.bookbarninternational.co.uk