Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Bookshop of my Dreams

WHAT’S the opposite to a nightmare? I had one the other night. I dreamt I was filthy rich and I owned an incredible bookshop in some unknown location. My bookshop had three floors. There was a grand entrance, wonderfully lit at night in neon blue. There were posters of my favourite authors in the window. The ground level was vast, like the upper two levels, with rows of merchandise either side which consisted entirely of paper-back books and book-related mugs and calendars. Friends worked for me on this floor. Seasoned ones I have known forever who share my love for reading. This floor was all fiction, rows and rows of it, on polished floorboards with a long narrow pathway down the centre leading to a grand marble staircase for access to the next two floors. There was also a highly esteemed coffee lounge in the back corner for casual reading and shelves of current newspapers, sans Murdoch, from around the world. This was a happy, chatty floor, enticing the typical book purchaser, many of which would not be bothered climbing the next two floors. The second level was manned strictly by family. Here were hardback books of many genres, generally newish editions of many breeds, such as Thames & Hudson art books, Taschen books of various interests, travel books, new hardback fiction, new hardback poetry such as Faber & Faber, and many, many books of exclusive modern publishers with fabulous designs. The walls were mirrored and standing behind a lavish, large glass table and a cash register were my two brothers and my sister, eagerly serving the hungry hordes of contemporary hardback books of many colours. At the very back of level 2 was a roped off area for customers wishing to attend book talks and meetings with established book authors. Authors from the art world and the travel world as well as modern international writers such as Colm Toibin, Kazuo Ishiguro and Hilary Mantel. Nearby there was a posted sign in ornate black lettering: ‘Notice: the third floor by appointment only.’ Thank goodness I didn’t suddenly shift in my bed and awaken suddenly, before I found myself in my astral projection going to the top floor of my wondrous bookstore. Here I found simply me- dressed in a black formal waistcoat, a top hat and white gloves and sporting a trim beard. Here I was, standing behind a wide marble table eagerly administering to a customer who was in the midst of purchasing a five-figure book. On closer inspection, it was in fact none other than the first edition deluxe first binding autographed copy of Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’. Fortunately, my dreamy vision enabled me a panoramic view of the whole of the third floor and I could see that I was the sole proprietor on this level, dwarfed by an enormous mahogany bookcase filled with hardback antiquarian literature. The rest of the level was spartan, as though me and the purchasing desk, and the enormous bookcase, were its sole features. Looking into the bookcase, I could see there were rows of old books in mint condition organized into sections such as authors and poets- Shakespeare, Browning, Hopkins, Yeats, Plath for example for poets, and D H Lawrence, Hardy, Woolf, Joyce, Nabakov and Fitzgerald for example, for authors. Thus, the brilliant blue of ‘The Great Gatsby’ cover shone brightly, as did the deep, serious green of ‘Ulysses’, and the intense, romantic cover of ‘The Rainbow’. There was even a row for publishers’ works huddled together, such as the Nonesuch Press and the Black Sun Press. It was a joy to behold. The whole thing reminded me of the British Library. I could see now that, strictly by appointment, customers would come one at a time and by accessing a little electronic catalogue, request a particular volume for scrutiny. The whole thing brought such comfort to me in my dream that I woke myself up smiling, my wife enquiring about which particular carnal pleasure I had been transported to.

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