For years I've been getting the question "What do you miss about the south" and I've never really knew how to answer the question. Partly because there is very little I actually miss about our former home. This weekend we went to Inuvik (A much larger town with many of the convience's of the south) and upon our return I was laying in bed and realized, finally what I did miss about the south. I miss bookstore's.
I don't miss the Chapters bookstore's or other of their type but rather the small bookstore's that lack the grandious scale of these retail monsters. I miss the bookstore I never found. I spent years wandering through bookstore's looking for my bookstore, somewhere with brown wooden shelves, a few large leather wingchairs in red leather. Maybe even a rolling ladder that slides reluctantly down the side of the store to unearth tombs that haven't seen the light of day in many years, with a dull indirect lighting that doesn't actually seem to come from anywhere but rather eminates from the walls themselves and hangs heavily in the air lingering around you like a bright fog. There's a subtle smell of coffee which permiates your senses as well as the sound of the books as they rest upon the shelve's. This was the store I searched for, one where the prices where never printed upon the books but the attentive keeper could simply recall it for you at their convience. Its the type of place that opens in the neighbourhood at noon and closes when the darkness is complete and the last of the browsers has seriously left, the bell above the door marking their departure. Nowhere will you find a sign advising you that this is not a library but rather you'll find a few of the propetiors' favorites gathered together on a small side table beside the large chair at the front of the store.| Unfortunately, this type of store could never survive today, I'm afraid that this type of store could never bulk up its shelves with Crichton, King, Roberts, Steele and all of our other favorites, thats what the others are for. This store would have the books we always wanted to read but just couldn't get into if they weren't prescribed reading for a course. You can still find some popular literature. Lord of the rings is ever-present but found in a single volume and you won't find any artisticly rendered visions of Aragorn upon the cover. I think you get the idea.
What is it about the image we have of books and their apparent mystic? I can't say I am proud of owning any books other than reference books, all casual reading books I view as a form of weakness. Why am I trucking all these novels around the nether regions of the world when 99% of these books I will never reread. I usually read a book a minimium of twice, once for joy and the second to see if I actually enjoyed it. After that, for some strange reason, I hold onto them, I cannot explain why. I know they will never be reread again and the ones that are truly brilliant and will be reread over the next 40 years or so aren't actually travelling with me, they have a treasured spot in a small storage container in Tillsonburg, they are works of philosophy, ficton and humour that have traveled with me for years and hold a respected place in my heart... but why? I can't exactly recall how many of them are signed first editions.... Oh wait, I do remember, none of them, no rare prints here, no special editor editions, or bonus content, just the sort of books you can walk into "chapters" right now and buy. But many of us view books as special, as different, to throw away a book is a sin, the only books that are allowed to be donated to charity (in my twisted mind) are the works of Daniel Steele and Harlequin's. It sometimes feels when you buy a physical book, that you've adopted it, to care for for the rest of your life, you are now responsible to ensure it is taken care of and loved as all good books should be. The problem arrises in the fact that a book is a simple collection of words and idea's, anything more it becomes is what we make of it.
Sadly, my bookstore is not in Inuvik, and I have another book I know is truly terrible, that I will continue to carry with me thoughout my travels till I hopefully lose it and it will never again sully my mind.
P.S. I also miss Taco Bell, but find it difficult to wax poetic about this subject.
Monday, September 01, 2008