I love it when books and bookstores, reading and libraries and turn up in what I am reading. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee is a book dedicated entirely to reading and bookstores, and it is an absolutely delightful read so far. It has already gone on my wish list, and I am sure at some point I am going to have to buy a copy of my own. Everything I have read I can so easily relate to (especially having worked in a bookstore myself). He writes:
"Part of the allowable leisure in a bookstore comes from the product it sells. Books are slow. They require time; they are written slowly, and read slowly. A four-hundred page novel might take years to write, longer to publish, and even after the novel is purchased, the reader can expect hours with it at one sitting over a number of days, weeks, sometimes months."
"But it's not just the nature of the book that determines the bookstore's permissiveness. The modern bookstore has long been associated with the coffeehouse and the cafe. In eighteenth-century Europe, when coffee and tobacco conquered the continent, the coffeehouse provided a public gathering place for writers, editors, and publishers. The stimulent coffee and the sedative tobacco, in combination, made sitting at a table all day a pleasant equilibrium, perfect for writing, reading, long conversations, or staring out the window. This was the Age of Enlightenment: literacy was on the rise, books were cheaper and more abundant, and bookstores were often adjacent to coffeehouses, the customers of one were the customers of the other, with plenty of time in both for conversation and thought.
Buzbee goes on to talk about working in a bookstore, which he had frequented and for years had where he had tried to get a job. Finally when he was in college he was hired:
I knew I had found what I could only describe then as a cool job, although the feeling was more profound and complex. I felt as if I had found the proper city in which to dwell. What I knew that day, what drew me to the bookstore, I would not be able to articulate for many years. But my inability to describe the feeling did nothing to diminish its power over me. Books, I knew then and now, give body to our ideas and imaginations, make them flesh in the world; a bookstore is the city where our fleshed-out inner selves reside."
How much of the Buzbee book can I quote? He combines the history of books and bookstores with his own particular experiences, and he does it well--moving from one to the other smoothly. I think I could easily sit down and read through this book in an evening or two, but I hate to race through it either. While very different, Little Women is providing the same sort of ease of reading and level of enjoyment. When Jo finally is able to go and talk with their neighbor, Laurie, he takes her to his grandfather's library.
"The atmosphere of the whole house being summer-like, Laurie led the way from room to room, letting Jo stop to examine whatever struck her fancy; and so at last they came to the library, where she clapped her hands, and pranced, as she always did when especially delighted. It was lined with books, and there were pictures and statues, and distracting little cabinets full of coins and curiosities, and Sleepy-Hollow chairs, and queer tables, and bronzes, and best of all, a great, open fireplace, with quaint tiles all around it."
I could be happy there. What do you think a "Sleepy-Hollow" chair looks like? Whatever it looks like, it sounds quite comfortable--somewhere nice to sink down into and read a good book. I would probably choose to read The Thirteenth Tale. In the blurb on the dustjacket it reads, "The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the reader in all of us...". They are certainly right there! There have been so many quotable passages, I can only say take a peek at this book at the bookstore or at the library--you might be sucked right into the book, too! I will share one, since I am on the subject of libraries. Margaret, the narrator, has come to author Vida Winter's home where she is going to write her biography. Vida's library:
"It was a high room, much longer than it was wide. On one side five arched windows reached from ceiling almost to floor; at their base window seats had been installed. Facing them were five similarly shaped mirrors, positioned to reflect the view outside, but tonight echoing the carved panels of the shutters, The bookshelves extended from walls into the rooms, forming bays; in each recess an amber-shaded lamp was placed on a small table. Apart from the fire at the far end of the room, this was the only lighting; and it created soft, warm pools of illumination at the edge of which rows of books melted into the darkness."
"Slowly I made my way down the center of the room, taking a look into the bays on my right and left. After my first glances I found myself nodding. It was a proper, well-maintained library. Categorized, alphabetized and clean, it was just as I would have done myself. All my favorites were there, with a great number of rare and valuable volumes as well as more ordinary, well-thumbed copies. Not only Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Woman in White, but the Castle of Otranto, Lady Audley's Secret, The Spectre Bride. I was thrilled to come across a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so rare that my father had given up believing in its existence."
Not too shabby, eh? It is always nice to have your feelings about reading and books validated by, well, other readers and books. I am off now to find out what mystery Vida Winter is hiding...