Sometimes I go to a lovely old bookshop like Nicholas Hoare and discover a New Beloved, like the time I found Ali Smith's Hotel World and sat on the floor and devoured the first chapter and fell in love, or like the other day when I found Rat by Fernanda Eberstadt, of whom I had not heard though she is the granddaughter of Ogden Nash and has apparently written several novels and an exquisite non fiction book about one of my favourite subjects, gypsies.
Something about cruising the aisles, handling spines and pages, being in the sensual realm of the book world whether it be a library or bookshop, yes, there's something there that has been a good, true friend my whole life, and I know it is disappearing, and I don't rail against the times here, or bash my head on the table bewailing the demise of the book. I know the book is mortal, is doomed, is human - organic and chugging toward the end of its lifespan - I'm okay with that. Other forms of dreamsharing and storytelling and image-inheriting will happen, are happening... but I'm just saying I still love that moment when I open the pages and life flashes, gleams, fishtails out at me, splashing golden sunlight and glorious rain and the heart and soul of a writer who contains humanity and anguish and rotted leaves and shooting stars and the blood and guts and belly and muscle of this tortuous thing called life - a writer who knows how to do it in her breath and bones, and who shares it with you and me, her dear readers.
Long may Fernanda Eberstadt and Ali Smith wield their bruised artichokes, their rainy roads, their bag ladies and gypsies, their beaches and rebellion, their onions and arguments, their elevators and caves, their chewing gum and spare change, their busted sandals and torn undershirts, their headlights and burning matches, their shit and birdsong, their obstreperous old women trapped on buses, their London downpours and their Tramontane winds. None of which I'd have discovered if it were not for libraries and lovely old bookstores.
Hotel World: http://www.salon.com/2002/02/21/smith_18/