Books

Love the odor of previous books? This bookseller would really like you to go away.

Love the odor of previous books?  This bookseller would really like you to go away.
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A FACT IN BOOK TRADE
a memoir
By Marius Kociejowski
349 pages. biblioasis. $18.95.

I like the odor of previous books. Greater than as soon as, I’ve stated these seven phrases out loud after strolling right into a used and/or uncommon bookstore. It is a mistake I will not make once more.

In his new dyspeptic memoir, A Factotum within the E-book Commerce, Marius Kociejowski, who has labored in a few of London’s finest vintage bookstores, turns me right into a kebab when he writes:

There’s a race of Homo sapiens who’s going to stroll in, take a deep breath and say, “Mmm, I like the odor of previous books.” They have to be eradicated as shortly as doable, with no matter violence is critical. I’ve heard the phrase a thousand occasions and I’ve by no means, ever offered a guide to any of those folks.

Barely recovered from that gap, I bumped into Kociejowski’s subsequent skewer:

You additionally should be relentless with those that ask, “What’s the costliest guide you could have right here?” It’s typically the male of the species attempting to impress the feminine.

I shuddered, having requested that query. Now doubly impaled, I ended to look at my wounds and compose myself.

I purchase used books and have been married a very long time, so I made a decision to absolve myself of those expenses on technical grounds, dismissing journalist Heywood Broun’s remark that “a technical objection is a scoundrel’s first refuge.”

I used to be grateful, nonetheless, that I simply handed Kociejowski’s third take a look at of bookstore prospects:

There’s an much more objectionable subspecies who with their cell telephones prefer to {photograph} one another holding an open guide, though very hardly ever their eyes are mounted on the web page. The punishment for them can’t be too extreme.

To the gallows with these monsters.

Many good memoirs had been written by vintage booksellers. The most effective of those, just lately, is William S. Reese’s “Collectors, Booksellers, and Libraries: Essays on Americanists and the Uncommon E-book Market” (2018), a stressed guide underneath a sleepy title.

(Reese died that very same yr; his property are nonetheless being dispersed. His Herman Melville assortment, which will probably be auctioned in September at Christie’s, comprises the very best guide I can think about proudly owning: Melville’s closely annotated copy of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” .)

“A Factotum within the E-book Commerce” is memorable as a result of a) it’s effectively written, and b) it’s in shut contact with the books. Kociejowski, now in his mid-70s, has by no means had his personal retailer. He struggled financially whereas elevating a household on an worker’s earnings. He merely cherished the job as a result of, he writes, “the guide commerce is a floating world for folks of intelligence unsuited for the rest.”

A bonus is that he is humorous. When he advised a younger lady, a former bookstore, that he was engaged on this memoir, she advised him, “Go forward, younger folks like to examine previous white males promoting books.” That form of remark, there, is what known as pissing.

Used guide sellers, in my expertise, are typically darkly witty. Scotsman Shaun Bythell wrote, in his memoir “The Diary of a Bookseller” (2018): “I’m placing collectively a psychological jigsaw puzzle of what a hobbit appears like, primarily based on a composite of each buyer I’ve ever offered one to. copy. ”

Kociejowski has revealed journey writing books, essays and poems, however he’s “a continual chuckler at poetry readings, and certainly, not way back, attempting to suppress my mirth, I burst a blood vessel in my nostril.”

Just a few different issues about him: He grew up in rural Ontario; he by no means had a comb or a cellular phone, though he has a typography; the sport of chess broke his coronary heart; the English poet Geoffrey Hill, a longtime buddy, devoted a guide to him. He as soon as received a girl’s coronary heart along with his “hen coop imitation at evening”.

He is proper about what a great bookstore ought to appear like. “I need dust; I need chaos; I need, above all, thriller”, he writes. “I need to have the ability to enter a spot and have the sensation that there I’ll discover a guide, nonetheless unknown to me, that can in some way change my life.”

I do know this sort of retailer—it is the sort you need, searching, has a miner’s lamp strapped to your brow.

Most of these bookstores are quickly disappearing, laments Kociejowski, victims of the web and now Covid. He hates these new “makeshift bookstores masquerading as artwork galleries with stunning walnut tables”.

He talks a bit about well-known shoppers he is served, together with Patti Smith, who shares his fondness for Robert Louis Stevenson’s essays. Philip Larkin got here in, on the lookout for first editions of his personal books. He offered a replica of “Finnegans Wake” to Johnny Depp, who was “attempting extremely onerous to not be acknowledged and with predictably comical outcomes.”

He notes that librarians appear to hate books, desperate to punch and stamp them. He’s taught by a great bookseller to shine books: “Use your fingers, it is the softest leather-based you’ll find.”

I am not a collector, probably not, as a result of I can not afford to be, but additionally as a result of I write in my books and bend their spines. I am with Rachel Cusk, who wrote, “I deal with my books like I deal with my sneakers: the extra I like them, the more serious they develop into.”

Kociejowski factors out that the majority guide collectors are males and might emit disagreeable odors. “They have to be averted or stored at a prophylactic distance; they have a tendency to lack social grace and have alarming diets; their garments are unusually tailor-made.” They are typically sad. As soon as they get pleasure from their newest discovery, it is on to the subsequent one.

He recollects a number of essential collectors, together with Wendy Rintoul and Valerie Eliot (TS Eliot’s second spouse), and booksellers, notably Marguerite Cohn and Veronica Watts. He notes that collectors are rarer as a result of, sensibly, the phrases on the web page are typically extra essential to girls than “the covers that maintain the web page in place.”

Just like the kinds of bookstores Kociejowski admires, his guide has many nooks and crannies. Deviations develop into subsidiary deviations. With its tight intestines, this is not a guide for everybody.

However it’s an account of a life effectively lived, pleased and moody. “I’m not in the slightest degree proud,” he writes, “to declare that my instincts have served me effectively.”

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