by Lee Cross
Ok, so, I’m in London at the moment. The first part of this blog I wrote at a ferry port, so it seems fitting that I write the second at the train station, surrounded by people who are defined by their ability to speak French – in short, I am at Kings Cross / St Pancras, and on my way Paris.
If you followed me here, you’ll know that I was reading Moon Over Soho, which has now been finished and duly left on my friend’s dining room table. As books go, it was fine, but I don’t think I’ll remember it years from now (maybe even months), and I doubt I’ll pick up the sequel(s), unless I see them cheap and I’m looking for something light to pass the time.
Currently, in my reading bag, I have East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, which is one of those books that is rightly described as a classic. Not that I knew that 48-hours ago, luckily I have American friends, one of whom gave me a truly beautiful copy.
So far, on page 50, it’s ticking all the boxes of a classic; with Samuel Hamilton, in particular, blowing my mind; he’s shaping up to be one of my favorite supporting characters ever.
(I really must say thank you to Regina Kenney, for such as beautiful and generous gift).
Did you know London was full of amazing bookshops? (he said, like a bloody fool, because even if you didn’t know, it’s likely you’d suspect).
I won’t pretend I know them all (or even a fraction of them) but, after taking a tip, I headed down the Russell Square area (*it’s also a tube station, if you’re ever looking to seek it out), where there are half-a-dozen great bookstores – and a Waterstones.
Skoob Books and Judd Books, where the best of them in that area; but honestly, it was just a pleasure walking around an area with so many bookshops condensed in it – if nothing else it gave me hope for the future. I’ve often blogged about the coming of a sort of printed apocalypse, but when you see so many shops dedicated to real readers… well, maybe, we aren’t quite dying out just yet.
Down by Leicester Square, there are three bookstores of a different cover; rare books, first editions, stuff like – places where books appear in locked glass cabinets, can have values measured in thousands, and you better be double sure you want them before you crack the cover.
I’m serious, there was a Harry Potter, in one shop, going to £1500, and a copy of Gone with the wind valued at £5750 – who the [insert a curse word of your choice – it’s worth it] is spending the guts of six-thousand quid on book….
…well I would.
It’s the reason I don’t come into the high-end bookstores that often, I’m basically an addict – fortunately, there’s only shop (that I know of) that caters to this market in Dublin… and I try to avoid it… I’m way too poor to be a bibliophile.
Also, rare book collectors bug me a bit. If I buy a book, I’m buying it to read it, not to look at it; it doesn’t matter what the price tag is on the cover, the true value of a book should always be in the words written within it – I can’t stand books being used merely as ornaments.
Still, if I was a millionaire (or whatever truly passes for rich today) I wouldn’t flinch at buying four-figure valued novels, or at sticking them on my shelves at home next to all the others I’ve picked up in charity shops and bargain bins.
I’m afraid I didn’t write down the name of these shops, but they’re right next to the Leicester Square tube stop, on the direct footpath to Covent Garden, if you’re in town and want to have a look. I had a great chat with the proprietor of one, Peter, who thinks about books in a completely different way to me, but with spectacular knowledge (I suspect the difference between us was that of a seller, compared to a reader – but I freely admit my own read book count was dwarfed – and will likely remain so).
And that’s what I did in London, now I’m off on the Eurostar. I’ll see you in Paris.
[Note: I’m not a complete weirdo… ok, I AM, a complete weirdo… but, I caught up with some old friends in London (including the person who gave me my copy of ‘The perks of being a Wallflower’), ate out, and went to the theatre – which was all rather nice.]