“Don’t let me buy anything,” some plead as they enter the shop. Or, “My flight luggage allowance is tiny.” Or, “I’ve got all my books on my ******.”
My stock reply – “No worries, did you know I’m planning to turn the bookshop into an ‘installation’ and charge entry at the door?” – is in danger of being taken seriously. I gather this has actually been done by a Dutch artist, multiplying the value of the stock by a factor of ten.
Prompting thoughts of homicide, at least once a month someone comes into Main Point Books, takes a deep breath and announces: “I just came in because I love the smell of old books.”
Wake up and smell the books?
Which brings George Orwell to mind. In The Road to Wigan Pier Orwell recounts his disgust at the smell of dossers’ socks, and in his ‘Bookshop Memories’ he mentions another nasal challenge: “the person smelling of old breadcrusts who comes every day, sometimes several times a day, and tries to sell you worthless books”. He also reports that: “Scarcely half the people who ordered books from us ever came back. It used to puzzle me at first. What made them do it? They would come in and demand some rare and expensive book, would make us promise over and over again to keep it for them, and then would vanish never to return.” He also has a mild gripe about bookshops being among “the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money”, and the sometimes dubious clientele this attracts. But for my own part, I see browsing as one of the joys in life, what a good bookshop is about.