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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chapter Seventy-Six, in which Everyone wants to own a Bookstore

The Bookologist recently pondered what it takes to run a bookstore. She says, "Having a shop requires patience and organization and a genuine liking for being with people." Then what in the world is Bernard Black doing with a shop?

Black Books is a second-hand bookshop in London owned and operated by a grumpy Irishman. The essence of the Black Books experience is the sign hanging in the door: one side says "Closed" and the other side says "Closed". Though it might seem to the rest of us that selling lots of books and getting on well with customers is vital to a bookseller's business, Mr. Black claims his is "not that kind of shop."

For those who don't know, Bernard Black is the protagonist of a British comedy titled "Black Books," what the BBC calls "a hugely affable slice of lunacy." Though he hates people, Mr. Black loves his books. The only thing he prefers to books is alcohol. And when the two come together, Mr. Black rolls himself in his chair over to the bathroom, unzips, and relieves himself from a distance, never once allowing any of it to interfere with his intense reading.

Edith notes that "almost every other person coming into our shop tells me that owning a bookshop is his or her dream. When I ask them why, they tell me they love books." But what Mr. Black demonstrates, and every bookstore owner knows, is that owning a bookstore is about people, and retailing, much more than about books. There are moments when one is alone with one's books, to read, to caress, to make friends with, but squeezing out those moments are all the other times when people are asking who wrote The C&O Canal Companion, or bills are irritating to be paid, or discussions are to be had with the landlord over the appropriate temperature in the shop, or employees need training, or the little old lady who just spent two dollars on a Cassie Edwards paperback wants to spend forty minutes telling you her family history, or the hours of operation conflict with the hours of the biggest book sale of the year. If one has a passion for all these things, then a bookshop is wonderful; if not, then your Bibliothecary highly recommends a personal library.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link. You're probably right although I have visions of people coming in and out of my imaginary bookstore and discussing . . . books.