Once upon a time, back in the sixties, I was a college student/hippie who volunteered in three different theatres at Wayne State University in Detroit. It was natural that I also volunteered in a coffee house that held open-mike events for poetry readings and guitar playing, etc. This particular coffee house was in the spooky dungeony basement of an old church near campus that happened to have a crypt in that basement, hence the ingenious name of “The Post Crypt.” I was proud to dress in my all-black stagehand clothes, complete with a beret (my signature hat).
Fast forward to 2020. There are times, as a bookdealer, when I feel that this bookstore is a sort of crypt for dead poets and writers and all their ideas and stories and I am their caretaker and my mission in life is to preserve their work. Of course, they are not all dead, these writers here. I have on the shelves very modern writers, some just beginning their careers. But it cannot be denied that one of the greatest pleasures for me is skimming here and there in books as I clean, inventory, and shelve them. Even if I have no time to read an entire book, I still get a feel for the writer and a sense of their writing style. It is, by the way, one of the great misjudgments that being the owner of a bookstore means you get to sit there and read all day (who does this?, not I!), which is why so many people tell me they have always dreamed of owning a bookstore. They have no idea what you do all day.
Now we have arrived at the actual purpose of this post. I am attracted to all books that are written about bookstores, owning bookstores, or the experience of working in a bookstore. I have read many in this category and often question what real experience the author had. Generally I don’t recommend these books. I didn’t fully appreciate this novel – The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, written in the style of Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and other gothic tales. However, this passage is pitch perfect in describing the feelings of a young woman who works in her father’s bookstore: