Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Sunday Question

Which lost independent bookshop do you most long for?

As we all know, many independent bookstores have fallen by the wayside in the past few years. Thankfully, our wonderful Odyssey Bookshop remains, but so many are lost to us. I thought I'd ask this week, which do you most miss? A kind of homage to bookshops of our past.

Since I've been on a kind of vacation, albeit one that has chiefly involved sorting and packing for my move, I haven't had the opportunity to ask my compatriots this question, so I don't have as much material to work with. However, what prompted the question was my perusal of the Irish Times last week, and coming across the startling news that one of my favorite bookshops in the world, the great Winding Stair in Dublin, had morphed into a frou frou restaurant.

Now, when I first came upon the Winding Stair, in the Dublin of the mid-nineties, it was a slightly raffish, lovely pink behemoth, three floors of books and a cheap vegetarian cafe. Something like Northampton's Haymarket in its first incarnation, but with a long literary pedigree, and a view from its dirty Palladian windows of the River Liffley meandering its silver way through the heart of Dublin. It boasted a huge collection of books by Irish writers (remember, you can't throw a stone in Ireland without hitting a Nobel Laureate, or at least a statue of one).

It became my favorite Dublin hangout, and much of the time I spent in Ireland -- in 1995, then again in 1997 -- was spent ogling books there, buying books, and gazing out at the spectacular view while writing very bad poetry (this was before I realized I was a novelist, NOT a poet).

So I was crushed to find it had been bought up and swankified. Thankfully, I've since discovered that the bookshop still exists, but in a diminished (and probably also swankified) form. And it remains to be seen if the frou frou restaurant encourages grubby writers to sit for hours writing poetry, whether very bad or Nobel quality.

I guess this impresses on me even more strongly the need for the bookshops in our lives, and the need to mourn those we've lost.

Let us know which you have loved and lost.

~ Chrysler

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