Monday, November 12, 2012

A Little Local Book Hunting

A little bit of local colour for you today. Or, should I say perhaps, a bit of local rain. Sometimes on a rainy Monday afternoon it's just too dull to be sat behind a keyboard all afternoon so I took myself out into Southsea and to Albert Road in particular, known as the thriving hub of retro-antique-independent-cafeculture-boho living in the area it doesn't look its best in the rain but there are three secondhand bookshops along it - almost the only three left in the whole city. At the far end (above) is Jade Mountain Books, always a quiet haven of bookishness, bijou certainly, but packed with interesting bits and pieces, very reasonably priced and with a reasonably good turnover of stock.

The second shop of the afternoon is the rather unprepossessing shop below. My friends and I have only ever referred to it as "the 50p bookshop" as, for many years, it sold every book at 50 pence. Technically it was called Night Owl Books but recently I believe the older gentleman who used to run it died and it's now being run by a different set of people I don't recognise. Always chaotic, mainly paperback stock, much of which is piled high in the back room in fruit crates, every now and again you might find a little gem in here but it takes quite some looking. Having said that, I'm aware I'm talking from the point of view of a dealer but actually it is always pretty busy with people looking for books to read and finding them, usually at 50 pence, and you can't really argue with that.

The trip along the road was interrupted very pleasantly by a pause in The Magic Bean Cafe for one of the best bacon rolls in the city...

And I had planned to spend the last few hours of my afternoon in Adelphi Books (bottom) which, as you can see from the photo specialises in crime fiction but has a good and broad general stock as well. This is a shop of enormous promise but most of that promise is piled high all around you in perilous, wobbly stacks of books. Month after month the shop gets more and more chaotic until it is all but impossible to move around it  and then, something gives, and you will go back to find that there's been some enormous overhaul and suddenly it's looking something like a bookshop again. If you are prepared to put the work in, you can find some good things here. However, today, it was shut... Peter, who runs it appears to be away as there was a sign on the door telling me it wouldn't be open again until later in the month.

It will just have to wait for another rainy Monday afternoon...


PJ said...

You are so lucky. There used to be 14 new and secondhand bookshops near where I live. Now there is only one secondhand one run by old biddy and her cat. The high rents preclude any new ones risking it. And when you go in to her shop all you can hear is an endless drone as she enters her stock via dictation software into ABE.

I fondly remember one that with an owner and shopfront so forbidding that it was always empty inside, deliciously musty with a daylight that was deep parchment yellow: the very essence of Walpole's 'gloomth'. I only bought one book there: Bridget Brophy's hilarious Firbankian novelette The Finishing Touch. (A must-read if you haven't.) And I remember the owner, wearing a visor (!) taking ten minutes to wrap it in brown paper torn from a big roll. I can still see his bony hands pressing hard to create knife sharp creases in the folds, so that it was wrapped and taped with army precision. All done is heavy silence like a Japanese tea ceremony.

Happy days, gone forever!

eArnie Painter said...

PJ, as a reader and wannnabe writer I have to take issue with your "gone forever" statement. They live in your memory and because you've written it (and an impressive job you've done in verbally illustrating it) it lives on in this blog. That's why writers write. Thank you for taking the time to tell Callum – and the world – about that bookstore.

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