I came to London when I was 19. I got a job in a shoe shop. Each time a customer asked for a specific shoe we were taught to bring out of the stockroom not only the shoe requested, but two other options. I hated working in the shoe shop and of course didn’t realize that I had been taught a lesson for life.
A few days before Christmas I walked into four bookshops. I was looking for Little Birds by Anais Nin and Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson. Hardly obscure titles. None of them had either. Indeed none of them had any books by either writer. Fair enough, I thought, it’s just before Christmas and perhaps Nin and Dickinson had sold out. I could have forgiven all four shops for not stocking those writers. But what I did not forgive them was the service – or rather lack of service they offered.
None of the booksellers suggested a similar choice of topic or writer. They simply said “sorry don’t have it” and turned away. So I walked out, went home and ordered on amazon. Their loss, my gain, as I saved a few quit. But I really would have liked to spend my money in a bookshop. And if anyone would have bothered to talk to me they definitely could have persuaded me to buy other books.
A couple of days ago, Peirene and I stood in front of the dark, empty shop that used to be our local bookshop in Crouch End, Prospero’s Books. It closed it’s shutters for ever on the 31. December.
The rumours of the closure had been there for over a year. So no surprise really. And truth to tell it wasn’t a great bookshop. The staff unenthusiastic, the window display dire, their selection unimaginative. However, as I now stared into the barren shop I couldn’t help feel a pang in the heart.
“Dead as a door nail,” Peirene observed matter of fact. Then she sighed.
“It didn’t have to end that way.”
“No, it really didn’t have to.”
“They brought it onto themselves.”
“Yes, they have. So sad.”
“If only they had listened to us and put our books next to the till and hand-sold them, they’d be laughing by now.”
“They’d be laughing by now. You are so right.”
“But they just didn’t want to listen.”
“No they just didn’t want to listen.”
“They really should have worked in a shoe shop first before trying their hands at bookselling.”
“Yes, they really should have. But the young people nowadays just don’t listen anymore.”
“No, they really don’t.”
Peirene and I both sighed, picked up our shopping bags and went our way.