I love going to bookshops.
It’s not that I have anything against digital. I read tons of stories online for a mix of duty and pleasure (sometimes both at the same time), my kindle was a worthwhile purchase and everything I’ve ever written (barring my one story in Firewords) lives digitally.
But there’s just nothing like the feel, smell and taste (I nearly got thrown out for that) of a new book.
I used to love going to bookshops.
Trips to the bookshop are relatively rare these days and, when they happen, are filled with a range of emotions for me. Usually, as was the case yesterday, one or both of the kids are in tow which makes browsing a somewhat less leisurely and substantially more fraught experience than the name suggests. There are few guarantees in life but you can hang your hat on the fact that if you look interested in something your kids will want to do something else.
And they will tell you in loud tones. Followed by screaming. Followed by lying on the floor.
My wife presented me with a window of opportunity at Exclusive Books yesterday by taking the two small people to the kids section and reading to them. She tipped me the wink as soon as their backs were turned. Tabby McTat was about to start and so I sprung my escape.
The pressure was too much.
I marched through the store eyes wild and blazing, twisting my head from side to side trying to take it all in. Somewhere a clock was ticking down and when I reported back I needed to have information. A list of interesting books, a few authors to name drop, maybe even a couple of cookbooks to discuss – anything.
It was all too much. The words all blended into one. I was sweating, my vision was blurred and I felt on the point of collapse. This was my big moment and I was about to blow it. Like some v-neck wearing doofus on the Saturday night Generation Game of my youth I was about to go down in flames screaming DINNERSERVICEFONDUESETCUDDLYTOY all the while knowing that there was so much more on offer.
After dutifully reporting back that “there’s a new book out from that dude who wrote The Painted Man” and stoically meeting the shame and disappointment filled gaze of my wife I trudged back out through the store.
And I realised there is another reason why my love of bookshops is now under threat.
Simply being around so much written work was overwhelming. The sheer weight of numbers is terrifying. All those men and women who gave up hours upon hours upon hours of their lives to pour their hearts and souls into creations that will in many cases be ignored. These are just the ones that got accepted somewhere by someone and put into print.
What chance do I have?
Bugger all chance unless you keep writing you big wuss.
So when we came home I wrote a thousand or so words on a partially completed new story with a working title of Apathetica. I put the finishing touches to a new humorous piece called Only Rock and Roll and scribbled a few more odds and ends.
Page. Crisp. White. Empty.
The outpouring of the soul
Makes dreams possible
I still love going to bookshops.
Sure, they terrify me a little bit.
But they also allow me to dream amongst those who have shown it’s possible.