Tuesday, 16 October 2012

I, Bookseller

My search for temporary work (to see me through this awkward period before the inevitable call  arrives from Leonard Cohen asking me to become his Acting Second Assistant Metaphor Polisher) has seen my books career return eerily, but far from unpleasantly to its beginnings.  From November, I will be one of a crack squad of literature relocation executives skilfully surfing the Christmas tides in The Bookshop in Welwyn Garden City.

I remember, as if it were only 21 years ago (which, spookily, it is) how my very first few minutes of acting on a professional basis in a bookshop made me feel as if a friendly Work Sprite had tapped me on the shoulder and said 'About time, too; we wondered where the heck you'd got to'. This first berth was in a now demised independent bookshop called Pemberton's, in Bedford, at a time when the most astonishing technical reading revolution was the Magic Eye effect and when microfiche and memory were as important as computers to running a good bookshop.  My manager and I used to - after an especially busy period - squint ferociously at the Fiction section and, lapsing into a profound, trance-like state, begin reciting the titles that had been purchased as if we were media (i.e. more than one medium) (does that make a Large?).

Less callow blog followers will also be aware that in this era we were all bound by the Net Book Agreement, which forbade the selling of books below the rrp.  Remarkably, the NBA held legal sway in this country (as it did and does in many others) until those devious imps at Amazon built a time machine out of odd parts of Slough and travelled back to unravel the Agreement so that Amazon could be invented.  You've got to hand it to them.  The bookshop was one of many that could not survive the encroachment of extreme discounting, during which (I kid you not) some booksellers could profit from buying their stock from supermarkets and reselling it in their bookshops.

And then there was elusive Sex, specifically Madonna's book of that name, which had a print run of about three and a half copies, in order to ensure that it would be sought after.  I never saw a copy, but once stroked a dog whose owner had a brother, an aunt of whom once knew someone who did.

Anyhoo - if you're a few postcodes away from WGC (even if you're not, the fascinating history of our second Garden City, and its many scenic attractions, warrant a visit), do pop in and ask me to recommend a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

1 comment:

  1. Woohoo! Not only paid employment, but paid employment where you get to spend all day with books! Brilliant!