“No,” Monsieur Perdu said again the following morning. “I’d rather not sell you this book.”
Gently he pried Night from the lady’s hand. Of the many novels on his book barge—the vessel moored on the Seine that he had named Literary Apothecary—she had inexplicably chosen the notorious bestseller by Maximilian “Max” Jordan, the earmuff wearer from the third floor in Rue Montagnard.
The customer looked at the bookseller, taken aback.
“Max Jordan doesn’t suit you.”
“Max Jordan doesn’t suit me?”
“That’s right. He’s not your type.”
“My type. Okay. Excuse me, but maybe I should point out to you that’s I’ve come to your book barge for a book. Not a husband, mon cher Monsieur.”
“With all due respect, what you read is more important in the long term than the man you marry, ma chère Madame.”
She looked at him through eyes like slits.
“Give me the book, take my money, and we can both pretend it’s a nice day.”
“It is a nice day, and tomorrow is the start of summer, but you’re not going to get this book. Not from me. May I suggest a few others?”
“Right, and flog me some old classic you’re too lazy to throw overboard where it can poison the fish?” She spoke softly to begin with, but her volume kept increasing.
“Books aren’t eggs, you know. Simply because a book has aged a bit doesn’t mean it’s gone bad.” There was now an edge to Monsieur Perdu’s voice too. “What is wrong with old? Age isn’t a disease. We all grow old, even books. But are you, is anyone, worth less, or less important, because they’ve been around for longer?”
“It’s absurd how you’re twisting everything, all because you don’t want me to have that stupid Night book.”
The customer–or rather noncustomer—tossed her purse into her luxury shoulder bag and tugged at the zip, which got stuck.
Perdu felt something welling up inside him, a wild feeling, anger, tension–only it had nothing to do with this woman. He couldn’t hold his tongue, though. He hurried after her as she strode angrily through the belly of the book barge and called out to her in the half-light between the long bookshelves: “It’s your choice, Madame! You can leave and spit on me. Or you can spare yourself thousands of hours of torture starting right now.”
“Thanks, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“Surrender to the treasures of books instead of entering into pointless relationships with men, who neglect you anyway, or going on crazy diets because you’re not thin enough for one man and not stupid enough for the next.”
She stood stock-still by the large bay window that looked out over the Seine, and glared at Perdu. “How dare you!”
“Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men. They undress you with love, strength, and knowledge. It’s love from within. Make your choice: book or…”
—Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop
The Boston Public Library has a machine that automatically dusts their books. I desperately need one.
— BostonPublicLibrary (@BPLBoston) April 20, 2017
This is lovely.
I stumbled across this video of Jay Walker’s library in which two lucky little blighters get a personal tour of my personal version of Heaven. If there was a grown-up version of Make A Wish, I’d ask to go there. But it’s just as well I can’t go because they’d probably have to call the SWAT team to get me out and I wouldn’t want any of the books to get damaged in the ensuing fracas.
Alan Rickman, 1946-2016. Requiescat in pace.
Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them. Matters that are so subtle, so personal, so obscure that I ordinarily can’t imagine saying them to the people to whom I’m closest. Every once in a while I try to say them aloud and find that what turns to mush in my mouth or falls short of their ears can be written down for total strangers. Said to total strangers in the silence of writing that is recuperated and heard in the solitude of reading. Is it the shared solitude of writing, is it that separately we all reside in a place deeper than society, even the society of two? Is it that the tongue fails where the fingers succeed, in telling truths so lengthy and nuanced that they are almost impossible aloud?
—Rebecca Solnit, “The Faraway Nearby” (via Brain Pickings)
I’m not sure I approve of using a library book to prop up a chair, but it’s probably not the worst thing that’s happened to a book. If they could tell tales…