Intoxicated by bookstores and libraries
If you’re anything like me, books never cease to seduce you, to delight you, to amaze you and even to intoxicate you.
I’d rather spend time in a bookstore than a museum, and I’m a big fan of museums, which might explain why I especially love used bookstores—and public libraries too—because they are like bibliophile museums, only better, because you are allowed to manipulate the ancient artifacts on display.
Yes, some of the best bookstores are used museums, and the best of them remind me of the defunct All Pro Sporting Goods in Ventura, which was owned by the legendary Bob Tuttle. It was a hole in the wall, barely bigger than a dressing room, but like Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag, anything you were looking for could be found inside.
Indeed, in the 1970s you could walk into All-Pro to buy basketball sneakers and also walk away with a new but damaged baseball glove from the trash in much the same way that one might today be interested in a recently published novel at Ventura’s beloved bank. of books and on top of that end up buying a used copy of a classic.
There’s something special about old books and the scent they release – a trace of mustiness and earthiness, with a hint of vanilla mixed in – when you turn the pages, foxed and yellowed and slightly brittle from age. ‘age. Used bookstores smell better than a nursery greenhouse.
However, I also find pleasure in new books and independent bookstores where the staff can ask you a few questions and then give you a perfect recommendation that, to borrow from Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye”, really knocks you out. Plus, independent stores often have reading nooks and dog-eared sofas that invite you to linger pleasantly for a while. Timbre Books in Ventura and The Bookworm in Camarillo are two of my favorite bookstores.
I, too, love libraries. The finest library I have ever visited is at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, a cathedral of the printed page where the priceless Book of Kells, dating back to 800 AD, resides. When Jorge Luis Borges said, “I always imagined that Paradise would be some kind of library,” I think he had this Trinity College library in mind.
I think any library is a slice of heaven. This includes personal libraries, whether they contain thousands of volumes or just a dozen favorites. Growing up, our home library was actually a small, but very tall, bedroom with two opposing walls with white-painted pine shelves that rose like mountains from the floor to the 12-foot ceiling.
These Twin Peaks were as beautiful as any mosaic in an art museum. Instead of ceramic tiles, stones, or sea glass, the medium was book spines. Thin spines and thick tomes; spines tall, short; spines in rainbow hues and earth tones. Most spines were arrayed vertically, but some were stacked horizontally. There were bits of leather as pristine as polished shoes for church, others tarnished with age and creased with use. There were canvas-bound spines, pocket spines, spines covered with shiny jackets. There were old new backs and new old ones. Some spines had fancy gold lettering while others had titles and authors printed in inks of every color, in a myriad of fonts.
Twin Peaks had too many books to read in ten lifetimes, but that was okay. As the poet Robert Browning said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his reach, otherwise what good is a paradise?”
Next week: two of my friends and the dearest books in their corner of paradise at home.
Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Star and can be reached at [email protected] His books are available at www.WoodyWoodburn.com.