The bookshop called me in. I didn’t intend to go in there: it just insisted. I would have preferred it if the sudden inclination had taken me when I was upstream (that is, uptown), where the little side-alley independent place is, but the inclination took me as I walked past the big plate-glass windows of the brand name. It was a bookshop though, at least. I had no thought in my head about looking for anyone on the shelves in particular. New books have an almost irresistible feel to them though (almost: I did resist because the prices were so exorbitant). New books have a crispness, a quality that suggests that anyone who just walks in off the street is the first person ever to have opened that book in all its life.
I was drawn like a magnet, and before my conscious self had had time to know it, to Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (which I know I need to read). Its first line drew me in: ‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.’ This is one of those books I know I should already have read but haven’t. I’m already a friend to the words of Márquez, and sometimes we can stand in bookshops for long periods of time trying to justify spending exorbitant amounts of money on crisp new books we know we should have read. I will read it, but later. Writers like Márquez know this is fine because he knows he already has me on his side.
Writers unlike Márquez rely on other friends. So it is I can say I’m truly privileged for the support of people like Kirsty at Bees Make Honey Creative Community, in this case on several counts: (i) for her continued support of my work; (ii) for agreeing to take on copies of Disintegration and Other Stories at the Memories of the Future event in Nottingham this October; (iii) for agreeing to take in a non-Nottingham southerner’s work (that’ll be me!). By way of reciprocal support, if you’re in the area, I trust you can get there (see links above for details).
This support for the independent, the small amongst the megalithic corporates (even though we too are sometimes obliged to make use of the latter to get words out there), the craftspeople of the world, as I see it, is very much appreciated. Of course, in the modern world we know there’s a place for those monsters of industry (we can, perhaps, all be consumers of convenience, and we can like it), but knowing that there are groups of people out there who are focused on the minutiae of it all is inspiring and heartening.
So, in coming back to my own reading, I walk into a corporate-branded bookshop and I find I need Márquez, but I find he can wait. There are still plenty of crisp newnesses to discover in other, yet to be known places first.