Category Archives: Bookshops

Death of a bookshop

From now on it will be a lot easier to describe where I’m going, if I’m going into our holiday town to buy books. I’ll be going to the bookshop. There will no longer be two of them, the ‘antique’ names of which I still cling to, in order to tell them apart. Meijels Bokhandel and Larssons Bokhandel.

Now Halmstad Bokhandel (my Meijels) has been declared bankrupt. It has operated under that name for thirty years, and before that it was Meijels for 27 years. Which means that there was a time in my life when that shop on the corner of Brogatan and Hantverksgatan was not a bookshop, but I don’t remember that. (Back in those days we only went to Larssons, where Mother-of-witch had one of her students. The ‘middle Larsson,’ I believe.)

But Meijels is ‘mine,’ because it’s where I once had a holiday job, and it has always been the place I go to first when I needed a book or stationery.

It is obviously a case of death by cyberspace bookshops. While Amazon has barely got its teeth into Sweden, there have been several internet based bookshops, selling books cheaper, and faster.

Apparently the 83-year-old owner of Halmstad Bokhandel has – more recently – worked in the shop himself, along with his two sons, to keep costs down. But they have to eat too.

I don’t mourn just the death of a bookshop. It’s the fact that soon Halmstad will be nothing but pharmacies and bars and kebab places. They are all lovely, of course, but a town needs a bit of normal shopping as well.

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Making its mind up

Went to Waterstones a few days ago. Well, I was in town anyway, and I also happened to want a new book. (I’m working on being more in control, by not always asking for free books.)

Children’s books are upstairs and I went straight to the lift, on account of being lazy. And also the stairs are tall-ish, especially when you come down.

The lift was already there. It let me in. I hit the button for up. After some non-action, the doors opened. Pressed the same button again. And this is where it becomes a blur in my memory.

The lady voice thing that says whatever the lift is doing, suggested all manner of things. Going up. Going down. Doors opening. Over and over again. I looked at the closed doors (whatever that lady was saying), decided I didn’t like it and pressed the open doors button.

Luckily they did open, after some thinking about it, and out I stepped.

Marching over to the steep stairs, I heard the lift lady still talking nonsense. I hauled myself up, and after finding the book I was wanting, trekked down again.

I’ll have to consider whether I go back. Don’t want to try the lift again, and I don’t really appreciate those steep stairs. If you like the word user friendly, then they aren’t.

Why is it that even quite modern buildings, in public use, are falling to pieces so soon? This part of the shopping mall was (meant to be) opened on the day of Diana’s funeral.

Did the malfunctioning of the lift have anything to do with the bucket collecting drips of water at the front of the shop? Where was the water even coming from? Upstairs?

Call me fussy, but…

The Bookshop

Trailers, eh? I’ve been fooled once or twice in recent memory. Not that I go to the cinema all that often, but I did catch a couple of trailers for The Bookshop, liked them and thought I’d go and see the film when it came.

I’m almost certain it never came. Not here. And that’s interesting in itself. Why ‘trail’ a product you won’t be selling?

When Daughter was last here she assisted the old folk – that’s us, the Resident IT Consultant and me – by compiling a Netflix list of films, making them easier for us to find. And urged by positive noises on social media, we watched The Bookshop a few days ago.

The Bookshop

It had Bill Nighy in it. Not many films don’t, these days. I like Bill. He was good in this one, as well, even if he only ever has the ‘Bill Nighy’ setting. His face after reading Fahrenheit 451..!

The thing is, while it was a pretty decent film, it was nothing like the trailer had led me to expect. I don’t know the book by Penelope Fitzgerald, on which it was based. On the one hand it was another of the popular retro settings, travelling back to the 1950s, and a seaside bookshop being set up by book-loving widow is quite an attractive idea.

On the other hand, there was much nasty behaviour by her neighbours – made worse by today being 2019 – and she was far too kind and polite, as well as perhaps a little naïve. Her helper, played by Honor Kneafsey, was refreshingly observant and outspoken for someone so young.

And being me, I couldn’t help but pick holes in the authenticity of the retro-ness. But apart from expecting a different film, it was good. Not cheerful, so much.

Plus a phantom Phantom

And another thing I discovered at Waterstones. Book, I mean.

After reading Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm, I knew I needed to read her beloved The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. I put it on my Christmas wish list and the Resident IT Consultant sourced a copy and gave me.

Because it was an ex-library copy, he took the liberty of first reading it himself, and he seemed a little confused as to why I’d want it. Well, I didn’t know, did I? Except if it was life-changing for Lucy, then…

Anyway, I was astounded to discover this very book for sale at Waterstones on Thursday. Seemed like the same cover and everything. It was – apparently – a 50th anniversary edition. Made sense to me.

Except, when I got home and searched, I could not find such a cover, and the only 50th edition seems to be from 2011 [book first published in the US in 1961].

Did I hallucinate this Phantom?

Reading it, I can understand how the book had such an impact on Lucy, experiencing it at school where an enlightened teacher read it to the the class. It’s perfect for reading aloud. Although I wonder about the many illustrations by Jules Feiffer. Did the teacher show them every page?

I like the quote [in Bookworm] from Jules, about how he’d have used nicer paper to draw on, had he known it was going to be a classic!

And dear Lucy owns at least three copies of this book. It’s reassuring to find someone who understands about safeguarding against a lack of books at some ghastly point in the future.

A little Pratchett, and some pysio

Daughter urgently required a spare pair of glasses, so I ended up buying a book.

We had dragged ourselves into town, and when it turned out an eye test was unavoidable, I realised I’d come unprepared with not a single book to hand, despite having three on the go at home.

Which is how we made it to Waterstones, because you can ‘always’ buy another book.

So I sat on a chair at Specsavers and read my new Terry Pratchett until such a time as Daughter had managed to escape all up-selling, and emerged with a new pair of glasses for very little money.

I, on the other hand, having no spare arm to hand – heh – have got myself some pysio. Yes, I know it’s physio, but I was quite taken with the Resident IT Consultant’s earlier typo for this service. And on the basis that it sounds like some benevolent little elf, I’m off to more pysio this morning.

Whoever had, has been given more

Until some years ago I admit I often felt grumpy when seeing among the books most sold during the year, the names of Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson. I recognised their greatness and that being ‘names’ and very popular, it made sense that adults bought lots of their books for little readers.

I just wanted there to be a few more children’s authors on the lists. Usually there was someone, but not many.

But at least they were there, alongside Jacky and Julia.

Now I feel grumpy beyond belief when having a quick look at the 2018 list of the 100 bestselling books of the year.

Yes, I am glad that children’s books make up a third of that top list. Although I have to take the Guardian’s word for that, since I was unable to identify all 33. And that’s so wrong. As the Bookwitch, even if I haven’t read them, I ought to know who’s who.

A third of the third – i.e. 11 of the bestselling titles – belong to the well known comedian David Walliams. This is wrong in so many ways. Jeff Kinney is there, but I can allow that. Three Harry Potters, thank goodness, one Julia Donaldson, one Kes Gray. Also one Michael Bond and Wonder by R J Palacio, both of which will be movie-related.

And some more celebrity-penned books, not all of which I actually recognise, despite people’s fame.

It seems both wrong, and unkind, to leave 2018 in a bit of an angry mood, but this is not right. Children deserve better. The world is full of really good books. I hope many of them found their way into children’s hands anyway, despite the big names hogging everyone’s attention.

Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading

I want to be Lucy Mangan. We are so alike in many ways, but I haven’t read all the books she has, nor can I write like she does. I want to [be able to] write like Lucy Mangan!

I don’t expect that will happen.

I also want to know what her house/library/bookshelves look like. I can’t conceive how you can keep that many books – in a findable way – in a normal house. Assuming she lives in a normal house.

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm

After reading Lucy’s Bookworm, I now love her parents, too. I especially feel I’ve got to know Mrs Mangan better – and that’s without the letter to the Guardian stating that the Mangans were happy to have their daughter adopted by some other Guardian letter writer.

A friend of mine often mentions the fear induced in millions of people by the four minute warning so ‘popular’ in the 1980s. I’d almost forgotten about it, and never really worried all that much. Little Lucy was extremely concerned, but was reassured by her mother, who clearly knew what the child needed to hear. Basically, it would be in the news, so they would be prepared. They’d not send her to school if the end seemed imminent, and they would all die together at home. Problem solved.

Bookworm is about what one bookworm has read – so far – in her life of loving children’s books. She is not repentant (I must try harder), and will keep reading what she wants, as well as keep not doing all those ghastly things other people like, if she doesn’t want to. That’s my kind of bookworm!

This reading memoir is full of the same books we have all read, or decided not to read, as well as some real secret gems I’d never heard of and will need to look for. Lucy rereads books regularly, but doesn’t mention how she finds the time for all this.

It’s been such a relief to discover that she dislikes some of the same books I’d never consider reading, and even more of a relief to understand how acceptable, and necessary this is. Lucy even has the right opinions on clothes. Very useful to know there are sensible women in this world.

I had to read Bookworm slowly. I needed to savour what I could sense wouldn’t last forever. Although one can obviously reread Bookworm, just as one can other books. (Where to find the extra time, though?)

Growing up a generation – not to mention a North Sea – apart, we didn’t always read the same books. But by now we sort of meet in the here and now, and Lucy ends her book by listing a number of today’s must-read authors, and her judgement is almost completely spot on and correct.

So to summarise; I can read the same books. I can probably not store as many in my house. But I will never be able to write as well. (And I rather mind that.)

(According to Lucy, she loves her young son more than she loves books. Bookworm was given to me – after some hinting – by Daughter, whom I happen to love more than books too.)