where the writers are
The Hooker 'Book'er

8000 square feet, they advertise. Is this real estate? Bookstores are indeed homes to tomes but I see them as tenants who can be kicked out any minute as the words written in them fight for breath choked within the confines of large spaces, and I don’t care if large spaces according to common belief cannot choke you. Too much oxygen kills.

I dislike the new bookstores where elbow space is of great importance and the aisles are broad enough for you not to meet other browsers. Staring you in the eye instead will be wrapping papers and gift bags with tassels, mugs with cheesy lines, greeting cards “for all occasions”, and CDs and DVDs. There is a little coffee shop hidden somewhere where you can leaf through with a cuppa and a pastry. Books are accidental tourists; even the ones at discounted rates look like backpackers ready to move out. They don’t seem to belong in the homes created for them.

Once I did visit a newly-opened store and what struck me first was the leather chairs. I picked up a book and sat there. It felt so much like an indulgence that I merely turned the pages, opening them out like a fan. It was travesty simply because it was uncivil. I wanted to be the one to mess it up. A man sitting across glared at me over his reading glasses. He looked intelligent, so I asked him an intelligent question: “Do you buy books here?” His face relaxed and he almost smiled. The ‘almost’ was to give himself time to mull over my query. We got talking about films since my arm could extend only as far as the cinema section shelf and that leather chair afforded me the luxury of not wanting to move. That is the problem.

You do not venture out for treasures to carry along, or tumble over sentences, or pore over the contents page, the back jacket. Nothing. If at all you have something in mind, you just go up to the counter and ask for it. I pick up a mug with a smiley face, a lovely gift bag, two cards for no occasion and watch as a literary figure I probably love lies there in wait. “Not now, darling,” I whisper and walk away.

I like bookstores to be slightly cramped, where books take up most of the space and there is just enough for me to demand some. Like a paramour I want to snuggle into an embrace with them as little insects crawl and leave love bites. I like to return with memories as much as books. New ones that I thumb through with care, the pages still virginal but as I turn them over there will be the craft of foretaste secretly embedded. Such delightful deceit! Old books that have been reprinted often and I never did get to look at them because I was lazy or unaware or not interested at the time are akin to discovering a fresh erogenous zone to make me tingle with anticipation as the expertly repeated words perform a magical seduction.

The streets offer a lot more of throbbing enticement. There was one close to Flora Fountain, Mumbai, where I’d stop and just watch as people pushed on their way back home from work. It was at the end of a line of stalls, although they can hardly be called stalls. On a sheet of cloth vendors just placed the books. They knew a lot. I have bought works on anthropology, religion, gender. They are old books, books someone has read. Often, there would be markings, which I do not like, but mostly a name on the first page or a date, and I’d imagine how a Mr R would have felt while going through it. Did he know his book was here, a book he had branded with his name, claiming it as his own? Or did he tire of its presence, and if so what made him do so – the intensity of the words or their hollowness? Had he moved on or had the words become an intrusion? Did Ms R feel the way I did reading ‘Women and Madness’? Was either of us connected to it because of the book?

I have smiled and frowned as I looked at what was on offer and the salesman would help, suggest. Once I picked up ‘Penthouse Letters’ and asked him if it was any good. He looked deeply embarrassed. I seriously believed it was an analysis of the genre. The pages were so parchment-like I was afraid to open it. He shrugged. I bought it and found that they were notes about sexual fantasies.

It was quite apt that the pages had yellowed with brown splotches. No one had put a name there. So, I put my initials on it claiming the orphan as mine. No fantasy must go unrealised, I said to myself, as I sent it along with a few other things it was time to discard.

I imagined it once again in some street corner waiting to be picked up and ripped some more.

Comments
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Nothing like a good old

Nothing like a good old ripped solid leather chair to make you feel at home reading a book. Great to meet you Farzana.____Michael

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The ripped leather chair in

The ripped leather chair in a teak-panelled room with the scent of smoking fire and luscious words...lovely, Michael. Lovely at a place that feels like home. Not in a store where you think you must buy the chair!

But cheers to that warm brandy...and thanks for stopping by for a sip...

~F

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As you say,"No fantasy must

As you say,"No fantasy must go unrealised..." Our two comments linked like they are through the ripped leather chair is wonderful. I can see it in my mind. Smell the brandy. Yes it is warm and delightful sipping our drinks and having a few laughs. Glad I did stop by_______michael