Twelve perambulations and one professor
Happy new year and all that – and today, O inhabitants of Planet Tolkien, happy anniversary – the toast is: "The Professor!"
In other business, meanwhile . . . back in October, reports of useful expeditions to the depths of London's bookshops began appearing on the back-page of the TLS. Here's the summing up, from the final issue of 2011, December 23 & 30 (a double issue, please note).
Perambulatory Christmas Books, part 12
By J. C.
Perambulatory Christmas Books, 5th series, part XII. Introducing our first-ever tour in 2007, we said that each book written about will have been found “at one of London’s secondhand bookshops, which lazy reports deem an ailing species”. Four years on, during which the abundance of gadgetry has increased, there are few signs of greater frailty. The best shops – Any Amount of Books, the Archive Bookstore, Walden Books – are still here. Keith Fawkes of Hampstead endures, through a pestiferous bric-à-brac stall which comandeers half its space. The outdoor barrows at Peter Ellis, Cecil Court, glisten with treasure. We paid £2 there for a lovely first edition of So Late into the Night by Sydney Goodsir Smith (1952).
In my saul’s a Universe
Whaur ramp the restless deid,
Othello reives my thrawan hert
And Lear raves in my heid.
Two shops new to us were My Back Pages in Balham and LXV Books in Bethnal Green. The Gloucester Road Bookshop closed one night, and Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road opened next morning – rather too well-ordered for our tastes (nothing discombobulates the Perambulator more), but it is there. Our office neighbourhood hosts three shops: Skoob, Judd and Collinge and Clark.
The original impulse was to offer readers an alternative to the Christmas gift books offered by certain publishers, such as Do Ants Have Arseholes? And 101 other bloody ridiculous questions. It never occurred to us that one day we might read it. But in the course of a rainy perambulation, on the shelf of an East End Buddhist bookshop, we found it! And do you know what . . . . Well, you’ve guessed. It’s rather good. We may now ask, and answer, questions such as “Are there any undiscovered colours?”, “What was the best thing before sliced bread?”, “Is laughter the best medicine?”. There is even philosophy, of the kind we’ve never been good at: “Will your answer to this question be no?” Let’s risk a seasonal Yes. Next Christmas, we might attempt this kind of thing ourselves and submit it to the team in the basement labyrinth for publication. Where do you find good books for round about a fiver?