04 January 2014

The Haunted Bookshop (Christopher Morley)

What to say about Christopher Morley's delightful The Haunted Bookshop that I didn't already say about his first adorable novella about the bookselling life, Parnassus on Wheels? Honestly, not much. This one takes place in Brooklyn itself, itinerant bookmonger Roger Mifflin having settled down with his wife, Helen, and opened a bookshop in place. There's a bit of a romance and a shred of plot, the latter of which hinges on some embarrassing-in-retrospect anti-German sentiment, but one can overlook that in a 1919 work. There are, regrettably, no actual ghosts.

There are, however, quotable bits in spades, so I'm just gonna let Morley take it from here. Many of these could be a framed manifesto on the wall of any indie bookstore. Or a tattoo:
  • "I am not a dealer in merchandise but a specialist in adjusting the book to the human need. Between ourselves, there is no such thing, abstractly, as a 'good' book. A book is 'good' only when it meets some human hunger or refutes some human error. . . . My pleasure is to prescribe books for such patients as drop in here and are willing to tell me their symptoms."
  • "Living in a bookshop is like living in a warehouse of explosives."
  • "The life of a bookseller is very demoralizing to the intellect," he went on after a pause. "He is surrounded by innumerable books; he cannot possibly read them all; he dips into one and picks up a scrap from another. His mind gradually fills itself with miscellaneous flotsam, with superficial opinions, with a thousand half-knowledges. Almost unconsciously he begins to rate literature according to what people ask for."
  • "One thing, however, you must grant the good bookseller. he is tolerant. He is patient of all ideas and theories. . . . He is willing to be humbugged for the weal of humanity. He hopes unceasingly for good books to be born."
  • "[A gathering of booksellers is] likely to be a little--shall we say--worn at the bindings, as becomes men who have forsaken worldly profit to pursue a noble calling ill rewarded in cash."
  • "The beauty of being a bookseller is that you don't have to be a literary critic: all you have to do to books is enjoy them."
  • "I will tell you a secret. I have never read King Lear, and have purposely refrained from doing so. If I were ever very ill I would only need to say to myself 'You can't die yet, you haven't read Lear.' That would bring me round, I know it would."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.