Postcard from... The Bookshop

The books on my shelves contain more stories that those printed on the page. Sometimes when I take a book in my hand I remember not only its contents, but where I was when I read it. A campsite in Sweden. An overnight bus, crossing the Alps. A bedroom in Headingley. Then there are the stories of where they came from. A gift, perhaps, or more unforgivable, something borrowed and never returned. And then there are those books where you can remember where you bought it. From friends in Kreuzberg. In a converted mill in Massachusetts. An old railway station in Alnwick. In Krakow I bought a book and read it in the tiny cafe at the back of the shop, the whole afternoon passing me by. In Saskatoon I paused long enough at the shelf of Beat writers to prompt the bookseller to tell me that William Burroughs had died. I thought of Burroughs again in Paris, at that famous bookshop by the river. It had been top of my list when we planned the trip, the main thing I wanted to see, and it was everything I had hoped for. There might be whole worlds on the shelves, but sometimes it is the bookshop that is the place.