Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Let's take a moment for the used bookstore

A lot happened today. Lucy Ellinson made a beautiful piece about the cuts called "Keidan" where audience members each lit a candle and read out a story of something that is in danger because of the cuts, blowing out the candle in remembrance, then relighting all the candles at the end of the piece, which went beautifully with Tim Etchells' installation being relit. ("START A REVOLUTION") Each day in Edinburgh feels like a week and it's becoming difficult to remember six hours ago as though they were six hours ago. I suppose six hours ago I was watching a comedy show called "Jigsaw" that made me laugh several times. But I don't want to write about that tonight. Tonight I want to write about used bookstores.

I had five hours off from the venue today, between 5pm and 11pm, (hence the Jigsaw), most of which I spent in a lovely restaurant finally spending some proper time with the Tolstoy book I'm reading, "What is Art." My experience with Tolstoy has always been that he demands more focus and concentration than your average writer but also rewards you for that concentration. In fact, in the section of the book where he describes and summarises every remotely significant work about aesthetics up until that point, he actually asks the reader "not to become bored." It's a delight and also not really a surprise that Tolstoy is so self aware.

So after finally being able to give over some of that concentration and to glean some of that reward, I finally figured out how to pay the bill at the restaurant. (You had to go up to the counter! They didn't just like me so much that they never wanted me to leave.) Heading back out into the festival and streets I passed a used bookstore, much like any other bookstore, and on impulse decided to go in for a minute, even though I didn't have much money.

The moment I walked in I was overcome, as though walking into a dream or a memory. The smell you could make a fortune off of if you bottled it - and thank goodness you can't. The fiction section in that used bookstore. A simple ache. The joy of realising you've found something that makes you remember you're alive, and happy about it.

It's worth remembering how special these little things are. Nestled along busy roads next to supermarket chains and music equipment stores, quietly defiant. As long as they exist, we haven't lost. Love live the used bookstore. Calm, delicate and worth recognising and fighting for.

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