Although it is only a matter of time, capitalism hasn’t collapsed yet; but even so, right now the way it is going backwards is still a groove sensation – empty retail units and what only a couple of years ago would have seemed like really unlikely pop-ups in place of tedious corporate chains.
As a teenager in the 1970s I always loved exchange bookshops and there were plenty of them in London, even in the centre of town… you’d buy a paperback and if you didn’t want to keep it you could trade it in at half price for something else. The selection was always radically different to the local library, far more trash for a start… I found exchange bookshops a great source of cheap crime novels, fantasy, sci-fi and horror.
Like so many of the classic family owned cafes in London, exchange bookshops disappeared at a fantastic rate during the eighties and nineties. The last one I used with any regularity was on Eldon Street, just west of Liverpool Street station, it was there through much of the nineties, and I often combined a visit to it with a meal in The Copper Grill a couple of doors down; the cafe closed down in 2004, the bookshop some time before.
I haven’t noticed any sixties-style cafes springing up around London recently, but I have clocked a ‘brand new secondhand’ shop just east of Liverpool Street station called Bob’s Book Exchange (which opened this summer). Bob is a friendly geezer who promotes his activities with the following blurbs: “Buy used books and save trees. Save money when you exchange a book. Massive range of fiction & non-fiction books in stock. Books bought for cash. 11 Devonshire Row, London EC2M 4RQ.” And aside from finding the place open well outside its advertised hours, I’ve also overheard some really groovy conversations. For example:
Customer: “Have you got a copy of The Gorse Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton?”
Bob: “No, but you can buy it new.”
Customer: “Some people think I’m strange but I don’t like new books. I only like secondhand paperbacks. When I open a new book I worry I’m going to break the spine. They’re too clean. I won’t buy a new book. I just don’t like them.”
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!
Comment by Zen Master K on 2009-10-06 10:52:20 +0000
The smell of old books is pure horny!
Comment by The Real Tessie on 2009-10-06 12:20:59 +0000
Last night you told me that I’m pure horny!
Comment by Time on 2009-10-06 13:24:21 +0000
I really like the part – empty retail units 🙂
Comment by Alec Empire on 2009-10-06 13:45:49 +0000
Redefine the enemy!
Comment by raymond anderson on 2009-10-06 14:14:27 +0000
Was it Nigel Havers asking for the Hamilton?
Up here on the main drags, the unused shopping spaces are returning to the rag and bone men and furniture removal guys. Old Calor Gas heaters permeate the ether.
Indoor stalls in large markets would be good to see again. Cheap boho malls. 24 hour car boot sales. More fumes.
I was wondering if books were still the fetish they used to be and then I saw yr economic interpretation of “69 things”‘ infiltration of academia on youtube.
I watched the Arena show about Sham 69 last night – “Tell Us The Truth”. I don’t know what game Pursey was playing but he had some bottle and they were a good musical band on their night.
Comment by Paul Noble on 2009-10-06 15:57:06 +0000
There’s nothing like taking a dump in a musty old book.
Comment by Book Slut on 2009-10-06 19:11:19 +0000
I wouldn’t touch a used book, I only read uncorrected proofs sent directly to me by a publicist.
Comment by As Mercenarias on 2009-10-06 19:53:49 +0000
It’s the beginning of the end…..
Comment by Simon Strong on 2009-10-06 22:29:13 +0000
Patrick Hamilton is The Man! Have you seen the film of ‘Hangover Square’ where the hero is turned into a serial killer whose psychotic killing sprees are triggered by LOUD NOISES ? Its funty…
Comment by Alex Hamilton on 2009-10-07 00:31:29 +0000
this is like blokes and bloketts listning to music that looks good, you like want a groovie book read Too Loud a Solitude by Hrabel
Comment by Arturo Bassick on 2009-10-07 09:35:41 +0000
Know any good pubs round Liverpool Street?
Comment by Oleksiy on 2009-10-07 12:13:14 +0000
more details ’bout Communism arrival schedule
Comment by Tim on 2009-10-07 12:41:38 +0000
Glad to hear the old London is coming back, at least a little bit. Aside from a lot of empty condos – there’s some talk of turning them into affordable housing units but we’ll see if that happens or not – New York remains greatly under wraps. But another year of this – who knows?
Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-10-07 13:26:08 +0000
Crikey, did someone mention…..Jimmy Pursey ??
Be afraid….be very very very……Afffffrrrrrraaaaaaiiiiiddddd……
You want to know why eh ?
Just watch the following clips — IF YOU DARE……..
Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-10-07 13:38:40 +0000
Blimey, I dunno , but Jimmy looks…..well, if not angry, then reeeaaaaallly fed up. He’s giving that mike stand some welly too.
He meant it maaann… You can just…. tell.
Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-10-07 14:13:22 +0000
[Q] From Jennie Booth, Australia: I came across the phrase ” giving it some welly” in a BBC report today. I’ve not seen it before and am somewhat curious about its meaning. Can you help?
[A] It’s a fine bit of British English slang, usually in the form “give it some welly”. This instruction, often shouted to a youth or indeed, any sort of hardy,earnest, well intentioned individual, is an exhortation employed for the purposes of encouragement or criticism,and asks for more effort to be put into whatever he or she is doing
Comment by Michael K on 2009-10-08 11:39:45 +0000
Totally agree with the ‘customer’ although I’ve gone on further to where only borrowed library books give me the horn. Used to be a total ‘got to be MINE’ person but reasons I can discern for change are, one, that the libraries are gonna become creches and internet cafes unless we borrow their books, two, that the library services have gone out of their way in recent years to make getting ANY book easier and cheaper than Amazon (I’ve occasionally had to wait a week or two on both) and three that the ‘multiple hands’ upon the books is just pure horny.
Comment by Book Exchange Bob on 2010-08-22 20:35:32 +0000
I’m sorry to say I had to close the shop a few months ago – but thanks to all of you who supported it while it was there. A book exchange in the City of London proved financially unviable in the current economic climate I’m afraid. Shame!