When we decided to head to Paris for a few nights, I had two things I wanted to do – visit the Catacombs, because they were closed the last time we were there, and visit a few English secondhand bookshops, because this has become a bit of a thing for me. Unfortunately, the Catacombs are conspiring against me, as they were closed again, so that left the bookshops – which was really more than enough. And as this is, of course, a blog primarily concerning the reading and writing of books, I thought I could make quite a nice little blog post about visiting them.
So let’s start with a couple of scene-setting shots…
The weather was really not as good as it looked, but rainy days are good for bookshops. Shakespeare and Company was, of course, obligatory – we sat outside with a hot drink and watched everyone taking selfies in front of the doors. It’s a lovely old building, with all sorts of funky nooks and crannies, but as the emphasis seems to be on the sale of either new or rare books (and selfie-taking), I came away book-less. Probably a good thing, considering the shops to come.
San Francisco Books was rather less busy and quirky, but far more interesting for the secondhand book hunter – it has a really good selection of used books, including lots of wonderful old paperbacks with lurid covers and menacing titles.
The Abbey Bookshop is tucked away in a back alley and literally overflowing onto the pavements with stacks of new and used books. It’s the sort of place where in order to pass someone between the shelves you both have to flatten yourselves against the stacks and hope nothing falls on you. If it did, you might be in there a long time before you could be excavated. Bliss, no?
And then we retired to a patisserie for lunch and dessert, because, well, Paris.
We very nearly missed Berkeley Books, which would have been most upsetting – we managed to get there on the second day. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos of it, but it was a lovely little shop with a good stock of used books and a resident cat. The SO managed a chat with him but he left before I got to see him. The cat, not the SO.
And that was going to be it for my blog this week – bookshops and food, with chocolate heavily featured, as befits a writer and bookworm. But then I did one of those silly facebook quizzes at 4am or a similarly unpleasant hour (it seems that the little furry muse has established a psychic link with me, so that she wakes me up at a distance when she wants feeding). It was a quiz which claimed to be able to guess your age based on the books you’ve read, and it was all harmless enough. But the basis of it seemed to be that if you like classic literature, you’re old, and if you like young adult books you’re young. Which is ridiculous enough in itself – I read more classic literature as a teenager than I have as an adult, and I read plenty of young adult and middle grade books now. Of course, you could say it’s because that’s what I write, but I know plenty of people my age and older that read “young” books, and plenty of people younger than me that read “old” books. It’s that pigeonholing thing again, and the more I see it, the less I like it.
If you’re an introvert, you act like this, and this only.
If you’re an extrovert, you act like this, and this only.
If you’re of this age, you read this, if another you read that. No swapsies!
If you’re a bookworm, you must be an introvert/shy/timid/geeky/a daydreamer.
If you’re a writer, you must be an introvert/a bookworm/a geek/weird.
Firstly, let me say – I identify with all these “writer” things. But it’s not all I am. And this is what’s getting to me – this labelling and catagorising. The beauty of reading is all the diversity it opens us to, the ability to experience life through the eyes of people other than us, to understand that no single person is just one thing, one label. We’re so many, many things, so diverse and varied within ourselves as well as in relation to each other. We’re human, beautiful and wonderful and odd and interesting, and so, so much more than a clever internet meme that we can like and share and agree with. And while I do quite like clever internet memes that celebrate things like bookishness and introversion and weirdness, I also like so many other things, that aren’t writerish or bookish at all. And liking other things, being other things, doesn’t make me any less of a bookworm or a writer. They’re just other parts to the puzzle. This eagerness to label, to say if you’re a bookworm, or a writer, or any other thing, then you must conform to all these aspects, and only these, because otherwise you’re not really a bookworm, or a writer, or whatever – isn’t that exactly the opposite of what reading offers us?
So I decided to include the other parts of the trip in this blog, too – a few of the many other things I love very much that have nothing and everything to do with being a writer and a reader. Because it’s all connected, isn’t it? All these little parts that make us what we are.
That’s just a couple of the many non-book things I love. What about you? Do you love needlepoint and heavy metal? Dragon-taming and jam-making? World-building and fashion design? What things do you love that maybe don’t fit the labels you see around you? What are some of the other parts to the beautiful puzzle that is you?