It’s a place whose real boundaries and character are much more than its physical dimensions.
By Max Norman, August 6, 2022
“Will the day come where there are no more secondhand bookshops?” the poet, essayist, and bookseller Marius Kociejowski asks in his new memoir, “A Factotum in the Book Trade.”
He suspects that such a day will not arrive, but, troublingly, he is unsure. In London, his adopted home town and a great hub of the antiquarian book trade, many of Kociejowski’s haunts—including his former employer, the famed Bertram Rota shop, a pioneer in the trade of first editions of modern books and “one of the last of the old establishments, dynastic and oxygenless, with a hierarchy that could be more or less described as Victorian”—have already fallen prey to rising rents and shifting winds.
Kociejowski dislikes the fancy, well-appointed bookstores that have sometimes taken their place. “I want chaos; I want, above all, mystery,” he writes. The best bookstores, precisely because of the dustiness of their back shelves and even the crankiness of their guardians, promise that “somewhere, in one of their nooks and crannies, there awaits a book that will ever so subtly alter one’s existence.” With every shop that closes, a bit of that life-altering power is lost and the world leaches out “more of the serendipity which feeds the human spirit.”