Three very different bookshop experiences yesterday.
First, Oxbow books – the history/archaeology specialists. The hub of their postal sales empire has an atmosphere that combines bookshop, library, and warehouse. The display is practical rather than decorative and you have to squint to read the titles in the shadowy regions of the lower shelves – but it’s worth it. Oxbow offer treasures that you can’t find in mainstream shops. Naturally I’ve had to add several of them to the overflow piles on the floor of what’s supposed to be the Writing Room, but is rapidly turning into the hidey-hole for books whose purchase I have not yet mentioned to Husband.
Second, Blackwell’s in Broad Street – several floors stuffed with everything a reader needs, including a coffee shop with leather armchairs where you can sit and gaze out at the mellow stone of the Sheldonian Theatre. Here a small but perfectly-formed group gathered in the Shakespeare section to discuss crime writing. Thanks to everyone who came and asked possibly the most interesting and thoughtful set of questions I can recall at an event. Well, it was Oxford…
Finally on to the Posh End of bookselling. Blackwell’s are the official booksellers for the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, and currently have a huge and splendid marquee looking out over Christ’s Meadow. (For ‘marquee’ read ‘fabric conservatory’ rather than ‘big tent’.) Surrounded by people who might have been famous writers (I never know what anybody looks like) a non-famous writer sat and signed a stack of copies of ‘Ruso and the Demented Doctor’ (Medicus 2) because the UK PAPERBACK IS OUT THIS MONTH! HOORAY!
Thanks to Zool and Rita at Blackwell for organising things and for understanding that yes, the way to a writer’s heart is to ply them with coffee.