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Thursday, 22 March 2018

Getting On The Ladder

100% pure bookseller angst. 



When I visit a new bookstore, I demand cleanliness, computer monitors, and rigorous alphabetization. When I visit a secondhand bookstore, I prefer indifferent housekeeping, sleeping cats, and sufficient organizational chaos.
- Anne Fadiman


So, you want to get into the book trade? Old books, musty cupboards, lingering systemic sexism - sounds ideal, right? Well, then you'll need to master a few key traits to make you stick out from the crowd:

PENETRATING STARE: You know that look librarians give you when you make too much noise? Be prepared to throw that one at people all the time. They key is prolonged eye contact, without a hint of amusement. Bonus points for a momentary brow furrow as if to say "People? In my store? What the devil could they be after?"

CAVALIER ATTITUDE TOWARDS LONGEVITY: Health & Safety regulations aren't expected to reach antiquarian bookstores until the late 2050s, so be prepared to scale ladders held together by hope and prayers across piles of books with sharp edges and spines on the cover. Exposed wiring is just a quirk. That rustling you heard in the basement probably isn't something TOO feral. What larks, Pip.

HATE EVERYONE: Remember kids, it's not discrimination as long as you despise everyone equally. 

TWEED: Or some kind of antiquated quirk, like a fobwatch or a penny farthing. If you don't have your unnecessary bookseller paraphernalia then what's even the point? If anyone mentions it, you must casually dismiss it as an unremarkable part of your daily lifestyle before promptly leaving to go and browse ugly lamps at a car boot sale. 

TREAT CHILDREN LIKE ANIMALS: Part of the job is leering at children as if they were rats that you aren't allowed to put out traps to exterminate. It's nothing personal. 

CATEGORY IS: It's mandatory to have no idea what you have in stock, or where it could possibly be. All inquiries down this avenue must be met with an arch stare and a riddle. 

Example:

[Enter CUSTOMER, through door. BOOKSELLER is at desk, reading through his half-moon glasses]

[CUSTOMER sidles over to desk. It is deadly quiet. The stuffed owl on the desk stares ominously down.]

CUSTOMER: Um, excuse me?
BOOKSELLER (wearily): Yes?
CUSTOMER: I'm looking for a book, can you help me?
BOOKSELLER: [sighs in a manner of great forbearance] I suppose so. What were you looking for?
CUSTOMER: Oh, a gift for a friend. They like Austen, Bronte, you know, that kind of thing.

[BOOKSELLER gives CUSTOMER a long stare, as if to suggest this is either a request of too great or too little difficulty, but one in which they have no interest either way.]

BOOKSELLER: [waves towards shelves] Over there somewhere.

CUSTOMER: Oh. Um, ok. Between those two precariously balanced copies of War and Peace?

[CUSTOMER exits stage RIGHT. There is a scream from CUSTOMER, and the sound of a collapsing shelf. BOOKSELLER goes back to reading.]

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