As any reader of book blogs has probably picked up, Saturday was designated as “Books are my Bag” day, to promote the buying of real books in real bookshops. Alas, it appeared that nowhere in my locality was celebrating this fact, so I wasn’t too sad when I found out I had to pay a flying visit to London that day!
Unfortunately, I was on quite a tight schedule which meant I ended up with two hours to get round any shops I wanted to visit before ending up dealing with the errand I went on. So I had to plan carefully, and in the end plumped for Foyles, and a few locations round Charing Cross Road.
So I hit Foyles first thing, and was pleased to see balloons and displays celebrating the event. The new modernised shop is a lovely thing to behold, and I could have spent a lot longer browsing than I actually did. In the end, I decided to treat myself to a couple of *brand new* books – not something I often do as I tend to go for second-hand owing to cost and availability. But after a lot of brain bashing and changing my mind, I eventually chose these two books:
“Hotel Savoy” by Joseph Roth is a lovely Hesperus volume I’ve been eyeing up for a while and I finally succumbed. Since I love European literature so much, this should be right up my street. “After Midnight” is written by Irmgard Keun, who was Roth’s lover, and the book is set during the rise of Hitler. This is a lovely Neversink book from Melville Press about whom I know absolutely nothing – but it was translated by Anthea Bell who’s done such lovely work on Stefan Zweig, so that bodes well!
My next port of call was at the bottom of Charing Cross Road – first to Any Amount of Books where the amount I found was none! This is most odd, but I did better at Henry Pordes where I discovered these three treasures:
The Meredith is an early Virago and one I’ve been after for some time; the Turgenev is from NYRB and it’s always nice to find them second-hand; and the Nabokov is a lovely Penguin short story collection with a Tamara de Lempicka on the cover – ’nuff said! Lovely finds all, and I’m particularly pleased with the Turgenev, as this is a Constance Garnett translation. She’s very much maligned by later translators, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever read one of her versions, so I’m interested to see how it compares.
Finally, I trotted off to the Oxfam bookshop near the British Museum and scored a couple of lovely Viragos:
I’ve been on a little bit of a Rebecca West kick recently, so “Harriet Hume” was a delightful find as it seems to be hard to track down online in the green version (I’ve seen several black cover American ones). And the Ivy Compton-Burnett cover alone makes it worth buying (I indulged in a Virginia Woolf bookmark too).
So all in all, it was a lovely book buying interlude. I always love to visit Charing Cross Road, though nowadays this does bring a certain melancholy. Currently the top end is being torn apart for the Tottenham Court Road tube upgrade, and so many of the little old buildings and shops that gave the place character have disappeared. In the 1980s I would meet friends for book shopping trips and we’d pop into strange little cafes in side streets for lunch, explore the many bookshops the street had to offer and have a wonderful time. Alas, now there are a handful of shops and I found it depressing to see that Borders has now become a TK Maxx and that the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street is now a Primark. At least there are still some bookshops to fight the cause and I’m glad I supported them at the weekend.
Another potential point of melancholy is the Underground itself. I’ve always loved travelling by Tube and feel it’s kind of a link with the past. So many of the stations are old, with tiling going back decades, mid-century design and the feeling that you are walking where Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot did! Tottenham Court Road station itself is a mess, and I imagine the old, quirky charming parts will be thoroughly modernised soon. I snapped a lovely mosaic halfway up the Oxford Street exit:
Who knows how long it will stay there? But the Tube still holds delights – while travelling through West Acton overground section, I spotted this lovely 1930s style curvy waiting room – gorgeous!