Pages and Marketplaces

Of all things to stick in the memory, marketplaces and bookshops still come to me despite not having visited one in quite a while. Places and people are like plants; some have an ineffable look or scent that lingers in the memory.

There is nothing like the smell there: age, people, pages, and perfume. Meat -because for some reason pies and pastries are usually near the books in an indoor market- and beauticians are stacked all together alongside these thin little corridors of people passing through. People are moving places, looking somewhere as a curiosity. Indoor markets remind me of cutaways of warrens, small tunnels or tent settlements swaying with breathing people always looking this way and that, calling or moving themselves over. And I think that kind of magpie instinct in people has its uses, it does for business, tugging at out interest and our entertainment. I don’t mind reading in a library, but it’s a still, solemn thing.

A bookshop offers something you won’t expect, other than books themselves. Which is like entering a clothes shop; give it a try and see what you find. All libraries strike me as the same; aged or modern. There’s the same stillness in the air, the not quite quiet, like a place in and away from its time and space. Markets and bookstores move, there are some things you might not see again, the cheapest thing you’ve ever bought or the kind of antique you see on shows.

I don’t really put up university itself as something vital or necessary, so much as a scholarly mindset (academic sounds too pretentious, and is not quite the same). Curiosity and willingness to read, that is the best thing. And I find, you are only encouraged to do so at a certain period, and within certain places in your life. Why? Why were you not encouraged at school, and discouraged to read something besides newspapers after university? I have never understood it. The more I think about it, aside from a library or a class, there are no places allocated for study and reading. Which is a shame to me. Which brings me to the bookstore.

You can find a book for 50p, or 25. It may not be too good. Odds are it will be weird. But I find that it sticks in the memory, every single time. It helps with study; I know this for a fact if you are taking a course. You can apply it to an essay, or it works to sharpen your eye and clean your mind if you’re tired of textbooks. Clearing out your head works quite well with work as well. If the figures are tedious, trying a few pages for five or ten minutes is like a glass of water. I wouldn’t say you craved it, or seek it out. But it definitely has an effect. I never regretted getting Pensées though I’m certain I left it behind with an ex-partner, 25p and one of the first and strangest, small French books I’ve read. I got This Side of Paradise for £1.25, probably my favourite coming of age book which I read on the bus all summer.

And I’m not advocating consumerism for the sake of it. It’s not about buying a book, or a coffee or what have you. More walking around it like a crowded high street. Taking a look around a gallery. Seeing, and appreciating what you see including other people sharing a curiosity and considering art.

Even if you decide not to buy, just walking around shows you different people and puts a bit of energy in the day. I’ve struck up conversations with complete strangers, been given recommendations and writing tips, even made a regular meeting place of one second-hand store with a friend in the afternoons when my day was over. I’ve seen map readers, chess players, new authors and famous ones signing things and many more just smiling and wishing good morning to people with a shared love of the same pursuit.

I wish you fortune in what you find, at market or wherever you happen to be.
J.W.H Hobbs

Leave a Reply