Sunday 7 January 2024

Families in Bookshops

Shaun Bythell, Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops (Boston: David R. Godine, 2020), p. 17.

Before I had a family of my own, I was deeply resentful of young families coming into the shop. I make great efforts to keep the shop clean, tidy and well organised. Nobody wants sticky-fingered children getting stuck into shelves, particularly when they contain rare and valuable books. Now, though, I understand. I understand both that there is nothing you can do to stop children behaving the way that they do and that their parents still want to have a tiny dose of culture in a world of nappies, Peppa Pig and vomit. I understand their reasons for bringing their children into a bookshop and leaving them in a corner so that they might escape for a minute or two and stumble across an unknown John Buchan title, or a paperback copy of Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve—a book so short, so perfect and so digestible that it might as well have been written for parents of young children, whose only opportunity to read comes in the precious seconds between the wipe of an arse and a feed.