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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

George Orwell – Bookshop Memories

In this 1936 essay, the novelist recollects working in a second-hand bookshop “on the frontier between Hampstead and Camden Town” and tells how the experience caused him to lose his love of books:

Like most second-hand bookshops we had various sidelines. We sold second-hand typewriters, for instance, and also stamps — used stamps, I mean. Stamp-collectors are a strange, silent, fish-like breed, of all ages, but only of the male sex; women, apparently, fail to see the peculiar charm of gumming bits of coloured paper into albums. We also sold sixpenny horoscopes compiled by somebody who claimed to have foretold the Japanese earthquake. They were in sealed envelopes and I never opened one of them myself, but the people who bought them often came back and told us how ‘true’ their horoscopes had been. (Doubtless any horoscope seems ‘true’ if it tells you that you are highly attractive to the opposite sex and your worst fault is generosity.) We did a good deal of business in children’s books, chiefly ‘remainders’. Modern books for children are rather horrible things, especially when you see them in the mass. Personally I would sooner give a child a copy of Petrenius Arbiter than Peter Pan, but even Barrie seems manly and wholesome compared with some of his later imitators.

2 Responses to “George Orwell – Bookshop Memories”

  1. Ole Blue says:

    “Doubtless any horoscope seems ‘true’ if it tells you that you are highly attractive to the opposite sex and your worst fault is generosity.)”

    People believe what they wish were true.

    jb says: One man’s wishes are sometimes a nightmare for everyone else.

  2. Dick says:

    Plus ca change, eh? This, like so much of Orewell’s writing, could have been penned yesterday.

    jb says: In spirit, yes. He’s not that far away. And yet there’s a dusty Victorian atmosphere around him. One gets the feeling that he’s closer to Dickens than, say, Amis.