Slightly embarassed we didn’t know about this before, but The Bökship, an excellent indie bookstore in East London, which we wrote about back in March, recently started an Erotic Book Club – and the first title selected was Bookkake’s own Venus In Furs.
Meeting once a month, with Pat Califia‘s Macho Sluts as the next book up for discussion, this sounds like too much fun. We shall have to get ourselves down there, and if you’re London-based, why don’t you?
Courtesy of the wonderful Bookride blog, written by the fine folks at Charing Cross Road’s Any Amount of Books, a brow-smoting, breast-beating, rabble-rousing rant from John Cowper Powys, in praise of the second-hand bookshop:
“What a history of human excesses a second-hand book-shop is! As you ‘browse’ there—personally I can’t abide that word, for to my mind book-lovers are more like hawks and vultures than sheep, but of course if its use encourages poor devils to glance through books that they have no hope of buying, long may the word remain!—you seem to grow aware what a miracle it was when second-hand book-shops were first invented. Women prefer libraries, free or otherwise, but it too often happens that the books an ordinary man wants are on the ‘forbidden shelves’. But there is no censorship in a second-hand book-shop. Every good bookseller is a multiple-personality, containing all the extremes of human feeling. He is an ascetic hermit, he is an erotic immoralist, he is a Papist, he is a Quaker, he is a communist, he is an anarchist, he is a savage iconoclast, he is a passionate worshipper of idols. Though books, as Milton says, may be the embalming of mighty spirits, they are also the resurrection of rebellious, reactionary, fantastical and wicked spirits! In books dwell all the demons and all the angels of the human mind.
“It is for this reason that a bookshop—especially a second-hand bookshop—is an arsenal of explosives, an armoury of revolutions, an opium den of reactions. And just because books are the repository of all the redemptions and damnations, all the sanities and insanities, of the divine anarchy of the soul, they are still, as they have always been, an object of suspicion to every kind of ruling authority.
“In a second-hand bookshop are the horns of the altar where all the outlawed thoughts of humanity can take refuge! Here, like desperate bandits, hide all the reckless progeny of our wild, dark, self-lacerating hearts. A bookshop is a powder-magazine, a dynamite-shed, a drug store of poisons, a bar of intoxicants, a den of opiates, an island of sirens.
“Of all the “houses of ill fame” which a tyrant, a bureaucrat, a propagandist, a moralist, a champion of law and order, an advocate of keeping people ignorant for their own good, hurries past with averted eyes or threatens with his minions, a bookshop is the most flagrant.”
College Street runs through the heart of Calcutta, past the grand old University and Medical School, as well as countless colleges and institutes. It also claims to be the largest second-hand book market in the world, and having walked the length of it I’m not inclined to disagree.
The vast majority of bookstores are single market plots specialising in Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) titles, but there’s a scattering of literature too, and a range of languages. The best represented is Bengali, the local tongue, and many Bengali publishers have their headquarters on the street – notably Rupa (publisher of the million-selling Chetam Bhagat, who I’ve written about at booktwo).
I’m a sucker for big stacks of books and microstores, so College Street is heaven. Each stallholder has their own speciality, and excellent knowledge of their stock. And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, you can be sure they’ve got a friend who will. More photos after the jump.
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I’m very pleased to announce that Bookkake titles are now being stocked at the wonderful The Bookseller Crow on the Hill in South London (photo above courtesy of Jonathan the manager). We hope they do very well indeed.
If you’re an independent bookstore interested in stocking our titles, we’d love to hear from you. We offer excellent discounts.