People have remarkably different attitudes to space and time.
I can spend a happy hour in a dentist’s chair as I spent many happy years sitting beside one. The comfort arises from my understanding of the processes and rituals involved. My dentist may not be having such a good time, as he realises that I know, you know, and that I know that he knows that I know…
I can also spend quality time in a hobby shop, art gallery, or hotel lounge. And be very happy in a bookstore or library.
Bookstores have books for sale that you don’t have to give back. Some of them are swanky places, quirky places, antiquey places, and they have prices that reflect this. Others have less style and more substance, and I can afford to shop there. The secondhand places are the most fun, but you need to adjust your mind to what you are actually seeing. And you need to realise beforehand that there may not be any gems to be found in the overburden of remainders and Mills and Boone novels. Be aware of the sucker shelf as well, and avoid it.
My favourite places are the targeted shops – booksellers that feature a specific area and do not move out into the complete range of literature. Oh, they might be literary places and sell as much Jane Austen and literary criticism as you could cram into a string bag, but in general I go for ones that are not this. I find the transport, military, art, and history shops much more to my taste, though I can always be arrested by a bookcase full of low-priced paperback classics. I admire publishers who are prepared to give me the Dickens for $4.95.
Is there a drawback to this all? Yes. A bookstore holiday in Melbourne and Sydney once a year is a very good thing, and provided that the stores can send the goods by road you can purchase heavy items. I try for a metre-width of new literature on the shelf with each holiday, and have never failed. But you can be hijacked and diverted by finding a book that cannot be deferred – that must be read as soon as possible, and this is at the expense of time spent doing other holiday things.
Mind you, it does give you a good excuse to prop yourself up in the corner in Young and Jackson’s with a couple of pints or to retire after dinner to the lounge of the hotel where you are staying with a pot of coffee and the new book. If the purpose of a holiday is to bid care farewell, this is as good a way to do it as sitting on a sandy beach.