IT IS A LITTLE BOOKSHOP, AND IT ISN’T REAL. Perhaps. Well, it is my place – though I open the doors to you now. In fact, the door is always open. It’s warm inside: there’s a fire, a Chesterfield sofa, comfortable chairs, rugs and throws. It doesn’t sell coffee, though you’re welcome to bring your own. You don’t even have to buy a book (if might even be preferred if you don’t), but if you do, you name the price. The owner will read quietly or talk with you about books: whichever the case may be, your needs will be sensitively known.

So, what is the point of this fictional space? Well, in the first instance, I’m struck by the lack of affective quality that many bookshops seem to have, even the little ones. The affective environment is the one that stimulates and results in feelings about a place: that which can affect. A book is an object of sensory appeal (it has physical weight, texture, smell). Always smell the pages of a book! Objects with the power to affect the senses also have the power to affect moods, before the words are even read. Such objects deserve a similar magic of environment.

In the second instance, a magical environment can’t truly be found in the corporate stores with their fitted shelves and units that partition spaces into neat pockets of subject areas. Sure, walking into even a corporate branded store does excite a certain small crackle for the dedicated bibliophile, but that will wane when compared to the feeling of walking into a ramshackle haven off the beaten track. The latter isn’t perfect though: they’re all too often owned by the quirky oddball you’d cross the street every time to avoid. A magical environment is one where any book might be found, where corporate coffee isn’t on tap, and where the owner may be odd but isn’t unapproachable.

I don’t mind if the owner is male or female, young or old but, in the third instance of this little bookshop’s exceptional status, he or she must know each and every person who comes through the door. I don’t mean ‘know’ as in ‘have met before’; rather, I mean ‘know’ as in ‘intuitively gets what they need’. When I walk into a bookshop out there in the real world, I’m often received with disdain, with an aloofness, by a feeling of being frowned upon – or at least watched. How poetic it would be to be ‘read’ well by the bookshop owner as you entered over the threshold.

Despite the popularity of the electronic word, a book still has a place in this world: it should be a place that fits the book’s esteemed nature. A book should be absorbed in affective surroundings: surroundings that, in turn, absorb the reader. A book deserves better than the cold comfort of corporate shop units, ill at ease amongst the branded coffee mugs. A book, its owner and its reader should all be connected in an understanding: the owner and the reader should know what the book represents and what and who each other are. It is a little fantasy place. If I’ve imagined a reality, please do let me know.

— Dean Cody Cassady
 
 

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