As AdamGopnik mourns the closing of Parisian bookstore La Hune in “When a Bookstore Closes, an Argument Ends,” he celebrates the life of other bookstores and the people who love them. “A bookstore,” Gopnik writes,
“is a place you go to look as you choose, for as long as you want. The book-sniffer is the active form of his classier cousin the stroller, as the window-shopper is the dreamier form of the curator. Each makes choices, more or less freely, as a more or less happy whim, and lines her own library or museum, if only invisibly, in her head.”
How many happy hours I’ve spent curating that invisible shelf myself, with so many of the books I admired unpurchased and unread, yet never unappreciated. So many of those books lining that shelf were not books I sought, but books I found nonetheless, and the moments my eyes alit upon them small, ecstatic discoveries. Gopnik knows those moments, too: “It is rarely the book you came to seek, but the book next to that book, which changes your mind and heart,” he confirms. The loss of that possibility–the book next to the book next to the book–that is what is worth mourning.
I lost a bookstore once. It was only the neighborhood Borders where I once worked, and I never found any gems there, despite my familiarity with the stock. Trust me, it was no disaster. I must have had some good times there (besides using my discount), but all I can seem to remember are those moments in which the romance of working in a bookstore was stripped away again and again. I don’t recall any customer ever asking me to personally recommend a book, but I can never forget how many times I was asked 1) where is the bathroom?, and 2) where are the Nicholas Sparks books? For the record–it’s that way and they’re over there.
When a bookstore closes, so do inane questions. But for my sake, and for that of the lost La Hune, keep browsing, folks.