Friday, December 29, 2006

Art, Parks and Books

Today we walk into the centre of Wolverhampton and visit the newly refurbished art gallery. Then after a fruitless search in a couple of shops we head to West Park.

A few brave rangers are hanging about outside the closed café in their green uniforms and pirate hats. Not it transpires an obscure Black Country custom, but a special pirate themed treasure hunt.

Mind you, I suppose that in itself could be a strange Black Country custom.

Just a shame they picked one of the windiest, wettest days of the year…

After the elements take their toll on us, we abandon the park and head for the nearby second hand bookstore.

Part of the peculiar joy of second hand bookshops is the common phenomenon (as captured so wonderfully by Black Books) of the concern being more generally organised to please the owner than to elicit custom. The public, let’s face it, are a nuisance and should be discouraged whenever possible.

If you can steel yourself against the unwelcoming entrance area and the steely glare of the proprietor that sums up in one glance all the contempt that they hold for anyone who doesn’t, well frankly who doesn’t spend their entire life in similar splendid dusty bookshelf lined isolation, then you still have to face a cataloguing system that owes little to the heritage of the Dewey Decimal System.

To be fair the proprietor of the store in Wolverhampton, whilst sporting a look and accent that suggests a kinship with Noddy Holder, isn’t too unwelcoming, but his failure to fully hold up the stereotype in this area is more than compensated by his book organisation, which reaches new levels of intrigue.

The shop comprises a set of small rooms leading off each other; looking for novels, I track down the fiction section, though the boundaries seem to blur on all sides.

First you have hardcover and paperback sections, fair enough. Then you start to notice that crime, thrillers and sci-fi have their own separate shelves, not so unusual, but Penguin books are also in a different place, and ‘classics’, and oh what’s this in a different room in the middle of sport and travel books, yes, a section for Charles Dickens. Turn round and there are some more novels in a section of ‘recent fiction’, but this is confusing as the main paperback section also includes books from the last few years.

Having scored some Waugh and Orwell I’m holding out for The Prince by Machiavelli. Which opens up further complications; is it classed as fiction, psychology, politics or even (based on some managers I’ve had) management science?

Screwing up all my courage, I approach the proprietor. Yes, he replies he thinks he probably does have a copy, have I tried the pocket edition section?

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