The Haunted Bookshop

January 22, 2015 at 9:52 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“It’s one of the uncanniest things I know to watch a real book on its career – it follows you and follows you and drives you into a corner and makes you read it. […] Words can’t describe the cunning of some books.  You’ll think you’ve shaken them off your trail, and then one day some innocent-looking customer will pop in and begin to talk, and you’ll now he’s an unconscious agent of book-destiny.” – pg. 121, The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

The Haunted BookshopTitle: The Haunted Bookshop

Author: Christopher Morley

Length: 265 pages

I am constantly haunted by books.  As a reviewer your TBR pile grows and grows, but there are books that you want to read that no one is asking you to that sit and lurk until finally they demand that you pick them up.

I purchased The Haunted Bookshop years ago; it was the same time I bought Parnassus on Wheels.  Nearly two years after finally reading my first encounter with Morley, I’ve finally been hunted down and captured by his wonderful sequel.

“There’s only one way to lay the ghost of a book, and that is to read it.”

haunted shopNow that I’ve revisited Roger and Helen Mifflin, however, I just want more.  I want to know what happens after this glorious book fetish mystery.  After Parnassus on Wheels, it was exciting to see Mr. and Mrs. Mifflin after they settled down.  But now I want to know: how does all the inadvertent advertising change the face of Mr. Mifflin’s business.  I want to hang out with these fine people until we experience their inevitable deaths.  Favorite characters deserve that much, for their fans to sob at their memorials.

Mostly, I adore Mr. Mifflin’s constant book recommendations.  As long as people love books there will be books about bookstores, I am convinced, because the truly bookish seek out recommendations from their favorite characters, always.  That was the romance, for me, in writing The Bookshop Hotel.  I hope in time that fans will see more similarities in my work to Christopher Morley than to Debbie Macomber (of whom my writing has been compared) and the like.   Ultimately, however, I’m happy with however I am categorized as long as people are enjoying them.

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Parnassus on Wheels – Can I Have One?

October 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Parnassus on Wheels

Author: Christopher Morley

Publisher:  Akadine Press

Length: 160 pages

“[…] When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.”

Parnassus on Wheels is both sweet and clever.  It is adorably romantic.  After reading this, I want desperately to peddle books from a horse-drawn early 1900s RV.  Morley has captured a tale of an adventure that is every book lovers dream: to travel in a cozy carriage with a dog and horse, spreading the love and joy of literature to everyone you meet.  What could be better?

Mr. Mifflin is a middle-aged ginger, evangelizing about the religion of books as a way of life, when he meets over-weight Helen McGill.  Helen is tired but spunky, she’s been a ‘house-wife’ to her brother for years on the farm they share.  Her brother, a famous author doesn’t really treat her as though she’s her own person, and 6,000 loaves of bread into life, she buys Mifflin’s whole operation for $400 on a lark.  Of course, everyone thinks Mr. Mifflin is taking advantage of the lady, but in reality he has offered a whole new life, a new way of seeing the world, and an absurd amount of joy.

As a bookseller, this story speaks to me.  I ran the literature sections for several years, and I received an intense amount of satisfaction from finding books for my customers.  The idea that you could deliver books straight to someone’s doorstep in such a homey but noninvasive manner sounds so enticing and whimsical to me.

Peddlers are well-known concept:

THE PEDDLER’S CARAVAN

[46]

I wish I lived in a caravan,

With a horse to drive like a peddler-man!

Where he comes from nobody knows,

Or where he goes to, but on he goes!

His caravan has windows two,

And a chimney of tin, that the smoke comes through;

He has a wife, with a baby brown,

And they go riding from town to town.

Chairs to mend, and delf to sell!

He clashes the basins like a bell;

Tea trays, baskets ranged in order,

Plates, with alphabets round the border!

The roads are brown, and the sea is green,

But his home is like a bathing-machine;

The world is round, and he can ride,

Rumble and slash, to the other side!

With the peddler-man I should like to roam,

And write a book when I came home;

All the people would read my book,

Just like the Travels of Captain Cook!

—WILLIAM BRIGHTY RANDS.

But a book peddler is a fairly unique idea, and I love Christopher Morley for sharing this idea with the world.  Clearly, he didn’t invent the concept, but one wonders if he encountered a caravan such as R. Mifflin’s Traveling Parnassus, or is it merely a dream he had for himself? Parnassus on Wheels was Morley’s first novel, first published in 1917.  Mr. Mifflin returns in the book The Haunted Bookshop, a sequel I am strongly looking forward to, but what I find most interesting is that Christopher Morley wrote over 100 novels.  Have you heard of any of them?  I had not, I was only aware of Morley because he was pressed on me by a fellow bookseller.  I rarely come across his work in bookstores, and I have never seen a title of his in any library.  I now plan to collect his work more vigorously.

Morley apparently wrote a number of essays and poems as well, and lectured at University.  One adorable little factoid is that he married a woman named Helen shortly after studying history in college.  I can’t help but wonder how much Helen McGill, of Parnassus on Wheels, resembled his own wife whom he loved.

Have you read anything by Christopher Morley? Please leave comments.

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