Saturday, 30 January 2010

A most forlorn sight

One of the most miserable things I have ever seen is the empty bookshop that used to be Borders of Charing Cross Road. I walked past it last week. I used to pop in, whenever I was in London, just to wander about on the off-chance that something would catch my eye. Invariably something would. That is the deceptive danger of bookshops; I almost always find something I need – where no need existed before I entered.
Soon the shop will be turned into something else – says a sign taped to the window – but for now it is a hollow, unlit shell containing empty shelves; there was not a book in sight. There is something particularly empty about empty bookshelves. Especially those that you have never known to be anything other than full of books. So far as I could see, there was not even one torn or damaged book left lying on the floor. All had vanished.
It is not that the shelves were merely empty. It was much more than that: they were missing all the words and ideas that used to be contained inside the books they used to carry. All those words and ideas that used to be laid out in such a way as to make them readily accessible and sometimes quite irresistible.
Now, no words or ideas remain. As such, the shop has become a vacuum.