Competition

Bookish

31 August 2013

9:00 AM

31 August 2013

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2812 you were invited to provide a poem celebrating bookshops.

Space is tight, which leaves room only for a congratulatory slap on the back all-round but especially to unlucky losers Max Ross, who submitted a clever acrostic, Gerard Benson, James Leslie-Melville, Lydia Shaxberd, Alison Zucker and Annette Field.


The prizewinners below earn £25 each. W.J. Webster takes the bonus fiver.

Let’s all now give a big and grateful hand
To firms whose livelihood is print, retail:
Each member of this much beleaguered band
Plays its own part in keeping books for sale.
Not always loved, the large emporial stores
(Where volumes are the measure of their trade),
Show how the house of books has many floors
And bears an aura that we can’t let fade.
The independent earns our heartfelt praise
For holding out against the online tide
And having books to handle and appraise,
While serving as an expert present guide.
Last comes the dealer (second-hand and rare)
Who puts a price on any author’s head
And keeps the faith tome-traders all should share
That books are voices, silent but not dead.
W.J. Webster
 
In calling, Lucy, for this celebration,
I fear you may have caused some consternation:
For is the subtext, ‘Bookshops cannot last’?
If so, we should salute their glorious past:
Once every town had gems we could explore,
Their dusty shelves revealing joys galore;
Heffers and Blackwell’s, serving academia,
Somehow contrived to make those spires seem dreamier;
One West End road brought London to the fore,
With Foyles and fame for number eighty-four,
While mobile bookshops, cricket’s treasure trove,
Enhanced all grounds from Headingley to Hove.
Yet now all these have seen their fortunes   dwindle,
Beset by e-book, Amazon and Kindle.
Who then can hope, with ‘book’ now a misnomer,
To feel as Keats did, opening Chapman’s Homer?
Roger Theobald
 
These inky enclaves in
Post-Gutenbergian
Culture are fewer and
Farther between,
Mainly sustained by the
Sales at the coffee bar.
Readings run late some nights —
Viva, caffeine!
 
Paper and ink, what a
Retro technology.
We can do books on a
Digital screen.
Bookshops host readings, sell
Consciousness-altering
Drugs they brew legally —
Viva caffeine!
Chris O’Carroll
 
If you can find Aladdin’s Cave
Amid the overwhelming dross
And, entering, find there all you crave
To satisfy your sense of loss;
 
If you can look around his lair
And, serendipitously, find
A jewel you were unaware
Existed, and it blows your mind;
 
If you can ask Aladdin’s elves
For certain precious stones you need
And know they’ll go straight to the shelves,
Since erudition is guaranteed;
 
If, by their zeal, they light a flame
Within you and you speak as one,
For you’ve found friends who share your aim —
You’re in a proper bookshop, son.
Virginia Price Evans
 
I don’t have official statistics
But through all this out-of-town shift
And problems with retail logistics
Booksellers are bucking the drift.
Now multiple bargain stores flourish
And charity outlets abound
Where discounted authors may languish —
While secondhand shops hold their ground.
They’re crannied and nooked to perfection
For browsing and choosing at ease
From the widest, most heady selection
Whose bookish old dust stirs a sneeze.
Wherever I see one I’m tempted,
I’m far too weak-willed to walk by;
The only ones ever exempted
Are those who suggest I might buy!
Alanna Blake
 
They choose to reside in remote little corners
of cities and towns, looking lost and forlorn,
old bookshops that seem unconcerned about buyers,
with books that are dusty and aged and torn.
The door squeaks a welcome and into the silence
you wander with caution and feel you invade.
A sleepy old guardian, like someone from Dickens,
nods over a novel whose pages are frayed.
And soon you’re engrossed in the business of searching
for some half-remembered quotation or line
you learned in your childhood, when teaching was teaching,
and books fostered happiness hard to define.
Hours dreamily pass in the business of browsing
and lost in the pages of pleasure and peace
you think of the world as attractive and pleasing
for inside old bookshops anxieties cease.
Frank McDonald

Competition 2815: Self help

You are invited to contribute to the ever-flourishing genre of self-help by proposing a new title that will storm the bestseller lists and providing a blurb for it of up to 150 words. The brilliant duo Lawrence Douglas and Alexander George have already done this. Their suggestion, a surefire hit in this age of self-obsession, is I’m Okay, I’m Okay: Accepting Narcissism, a ‘manual for creative self-absorption’ which is ‘attractively presented in a mirrored dust jacket’. Please email entries, wherever possible, to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 11 September.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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