Thursday, March 02, 2006

Book 'em Dano, murder 1...

It appears to be world book day, which explains the little green €1.50 tokens my secondary school teaching girlfriend has been trailing in her wake of late not to mention the various posts which have sprung up about the blogosphere. Well, we are all about the books here at the Midnight Court so a contribution is in order. I have the kind of job that a lot of people would kill for. I work in an unusual place and carry out an interesting, but relatively undemanding function among a manageable cohort of pleasant, discrete and educated people. I'm left to my own devices as long as I get through what it is I am required to get through on time and to a certain standard. I work in the city centre but in five years in my current employment have yet to witness the Dublin rush hour. We don't keep to that particular schedule. Oh, and the money comfortably exceeds the average industrial wage. Not unlike the teaching community, my summers are pretty much my own and when I was 27 and barely a year into the job, there was a period of six months during which I was paid to sit on my hole and do nothing. It was a glorious and halcyon period. I would rise in the afternoon, shower, dress and leave my city centre digs to embark on a circuit of town which took in brunch with excellent and frothy capuccino over the day's paper and, subsequently, every bookshop either side of the Liffey. My first stop was Dawson Street where I'd take in the usual suspects, H&F, Waterstones and Easons, but also, if I was in the mood for something a little exotic, Murder Inc. and the religious text emporium beside the Café Insane. Thence to Cathach Books with its window of Joycean and Yeatsian delights wherein I would drool over the Flann O'Brien first editions and marvel at the shocking price of Banville novels. With the sun high in the afternoon sky I made my way west to the Georges Street Arcade which contains two troves of goodly tomes, one a more august antiquarian repository and the other a fine selection of second hand modern literature. I'd love to know where they get this stuff, as I am loath to ever part with anything. Next up comic books, Sub City, the Third Place (latterly) and Forbidden Planet to pick up scary Swamp Thing volumes, kooky Kevin Smith joints, and edgy Warren Ellis tpbs (trade paperbacks). The Dublin city book trail wends south to north over the Ha'penny Bridge, though the Winding Stair (gone now, and never really my bag to be honest) and on to Chapters of Abbey Street a great shop to be sure (despite certain staffing issues) and the place to go to pick up first editions of John Banville's Book of Evidence. I've got about three out of there alone, with which I intend at some point to flood the market. If it wasn't for the fact that my pockets were awash with cash, I would probably have had great fun taking them back across the river to sell them for instant profit. At the back of the shop, great military history bargains are to be had while the second-hand stacks downstairs have populated my jax with all sorts of essay, article, obituary and letter collections including, inter alia, the Bedside Guardian '91 and '92, Spectator Annuals and any amount of stuff from the Times. Many's the hour has been whiled away over their pages and a good poo. Last stop of the day would typically be Easons on O'Connell Street which also houses a Tower records branch and then back to the Epicurean Food Hall for tea. The great thing about the book shops in the city centre is that they're all a bit different and specialise in different material. I don't think I ever came home with less than four or five books. Heading south from the city centre, the book shop at the top of the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre used to be a great place for certain groovy bargains, especially if you were into the esoteric works of Colin "spooky" Wilson. It seems to deal exclusively in children's books now though. Before I moved to my current address, I lived in Rathmines which has Portobello books, the second-hand bookshop beside the Stella and the mindbogglingly superb Oxfam Books. While Portobello books is a tad expensive for a second-hand place, the owner is amenable to bargaining. Oxfam is just insanely good. I have never been able to pass its door without popping in. And having popped in, I have never left without a purchase. I'm only telling people this because I no longer live in the area and so am no longer competing for good titles, but the stock in there is quality. Who is liquidating their libraries into this place? It seems to be especially strong on modern lit - Irish and English - and economic history. A Penguin paperback is usually about €3. My all time favourite bookshop would have to be Kenny's of Galway as it was in the early to mid 1990s, winding upwards through narrow stairs, nooks and landings which opened onto large booklined rooms, higgledy-piggledy with stacks through which one had to pick a very careful way. I spent hours in there lost among some of the oddest old books ever printed, although I could rarely afford to buy. I once read in there cover to cover a book from the 30s about how to be a Duke. I wonder how much money it made for its obviously beleagured, death-duty saddled author. Sadly, the Kennys have their shop down and moved exclusively online. I was once in Shakespeare and Co. on the Left Bank too, which was nice. Never got a dukedom though. BONUS LINK: A dude's top ten bookshops.


Anonymous fústar said...

The closing of Kennys' High St. premises was indeed sad news for bibliophiles, despite that fact that its undeniable magic was slightly compromised for me as I was once employed there (bit like seeing behind the curtain of 'The Wizard of Oz').

There are a few decent second-hand shops in Limerick: The nomadic Seán O'Brien's (currently in High St), the place down in the Milk Market (name escapes me)...but nothing to compare to Galway's double-act of Kenny's and Charlie Byrne's.

I actually had a recurring dream, a while back, about an amazing local bookshop that ticked every conceivable box I would want. I spent many happy hours 'dream-browsing' in there before my alarm clock brought me, cruelly, back to reality.

For the first few seconds after waking, however, I would say to myself "Must pop in to that shop today and pick up those wonderful bargains I found". Moments later, of course, the bubble would burst and, realising the actual non-existence of the place, I'd tramp disconsolately to the shower.

3/03/2006 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Padraig said...

So what is it you do anyway Copernicus? Sounds to me like you're a politician :-) Great postings on this site by the way.

3/03/2006 06:39:00 AM  
Anonymous fústar said...

I once asked him that and he replied "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you".

A bit dramatic, I thought, for an accountant...

3/03/2006 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Copernicus, it's about time you got your own blog and stopped siphoning column inches off Fustar. :)

What I mean by that, of course, is that you've always got something to say that's worth hearing so I'm delighted you've settled down in your own little blog home.

The non-Antique stall in the George's Street Arcade is one of my favourites. It used to be owned by a woman called Kay, who moved her stall there from Mother Redcap's where she had a huge bookstall. She tended to specialise in current-ish literature and I bought a lot of stuff from her. If you brought back a book you bought there, she'd buy it back or do some sort of discount for loyal customers. A total lady who I whiled away many an afternoon in Mother Redcap's with chatting about books and writers.

3/03/2006 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Copernicus said...

Thanks for the compliments guys. Patrick, I am not a politician...yet.

Sinead, the arcade stall is indeed a great source of contemporary fiction at knock-down prices, which is great for the middle-income poor like me.

Fústar, how about a book shop tour of Limerick (or somewhere else "down the country")?

Maybe we could get someone to blog a book tour of Cork too.

3/03/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger KFM said...

Great blog, Copernicus, and thanks for the link! Will add one back.

3/03/2006 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous copernicus said...

No problem Kevin. I am no stranger to the Dingle Peninsula or to your icecream parlour. I always pop in when I'm in town. Tis as good as anything you'd get in Italy, and my God do they have insanely good icecream in the mezzogiorno.

Great post about coffee by the way.

Don't forget to check out fústar by the way where there was a Stephen's Day posting about the Dingle Wran. It might be right up your street.

3/03/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous fústar said...

"Fústar, how about a book shop tour of Limerick (or somewhere else "down the country")?"

Excellent idea. Will do it as soon as I get a chance, with dictaphone and digital camera in hand.

3/03/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin Smith, Robin of Sherwood, Eagle Comic, militaria... Please tell me, Mr. Copernicus, that you cannot reference The Transformers and Clannad as yet other parts of your childhood, or else I'll have to come to the conclusion that you are (in fact) my evil, lawyer twin ;-)

3/06/2006 02:09:00 AM  
Anonymous kepler said...

the robin of sherwood ref already covers clannad nicely - 'Rooobin, THEHOOd-ed-man' but i think that Transformers might have been under outside Copernicus' radar - falling into the period when copernicus father decided to throw out the tv and not replace it for a couple of years.

3/06/2006 02:57:00 AM  
Blogger Copernicus said...

anonymous, as may be obvious, Kepler is my evil sibling as may be seen by his raising the still sore point that the old man chucked our telly in the bin one day and failed to replace it for a substantial period thereafter. This unsatisfactory state of affairs seemed to be linked in some way to my entry into secondary school as a way of encouraging study, but it backfired big time in terms of resentment and an annoying interest in heavy metal. To this day, I haven't done a tap or given more than a cursory glance to prescribed texts. Luckily an addiction to text led to wide reading outside the curriculum.

Thing is I don't think Dad is any less of a telly addict that the rest of us so he must have been climbing the walls himself. He now has a nice big screen on which he flicks happily through a couple of hundred sattelite channels.

Maybe mum made him do it...

3/06/2006 03:33:00 AM  
Blogger Copernicus said...

Just notice I called Kieran from Murphy's superlative Dingle icecream "Kevin". Apologies.

3/06/2006 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Transformers might have been under outside Copernicus' radar - falling into the period when copernicus father decided to throw out the tv and not replace it for a couple of years.

Heresy, sirrah. I refer of course to the British comic (at least until it passed about the 200 (or so) edition mark and began free-falling in quality (reflecting the manufacturer's efforts to cash in quickly on the dregs of the toy fad).

Do not mention the US thing.

3/07/2006 06:37:00 AM  

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