A literary cave
It resembles a literary cave, all rugged with things coming out from all places and sides. Here, unwanted books are thrown aside and jumbled up. There are hundreds and hundreds of them maybe thousands for you to touch, cajole and even pamper.
My friend calls it the book cemetery, a place of near-gothic architecture characterized by the warn out rusty door handles, dirty tables, crooked shelves and dilapidated stands that house musty yellow pages and millions of words and sentences that dance on top of each other.
The book cemetery is a haberdashery of literary assortments, English, French, German, Russian and Arabic, grubby books, unwanted books, treatise for the taking. It's a strange mixture of paper gone old, but whose smell still stands out and sharpened by the penchant of gas and pollution meted out by passing cars.
They are all mysteriously thronged one on top of each other, stacked in a chaotic kind of way to force the reader and book lover dig in between a maze and hideaways for a dying literature trade once thought existed.
To us it’s a weekly outing, late at night after the bitter coffee, nargileh, cigarettes, and the pseudo-intellectual debates mélanged with the cursing and lots of hand movements to argue obscure points about society.
The book cemetery is a detour to look at crumbs of ideas that long sought to unite humanity or divide it. Here, you can find gems of excitement and relief.
With dim lights here and there, we would finger, thumb and palm the books as if they were real treasure troves of intellectuality regardless of the kind of ideas they are projecting or the stories they are making under the nefarious name of novels, religious treatise, political polemics and other texts.
We don't care about the dirty paperbacks or hardbacks, we don't care if our finger tips got sooted, it's the almost unique titles thrust aside by book buyers who never knew what they were stocking up hungry for a dying breed of readers who still care about the printed word.
Author names like Hemingway are stuck in between the multi-layers of literature. My friend says his eye-glassed frames and chubby fingers have the knack for picking out long treasured titles waiting to be held by humble souls like me and him, connoisseurs of a public who waste their time flicking their television satellites.
At 12 o'clock at night, we would look at ourselves, and see there is nobody but us, real weirdoes picking up titles that are at times so esoteric that you probably wouldn't get them in any respectable bookshop anywhere.
Here, our eyes flash, smiles of pleasure, mumblings of excitements at the titles and names at seeing things like the simplified version edition of Brave New World. I think we are cheating, but the modern version can be more exciting.
Here, the literary nuggets just look and beg for attention despite the graveyard-like character of the place or the fact that these books may have been dumped by readers too unconcerned about the dearth of ideas. Obviously they don't have the same mad passion for books.
The eyes immediately center on a scruffy large hardback that turns out to be on the life of Margaret Thatcher and her time in Downing Street. Nobody would have thought of finding it in such a place or picking it up and may have been there just for the show, or a mistake that can't be corrected.
I get the feeling that books, especially second-hand ones are one of the most internationalized commodities anywhere in the world. You simply never know what you are going to find and pick up. They are shipped in bulk cargoes and cheaply distributed to any bookseller who might be willing to entertain a fortune of a buck or two!
Another at the Book cemetery was a novel titled Rosemary's Baby. Who would have thought of seeing such a book here, in fact this is the first time I seen it. I saw the film back in the 1970s starring the great legendary Hollywood actress Bette Davis.
I said I wanted the Thatcher book for keeps sake, a very important period of British politics now well out of the way but followed by unmitigated disasters both locally and on the international levels. I was surprised to see the book at the cemetery, and would have thought it would have been taken by any worthy student of politics not thronged amongst unwanted heaps.
My friend followed by showing me how to clean the book which had so much dust on that it was turning into dirt and grime, and get it back to a semblance of its former self. "You hold the book tightly, get a nearly damp cloth and wipe as gently as possible, start with the cover, go to the back, sideways and the front."
The leafs are not to be touched but merely the outside. It was "cosmetic surgery" ready to go on the shelf, he would say. This was his loving description of an intellectual pursuit.
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