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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Comments 27 comments

Rasheed Roussan 5 years ago

What a wonderful piece Dr. Nothing like the good old dog-eared paperback.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Thanks Rasheed


lcbenefield profile image

lcbenefield 5 years ago from Georgia

The book cemetery sounds like a place I would thoroughly enjoy. Thanks for a good hub. I can picture the stacks of books and feel my hands getting itchy to rummage through the piles.


SylviaSky profile image

SylviaSky 5 years ago from USA

How wonderful that there is someone who takes the time to write a hub to appreciate old, crumbling used books. Very poetic. The used-bookstore will soon be a thing of the past.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Cheers both of you. your comments are much appreciated. Ideas, thoughts and creativities will surely be with us for a long time to come. We need to appreciate used books all the more as a means of sustaining culture.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 5 years ago from India

Sounds like a great experience! There's really nothing like discovering a hidden gem in a forgotten pile of books!


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Cheers Feline...It is a great experience getting your hands dirty while rummaging for books. If you guys and gals are ever here in this part of the world give me a ring and I will show you around!


fashion 5 years ago

Great hub.I have never read such wonderful story about old used books.You said well that it is necessary to appreciate used books all the more as a means of sustaining culture.


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

Your article brought me back to my student days. Unable to afford the new books sold in the book emporiums on main street,I would roam the back alleys where used books were sold in small dingy and not too well kept shops.Second hand school books could be had for a fraction of a new one.You just had to be patient going from one shop to another and learn how to haggle down the price.:) Browsing the selves I would come across pocket books of diverse interest some of which I still keep more than 30 yrs later.With most of our reading and information materials gathered through the internet,e-books,kindle.It becomes a rare pleasure bordering the sensuous to be able to sit in a quiet place with a good book in hand.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Very true. I still have second hand books I bought years ago. Thanks for the commentary


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Books are treasures, old, new, dog-earred or yellowed. I loved this piece. Honestly, I felt that I was with you combing the piles of books for that one special find. Up and awesome.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Cheers breakfastpop


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

As a student I remember visiting book stores that sold used books. I enjoyed this hub very much.


tsmog profile image

tsmog 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

Wonderful hub, touching of sorts. There is a book enclave near here at a coastal town. NO money allowed - only trade. Discover what you desire and offer something for trade. Recycling at its best.


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

I'm a fellow weirdo and my house is full of books. I can't get enough and buy more every chance I get from bookstores, Amazon, tag sales, thrift stores and used book sellers. My shelves are double stacked and I even have them piled along a wall in my office and on my nightstand. My husband says I have a real problem. Possibly but I love them.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

You just described the habit of a friend of mine. He is not only crazy about books but he loves them, new ones and old ones. Above all he loves the musty smell. Let's start "The Weirdos Book Association"


Deltachord profile image

Deltachord 5 years ago from United States

The Weirdos Book Association sounds like a great idea to me. The feel of a good novel or a non-fiction book of interest in your hands...there is nothing else like it.

Does anyone remember the Twilite Zone episode, wherein a disaster happens, but this guy finds a bunch of books, but then he breaks his glasses? How awful for him.

Your article is poetic and a story in itself.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Thanks very much. Comments appreciated. I do frequent this bookshop time after time. I am going to have some photos of it soon which I hope you will like.


point2make profile image

point2make 5 years ago

It is a special feeling to be surrounded by books. I have spent countless hours searching, and enjoying the hunt, in bookshops for many many years. Sometimes I find a "jewel" and the feeling of great satisfaction stays with me long after I leave the shop. Other times I leave the store without finding a new addition for my collection and I still feel satisfied just to have had the opportunity to spend time with books.

My own collection numbers in the thousands and my office, in a way, resembles a sorting room one might find in an old bookstore. My wife does not always share my "joy" when I bring home more books but with such a large collection new acquisitions can,sometimes, be added unnoticed.

I would love to see the photos of the bookshop. This was a great hub Marwan.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Cheers, me and a friend has a sort of craziness for books. We don't need to buy, just be sorrounded by the books. My wife too sometimes moans when I bring a book or two home. I will tell you about the pictures once I get them and post. Thanks


Deltachord profile image

Deltachord 5 years ago from United States

I'm awaiting the photos too.


point2make profile image

point2make 5 years ago

I loved the photos of the shop Marwan...thanks for posting them. It reminds me of other similar shops I have discovered over the years. They have a special ambiance that only book lovers can appreciate and upon entering you immediately feel a wonderful sense of anticipation as you gaze upon the shelves for the first time. I would love to, one day, spend time in your "book cemetery". Looking at the photos I can already feel the "anticipation".


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Thanks Terry, appreciate your comments. If you are ever in this neck of the woods it would be nice to meet, and I will be delighted to show you the bookshop.


Bail Up ! profile image

Bail Up ! 5 years ago

It woud be so easy or me to get lost for hours in this book holding cell. Im sure many treasures are just waiting to be found.


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 5 years ago from Amman, Jordan Author

Its true you have to be there to believe it


Naomi's Banner profile image

Naomi's Banner 5 years ago from United States

Love love love to dig through a stack of old books. There are locked up treasures to be found for sure. Great Hub that stirred me up.


wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 3 years ago from Alabama

Take me to the book cemetery and forget about me. I will be quite happy among the books.

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