Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


***The Haunted Bookshop

by Christopher Morley

Reviewed March 5, 2006.
Akadine Press, Pleasantville, New York, 1998.  265 pages.

Available at Sembach Library (F MOR).

The Haunted Bookshop is the sequel to the delightful Parnassus on Wheels.  Now the Mifflins have settled down in a stationary secondhand bookshop in New York City.  While Parnassus on Wheels is a light-hearted and humorous romance that proclaims the joy of reading, The Haunted Bookshop, written right after World War I, is something of a spy novel.  It keeps a little romance, since the Mifflins have taken on a young lady assistant.  But the intrigue hasn’t aged as well as the humor of the first book, and I found the prejudice against Germans a bit distasteful.  As I read this book in my cozy home in Germany, it occurred to me that times have definitely changed!

This book drags a little more than the first, since Roger Mifflin occasionally goes on about the joys of books and bookselling.  This does give some delightful quotations, though.

“Printer’s ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years.  Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book.  But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries.”

“Did you ever notice how books track you down and hunt you out?  They follow you like the hound in Francis Thompson’s poem.  They know their quarry! . . .   It’s one of the uncanniest things I know to watch a real book on its career—it follows you and follows you and drives you into a corner and makes you read it. . . .  Words can’t describe the cunning of some books.  You’ll think you’ve shaken them off your trail, and then one day some innocent-looking customer will pop in and begin to talk, and you’ll know he’s an unconscious agent of book-destiny.”

“‘All right,’ said the bookseller amiably.  ‘Miss Chapman, you take the book up with you and read it in bed if you want to.  Are you a librocubicularist?’
“Titania looked a little scandalized.

“‘It’s all right, my dear,’ said Helen.  ‘He only means are you fond of reading in bed.  I’ve been waiting to hear him work that word into the conversation.  He made it up, and he’s immensely proud of it.”

Here’s to librocubicularists everywhere!

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund. All rights reserved.

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