Monday 1 April 2024

ALL FOOLS DAY and . . . BOOKSHOPS! by Penny Dolan

Today, the first of April, follows an Easter Sunday when our clocks have been all over the place, which has led me to think about fools and foolishness.

                                               The Fool - Tarot Card Meanings Old Energy

Many stories include some form of fool: a character that proves 'wise' in some way: Ron Weasley, Pooh Bear or the annoyingly obligatory side-kick that appears in Disney and other films.

The 'fool' and their foolishness can serve many purposes. For example, Gretel's 'foolishness' comes to the rescue: by pretending she cannot understand how to climb into an oven, she encourages the witch towards her own destruction and saves the life of her brother Hansel. 

Some fools are those with unknowingly dangerous ideas such as the three fisherman  in an East Anglian tale I found years ago in a collection by James O'Riordan. Using a net, the men trap bright Lady Moon in a deep pond, unwittingly letting the creatures of darkness take a foothold into the world.(As ever, a message to the real world as well.)

On the other hand, the fool can be a prankster, merry and often troublesome, like the boy in Michael Rosen's retelling of The Wicked Tricks of Tilly Owlyglass, eager to make himself and others laugh. These fools exist to prick pomposity and pride and, like gargoyles of the storytelling trade, to point out the absurdities of human life and behaviour.

There are also the stupid ones, the fool whose tale is not, in the end, a joke: King Midas, who foolishly wished that everything he touched could turn into gold just as thoughtlessly embraces his own dear daughter.  You can surely think of many more storybook fools of your own.

                                             Wise fool - Wikipedia

However, right now I am also thinking of the happy fools: the real world people who follow a dream no matter where it leads, and in particular, all those brave souls whose dream it was and is to run their own bookshop. 

There are unusual, eccentric bookshops, like Barterbooks in Alnwick, Northumberland. Here, as well as the usual purchasing method, readers can swap old books for vouchers to spend onother titles they fancy in the shop. Warning: the upper voucher limit is set to ten books not a tea-chest-full.  Though the idea might seem foolish, Barterbooks' popularity with visitors might have led to a new traffic roundabout at the edge of the town.

                                                        Category:Barter Books - Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, up and over to the west in Wigtown, Scotland, is The Bookshop, well known to avid readers of Shaun Bythell's The Diary of A Bookseller, where he grumbles about the foolishness of the enterprise, the customers and the second-hand book world, in addition to acting as a link within the Wigtown Book Festival.                                                               

                                                              Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from The Bookshop, Wigtown a book ...

There are other notable bookshops and approaches to books: Mr B's Emporium in Bath, for example, offers a Reading Spa session, comfortably secluded within the bookshop itself, with a constant pile of books to choose from at hand. Surely a foolish and unusual way of selling books? Not so: someone I know was delighted to receive this very occasion as a special and relaxing gift. 

                                About - Mr B's Emporium

Among such foolish dreams made manifest near me are several small independent bookshops. They are noted for delivering a great and possibly uneconomic service overnight, sometimes by hand or by foot. They survive by knowing their book titles and their readers - often by name - as well as being on hand for local festival events  and passing tourist trade. 

                        What's On — The Little Ripon Bookshop

For example, one is The Little Ripon Bookshop, (above) opened in 2009 and expanded in 2018, Castlegate Books sited on the Market Square in Knaresborough and, in my town of Harrogate - as well as a fine Waterstones - we have the marvellously-named Imagined Things.  I do love the latest reel on their Facebook Page.

All in all, a day for celebrating all these wonderful, foolish ideas, so thank you, booksellers everywhere!

                              Imagined Things Bookshop - Visit Harrogate

Have a Happy All Fools Day - and a Bright and Shiny Easter Monday!

Penny Dolan

ps Are there any special bookshops near you? Do add them in the comments!


Pippa Goodhart said...

Indeed, Thank You, Booksellers!

Sue Purkiss said...

Bookshops are certainly marvellous places.