Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

My pal, Lesa Holstine, has introduced me to a lot of books I would never have discovered on my own.

If you're not familiar with her blog, you really really really need to check it out. Here 'tis:

One she recently shared with us on her blog was Christopher Morley's "The Haunted Bookshop."

I'm stunned that I had not heard of it, or it's companion book - "Parnassus on Wheels." (which I plan on reading next). "The Haunted Bookshop" actually continues the story of Roger Mifflin, the book seller introduced in "Parnassus on Wheels."

It's not a novel of the supernatural as might be assumed from the title. It refers, instead, to "the ghosts of all great literature," to quote Roger Mifflin.  The story is actually a spy thriller with some romance tossed in.

It was published in 1919, is set in Brooklyn and takes place during the end of World War I, and we get to listen in on some of the discussions the characters have about war, as well as play witness to some surprisingly timely views shared by Mr. Mifflin.

Two, in particular, struck a chord with me:

"The first thing needed is to acquire a sense of pity. The world has been printing books for 450 years, and yet gunpowder still has a wider circulation. Never mind! Printer's ink is the greater explosive: it will win."

There are many others, but here's just one more:

"But I tell you, the world is going to have the truth about War.  We're going to put an end to this madness.  It's not going to be easy.  Just now, in the intoxication of the German collapse, we're all rejoicing in our new happiness.  I tell you, the real Peace will be a long time coming.  When you tear up all the fibres of civilization it's a slow job to knit things together again.  Yu see those children going down the street to school?  Peace lies in their hands.  When they are taught in school that war is the most loathsome scourge humanity is subject to, that it smirches and fouls every lovely occupation of the mortal spirit, then there may be some hope for the future.  But I'd like to bet they are having it drilled into them that war is a glorious and noble sacrifice."

Thought provoking?  Especially when keeping in mind when it was written.

The book is also quite charming with its many references and allusions to other books and authors.  Many were mysteries to me, some were not.  Those that were mysteries had me scooting to Google to see what they might be all about.  

Like many readers, I'm a fool for books about other books, and was thoroughly captivated by this one.

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