Orwell's ill-tempered rant on bookselling

The bookshop by my office has a huge, blown-up quote from George Orwell's 1936 essay "Bookshop Memories" over the counter, which inspired me to go look up the original essay. It's a hilarious, ill-tempered, mean-spirited and vastly entertaining rant about what's wrong with the booky trade — sure to be appreciated by recovering booksellers like me, and bookstore junkies (like me):

A bookseller has to tell lies about books, and that gives him a distaste for them; still worse is the fact that he is constantly dusting them and hauling them to and fro. There was a time when I really did love books – loved the sight and smell and feel of them, I mean, at least if they were fifty or more years old. Nothing pleased me quite so much as to buy a job lot of them for a shilling at a country auction. There is a peculiar flavour about the battered unexpected books you pick up in that kind of collection: minor eighteenth-century poets, out-of-date gazeteers, odd volumes of forgotten novels, bound numbers of ladies' magazines of the sixties. For casual reading – in your bath, for instance, or late at night when you are too tired to go to bed, or in the odd quarter of an hour before lunch – there is nothing to touch a back number of the Girl's Own Paper. But as soon as I went to work in the bookshop I stopped buying books. Seen in the mass, five or ten thousand at a time, books were boring and even slightly sickening. Nowadays I do buy one occasionally, but only if it is a book that I want to read and can't borrow, and I never buy junk. The sweet smell of decaying paper appeals to me no longer. It is too closely associated in my mind with paranoiac customers and dead bluebottles.


(Image: Community Bookstore, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike photo from Phooky's Flickr stream)