Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Last Page

River City Books closed its doors for the last time this afternoon at 4:00. I was there between 1:00 and 2:00 to make my final purchase: a new copy of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway to replace the battered, yellow-highlighted copy I bought as a freshman at Oberlin in 1982. Near the beginning of the novel, as Clarissa Dalloway walks through London to buy flowers for her party, she passes Hatchards Bookshop on Picadilly and looks in at a book open in the window:
What was she dreaming as she looked into Hatchards' shop window? What was she trying to recover? What image of white dawn in the country, as she read in the book spread open:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Nor the furious winter's rages.


This late age of the world's experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.
The book is Shakespeare's Cymbeline. The lines that Mrs. Dalloway remembers continue:
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Everything must come to an end, but if anything deserves to last a little longer than most things, it's a fine bookshop. Hatchards, where Clarissa Dalloway read those words from Shakespeare, has been selling books in London since 1797. River City Books folded today after a brief seven years. I will miss it.

3 comments:

Jim H. said...

I'm old, which means many things, but one of those is that the list of closed bookstores at which I once shopped is very long.

I'm sure I don't remember all of them, but here's a partial list:

1)River City Books (Northfield)
2)Author's Ink (Gruchow's Northfield store where Oo-La-La is now)
3)Odegaard Books (Grand Ave St. Paul)
4)That bookstore on Grand by Macalester College (what was its name? Heckuva baseball book selection)
5)Baxter Books in downtown Mpls (my lunchtime haunt when I worked downtown)
6)A little bookstore on the pedestrian mall in dowtown Klamazoo, MI (bought Trout Fishing in America there)
7)A little bookstore in a commercial strip in Mishawaka, IN (every E.E. Cummings book ever published)
8)Mr. Micawber's books in St. Anthony Main, Mpls (great selection of Black Sparrow Press titles).
9)Etc.

Jim H. said...

That bookstore on Grand Ave near Macalester College was The Hungry Mind.

Rob Hardy said...

So many great bookstores gone in the last 10-15 years. I gave a poetry reading at Micawber's Books in 2000. And I loved Author's Ink. The last book I bought there, during its going-out-of-business sale, was Gilbert White's A Natural History of Selborne.

Now Monkey See, Monkey Read is the only thing keeping downtown Northfield from total barbarism!

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