The consensus of the economic pundits seems to be that 2009 is going to be awful - every bit as bad as 2008. And the chances are that 2010 won't be much better.
In the search for silver linings, I conclude that this can only be good news for secondhand book dealers. So my prediction for 2009 is that the devoted book reader will beat a path ever more urgently to those forgotten, out-of-the-way corners of musty tranquility of which the shopping class knows nothing.
This will be good news for my friend Nick Dennys, who runs one of the best (as in organised, friendly, accessible) London secondhand bookshops, the Gloucester Road Bookshop (three minutes from the tube).
Nick, the brother of Canadian publisher Louise Dennys, inherited his bookselling nose from his uncle, Graham Greene, who used to say that, if he had not been a novelist, he would gladly have become a secondhand bookseller. All his life, indeed, Greene liked to fossick around in secondhand bookshops, looking for rare editions. Why not? In my experience, serious book dealers are an extremely convivial, well-read crowd with strange passions for unlikely subjects.
Anyway, I'll be heading off any moment to the Gloucester Road Bookshop to see what I can find. Part of the pleasure of the excursion is that you've no idea beforehand what will float into your net - but whatever you emerge with, it's a safe bet that it will have cost less than a tenner (or even a fiver: like many good secondhand shops, Gloucester Road has a shelf of battered paperbacks for 50p each). Away with "Best Novels of 2009", farewell to "the new faces of the new year": I shall be enjoying "the best novels of the 19th century" and the new faces of Edwardian England. Seriously, how many authors today are writing better than Forster, Conrad, JM Barrie, Henry James, Ford Madox Ford or even PG Wodehouse at their best?
The other joy of the old book is that you return to it like an old friend. I have an OUP edition of War and Peace in the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation, printed on India paper, which accompanied me, aged 17, across Europe on a winding road to the isles of Greece in the late 1960s. Holding that magenta covered edition, with its odd stains, swollen binding and scuffed corners, triggers a wave of teenage memories of late nights and idealism. No doubt there are newer and technically superior Tolstoy translations, but what do I care?
Every secondhand book reader has his or her favourites; the books they would rescue from a burning building. One thing, however, is certain: nothing in the new year's literary pages can compete with this library. Who wants a new novel by AS Byatt? Hasn't Martin Amis written his masterpiece three times already? Can someone not persuade Philip Roth to call it a day?
2010-12-01 14:03 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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