Would I like to be a bookseller de métier? On the whole – in spite of my employer’s kindness to me, and some happy days I spent in the shop – no.
George Orwell, ‘Bookshop Memories’, London, November 1936
Orwell’s reluctance to commit to bookselling is understandable. There is a stereotype of the impatient, intolerant, antisocial proprietor – played so perfectly by Dylan Moran in Black Books – and it seems (on the whole) to be true. There are exceptions of course, and many booksellers do not conform to this type. Sadly, I do. It was not always thus, though, and before buying the shop I recall being quite amenable and friendly. The constant barrage of dull questions, the parlous finances of the business, the incessant arguments with staff and the unending, exhausting, haggling customers have reduced me to this. Would I change any of it? No.