If you’ve been watching any kind of news media you could be forgiven for thinking that, as a bookshop, we’ve been inundated with custom for a certain study of a prominent American. Actually we’ve yet to have a query. It’s a good thing as, despite the coverage, the logistics of supply have meant a sudden rush to publication has only manifest on a very select number of (London?) bookselling shelves.
Amongst the comedown of the post-Christmas book hubbub Grasmere has eased into the New Year and now begins our quietest period. January is traditionally off-season for visitors to Lakeland. Today, the village is dowsed in a bright and beautiful winter light. The streets are calm and cold, and you’re likely to overhear ‘I’ve never seen it so empty’ said in whispered awe. The next minute groups of walkers assemble on Moss Parrock, a string of woollen bobble hats on striding bodies catch the sun as they parade up Easedale Road and the cars, lorries, vans and farm vehicles carry on along Broadgate as ever. Noise is surprisingly constant. It might be a gentle, if frequent, tap of walking stick, this time pattering on the ground from a youngster impatient to move on. Sometimes a gentleman loudly hums ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’ the other side of the window. Just this moment a child’s hand has drummed on the very same window, and a car has hooted at another car.
Whilst publishers are eager to see the newest titles at the front and centre of people’s minds and bookshop windows, we’re just as likely to see excitement about different kinds of titles. In winter it’s heightened, with fewer sales ensuring a real sense of the evergreen local interest titles. Books on Joss Naylor, Fell Running, farming, the old Sunderland Flying Boat Factory near Windermere, the Industrial history of the Lakes and Geology are hard to keep topped up. Fans of Alfred Wainwright, the Wordsworths and Beatrix Potter are well served although there are still surprising gaps in the local market. It’s a shame no-one took Hunter Davies up on his mid-nineties pitch for a biography of Canon Rawnsley and there are scant publications on past figures of transatlantic fame like Harriet Martineau or Constance Holme. The hunger for nature writing and illustrated works on the outdoors has found a new pitch in Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’s The Lost Words. This book in particular proves that large, lavish titles that speak easily of detailed attention are not only highly prized but draw whole audiences back to books who have gone a long time since their last read.
A rough sampling of today’s enquiries gives you an idea of this… I’ve had detailed conversations about Wainwright editions (both readers editions of the originals and Clive Hutchby’s ongoing revised third editions), centenary editions of Beatrix Potter (Johnny Town-Mouse is next in March) and come across a new book on Wordsworth’s flowers and gardens due out in June. The last of these is of particular interest as the writer, Brandon Chao-Chi Yen, visited the Wordsworth Trust last year to research and talk about this project (read more about it at the WW Trust blog here)
The bookshop door proves its own attraction in these colder days. A Victorian door which features a handle with a thumb latch, it brings a whole new level of sport to receiving customers. The very detail makes me wonder on the prospects for a short pamphlet on Thumb Latches of Old Westmorland. Out the bookshop window streaks of pink sky hover over the afternoon fell tops as the landscape dissolves into evening shadow.