Apr 6, 2011

A NOVEL BOOKSTORE by Laurence Cossé

taken from WORDS WITHOUT BORDERS by Emma Hamilton

A new bookstore opens in Paris and stirs up a culture war. Ivan, a career bookseller and Francesca, a socialite and passionate reader, decide to open an "ideal bookstore"—one in which only good books are sold. They call it simply "The Good Novel." And before long, the place experiences phenomenal sales as well as violent threats, all the while receiving massive press coverage—by turns, adulatory and vituperative.

In an age of plummeting book sales, daily hardship (and ruin) for independent bookstores, and a publishing industry whose future seems grim, the plot of A Novel Bookstore could only be the fantasy of an undeterred bibliophile. In this alternate universe, books are at the forefront of cultural consciousness and debate. Even in France, a country more protective of its high culture than our own, the situation is only slightly more plausible. For all its utopian indulgences, the novel does turn on a familiar, and emblematic, tension. The escalating war over the bookstore has, at its heart, a clash between "literature" and the business of publishing. Of course, literature is a loaded category. Nabokov (whose entire oeuvre is sold at the store) once wrote that "reality" was one of the few words that means nothing without quotation marks. I'd hazard that "literature" is another. For what is literature except books that have been deemed, by someone, good and important? READ MORE....

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