Prufrock's Page

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reading, Eating

The few bookstores that one has visited in Melbourne so far are -- expectedly -- larger and better-stocked than their Indian counterparts. But, my goodness, the prices! Peter Ackroyd's biography of Shakespeare and Julia Brigg's new life of Virginia Woolf, for example, were both over $60. Criminal. Even the usually affordable trade paperbacks that one gravitates towards proved to be out of reach: the new Sarah Waters, DBC Pierre or E.L. Doctorow, for instance, were close to $30 each. (In the United States, as one recalls, it's the first week or two of release that books are sold at published prices -- after which, they become far more affordable.) It must be added, though, that excellent public libraries, as well as the bookstores that deal in second-hand and remaindered titles seem to make up for the prices here.

However, at a store named Reader's Feast at Swanston Street, one couldn't help but buy two books that one had been looking for: Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots and Virginia Nicholson's Among The Bohemians. And further damage was done to the pocketbook when one spent time at another delightful bookshop called Readings, near Melbourne University, which turned out to be a larger version of the wonderful St Mark's Bookstore near New York University. Here, one succumbed to the lure of Olga Grushin's debut novel, of which one has heard many good things.

Soul replenished, one turned one's attention to the body by stepping into the nearby Brunetti's to consume pizza al taglio, followed by a passionfruit gelato. For a while, the cup ran over.

A Satanic Anniversary

On this day in 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini announced a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for defaming the Prophet and Islam in his The Satanic Verses. Through a happy coincidence, one happened to be at a bookstore in Melbourne this morning -- and what a pleasure it was to see copies of the book displayed innocuously in the Fiction section. One lifted both the hardback and paperback editions, leafed through them and replaced them on the shelf. Books may be easy to burn, but they aren't that easy to get rid of.