“Yes, of course I remember where my hotel is. I just turn left… by the bookshop” or Katarina’s Adventures in Wonderland
“So, you’re going to Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Hay on Wye?” the taxi driver asked when she picked me up outside of Bookish. “I have to tell you, finding a specific bookshop in Hay on Wye can be tricky. Finding a bookshop on the other hand is easy.”
I soon discovered that she was right. In the end, she just dropped me off at my hotel, where I checked in and then immediately went out again. I was going to be in Hay on Wye for two nights, so I was saving my real visit to Richard Booth’s Bookshop for tomorrow, but couldn’t resist a sort of preview.
So I walked out, followed the direction the woman at my hotel gave me, and then I just… halted.
They were everywhere. Poetry bookshops, Crime bookshops, general bookshops, small passages leading towards a bookshop, shops buying books. “Good God”, I thought, “how many bookshops can one town really need?”
And then I had a sort of existential crisis at the thought of me (me!) thinking there might be too many bookshops in a town.
But with so many second hand bookshops, did anyone even have books at home? Did the locals read?
“Well, to be honest, I think it’s mainly the tourists that buys the book”, the lady behind the counter at one of them said.
“And … and have there always been this many bookshops?”
“Many! There used to be many more of them, dear. We’re in decline. I think, right now, there’s only about twenty, perhaps. Maybe thirty. There used to be as many as forty. In the nineties, that was the golden age for bookshops. But I guess it’s the same everywhere?”
I have to admit that I did not know about Richard Booth and book cities and the story behind Hay on Wye. But the next day, I decided to find out.