Friday, September 02, 2011

Antiquarian is a beautiful word

Adjective: Relating to or dealing in antiques or rare books.
Noun: One who studies or collects antiques or antiquities.

So now you know! The theme for this AW 11 collection is "Antiquarian".

Apart from very old jewellery, my other great love is very old books. Or specifically reading about collecting and dealing in old, rare, antiquarian books. The love affair began many moons ago while working as a bookseller.

Like every college student then, I was keen to find a holiday job for extra cash. I loved reading so I knew I wanted to work in a bookshop. The biggest two at that time were the now-defunct Borders at Wheelock Place or Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City. The remuneration was comparable, but Kinokuniya required the wear of a uniform (which a 18 year old me considered stuffy) so the choice was easy.

Though it was a very short stint, I think having had a foretaste of the intricate workings of the back room, having to actually know the genres and content of the books I was selling, seeing and smelling the crisp printed pages of new arrivals everyday -- the experience left such an indelible impression on me.

Some books I picked up then have impacted me over the years (and influenced my creative mood this season!) and these are 2 of them:
I am not a student of literature so David Denby's adventures of his encounters with Columbia University's famous "Great Books" course as an older student left me curious about the classics of western civilisation written essentially by what is termed "dead white males" (funny!). A fascinating novel take on the great books canon but oh so heavy.

Thankfully this book is much lighter:
The book is a collection of letters chronicling the 20 year correspondence between Helene Hanff, a gregarious irreverent American writer, and Frank Doel, a British antiquarian bookseller (mighty fine example of the typical reticent staid English gentleman if I may add). It is witty, sarcastic, sweet, sad and nostalgic all at once. One of my favourite reads ever!

If you have never read 84 Charing Cross before, please please please pick up a copy somewhere and read it. Find a cosy corner, have a cuppa tea and spend the afternoon relishing the story of a charming, old-fashioned friendship in a much simpler time.... xo

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