(And yes, I have checked out the parent store, Skoob in Russell Square - how could I not?)
Skoob Malaysia has gone through a variety of incarnations. When I first came across it in the early 90's it was sharing half a shop-lot with a dobi shop. (That's a laundry - notice how I am now carefully translating terminology! Let's let shop-lot slip past and hope Walker doesn't notice!)
It later moved to slightly larger premises just up the road in Jalan Telawi 3. The first time I wandered in there, I had a surreal experience. Now bear in mind that this was well before the days of the big bookshops, when the best that could be found in Bangsar was a rack of Jackie Collins and Jeffrey Archer in Guardian pharmacy between the headache pills and the face creams. For some reason, I had a craving for a copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson.
I asked the woman behind the counter, expecting her to say something along the lines of "Huh?".
Cindy (for 'twas she) didn't skip a beat. Without looking at the shelves, without consulting any data base or list, she calmly asked "Would that be the 1923 Everyman edition in two volumns or the Heath&Co 1929 edition?" I nearly died of shock on the spot! We checked the shelves and both were there. An oasis in the dessert.
An oasis too of intelligent conversation as proprietor Thor (no relation to the thunder-god, unfortunately) playwright, actor, theatre-director, critic, lecturer, and his musician wife, Cindy, are book-loving kindred spirits.
I loved the shop for it's sheer plenty. Shelves were filled to capacity. There was a terrific range of novels, poetry, literary biographies, and of course the philosophy, religion and the occult in which the bookshop specialises. Books were stacked on the floor, filled even more boxes in the backroom, recent deliveries from the mother-ship in London.
Loved too the way that it drew eccentric characters to it. One rainy afternoon, I was browsing in the shelves of my favourite second-hand bookshop when an elderly, dhoti-clad gentleman burst in from the street, angrily brandishing a copy of Middlemarch at Thor who had apparently recommended the novel as the kind of improving read this gentleman said he was after. (He'd rejected a James Clavell novel the week before because the "language was not rich enough"!)
“Why does she call herself George?" he wailed "I don’t read books by women writers.”
I also laughed at Thor's story about customers coming in to buy antiquarian books by the yard to show the world how well read they were.
More recently, it's moved again to Old Town, P.J. (Lot 122 & 123 Menara Mutiara Majestic, Jalan Othman to be precise), and takes a little more tracking down.
It's a book-lovers haven still (and a lot of books are much cheaper these days) and thanks to Cindy's artistic touch (flowers, lights, teak benches, cushions), the ambience is as squidgy as you could desire. Thor will even make you a cup of tea to sip while you browse. (Tell him Sharon said so.)
As I write this it strikes me that I badly need to make a pilgrimage to Skoob to fill some gaps in my collection, especially now that I have bookshelf space. (But for how long at this rate?? *sigh*).
Photo from The Sun