Sunday, June 13, 2010

The End of Charing Cross?

You could take the Charing Cross Road once from Centre Point and walk south and stop for tea at the coffee shop in the National Portrait Gallery with the satisfaction that you had had the good fortune to be able to examine a facsimile edition of Tomé Pires's Summa Oriental, feasted on a second hand copy of the Haji's Book of Nursery Rhymes along the way, and you'd have probably met many remarkable men and Gurdjieff, too, and waded through murders most foul in the book-shelves of Murder Inc and probably managed to persuade a doubting bibliopolist that you had the means to buy a 1st edition copy of 1984 that you managed to persuade him to pull out from his locked showcase.

There were three chain bookshops in Charing Cross, but now there's only two, but the crux of the Charing Cross Road is not the big giants but the small shops, the second hand trade and antiquarian books and shops that look after the niche market ranging from esoterica to car manuals and books about maps and art, and first editions galore. It is this side of the street that is now under threat from money-grabbing landlords, and inhospitable planning policy and the Internet too and big bookshops and supermarkets who are able to buy in bulk and sell as loss leaders at three for the price of two.
Wan A. Hulaimi writes in today's New Sunday Times about the imminent demise of London's famous street of books. His early post on the street is linked here, and here's another link to a post on the same topic.

(And happy I am to hear that our Awang Goneng has a second book about Terengganu coming out later this year.  Now I want the big glossy coffee table version that only exists in my dreams!)


Amir Muhammad said...

Don't you have this one?
By Dina's auntie!

bibliobibuli said...

Yes I know about that one (though I have no yet seen a copy) but I was talking about Awang Goneng's. Sorry if did not make meself clear.

Fiona1 said...

I used to like Charing Cross Road - it appealed to my 2 great weaknesses - music and books. My stopovers were Foyle's and Borders and then to Denmark street for all the music instruments and books.
Now its' just crowded due to roadworks for Crossrail and you can't walk at that junction which leads to my 3rd great weakness - shopping for clothes in Oxford st