Thursday, May 25, 2006

What's big and round and not a cobblestone?

Mel was foolhardy enough to actually mention the Prague-ish? -esque? -žky? bookshops in her comment. I'm going to take this as blatant encouragement to write about them. So there. Here's the first in what may or may not turn out to be a series of occasional bookstore reports hot from the mean streets of the Big Palačinky (trad. Czech pancake).

According to the guidebook, the Globe is the grand-daddy of foreign-language bookshops in Prague, so this was my first stop. Used and new books, internet access, a café/bar and late-night jazz.

Digression alert.
(Which reminds me. I'm currently using the Radio 3 Miles Davis specials to cling onto sanity. Since I'm a complete ignoramus when it comes to jazz, I didn't really know his music before, but bloody hell is it ever stop-me-in-my-tracks good. Even better, it's given me the excuse to hide in the corner and pretend I'm wearing shades, my silence only broken by the occasional whispered, "Cool, daddy-o." and "Nice." [note authentically jazz-cool lack of exclamation marks] If you hear someone lazily snapping their fingers during a particularly good bit, it wasn't me. I could never be so gauche.)
End digression.

The Globe's big selling point is their range of eastern European lit-fic in translation, and it is rather impressive. But at the moment, my brain is so fried that all I'm interested in is the one about the penguin. Maybe after I've had some sleep I'll move on up to golems.

Genre-wise, good on mysteries, less bountiful when it comes to romance, sci-fi and fantasy. There are bags to hand in and a flight of stairs to ascend to be able to browse among these hallowed shelves. They call them "pulp fiction" and there's nothing out of the ordinary among the new stuff in this section, unless a tonne of Maeve Binchy comes as a bolt from the blue. Pretty light on authentic glossy American man-titty, but not surprising given the literary vibe of the place. Cassie Edwards quota is a very low four, including at least three copies of Thunder Heart, as I recall. By the way, you wouldn't believe the places I've found her books. I'm beginning to suspect she aims to become the romantic fiction equivalent of the Gideon bible. Her stealth distribution fills me with awe and not a little dread. Check your nightside table next time you're in a hotel, folks.

Of course, a lot of their fiction stock is "lightly used" (trade-ins for internet and book credit only). So if I spend much time shopping for bargains here, I'll likely have to expand my reading horizons further. Or not. It does depend, but in many cases I can't help but conclude that people hardly ever sell on books that they really like. Unless someone's been clearing out houses, the majority of what's available can often be a little, ermmmm… uninspiring? Although repeat visits do often pay dividends and since this place feels like someone's cosy front room, it's a lovely place to browse.

Catherine Cookson rating* (traditional for used-book stores): small shelf of thirty-odd books on special for 100 Kc (approx. £2.50/$4.00US) each.

*Incidentally, for those of you making comparisons with Cassie E, the ubiquity of CC's books doesn't make her the Gideon bible, but a force of nature.

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