28 Jan 2018 |
The aisles are narrow and labyrinthine. The shelves are tall; so tall you need a footstool to reach the higher books. Footstools are always easy to find.
The store only stocks high-quality books, no chaff. The books are not organized by genre, but if you were to accomplish a Fourier transform, re-sorting them into the dusty ghettos of an abandoned Borders, you would find much Science Fiction and very little Romance. Many volumes of Cultural Studies, but few of Business & Management. Heaps of Science & Nature. One Bible.
The back of the store hosts a small reading room, with comfortable chairs and a large, low table. It is said that meetings are held here, but it is not said what sort of Clubbs might find their home at Dangerous Books. There is no sign on the sidewalk advertising events. There is no bulletin board.
The front of the shop is brighter. Daylight streams in through tall windows. Here there is a counter: an altar to Hermes, god of messengers and tricksters and thieves. An assortment of particularly dangerous books grace the window display. A small bar in one corner offers hot beverages but few seats; should you desire to get comfortable, you must find your way through the maze to the reading room.
Taking center stage is a massive globe, demarcated not by national boundary but by bioregion. The mountains and oceans and great rivers of the world are hand-painted and filigreed. The moon orbits on a hidden engine, sized to scale but unnaturally close. On the walls are framed maps of imaginary territories: Middle-Earth, Arrakis, Earthsea. Like an old Explorer’s Clubb, veterans of epic campaigns reminisce teary-eyed at the sight of the long-lost lands where they gained and lost so much.
Announced in a fine script above the altar of Hermes is a challenge:
“Welcome to Live Books. All books here are known to be Puissant, Arcane, or Memetically Active. They should be used under occult supervision.
“Books in the Restricted Section are available for purchase, but first you must unveil the Restricted Section. If you need assistance, please do not ask us.”
Beneath, in hasty block letters, another:
“PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE BOOKS!”
Whenever anyone enters the front door, a small gong peals from a hidden chamber. It pierces at first, but then melts away into the musty, incense-filled atmosphere. It fades so gradually that you cannot be certain whether it has stopped ringing.