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Book-porn in Hay-on-Wye

Author: joe

Thursday, 02 June, 2005 - 14:06

People who know me think of me as a book collector. I have some long bookcases packed with paperbacks from charity shops, cheap antiquarian relics, and everything in between; fact jumbled with fiction, though with some semblence of order around the science section, which seems appropriate. These people may be surprised to learn, though, that having been to my first Hay-on-Wye literature festival, I have come home empty-handed.

One of my great pleasures when visiting towns is to look through the shelves of charity shops, or to hunt down second-hand book-shops tucked away in back-streets, and then to rescue some forlorn treasure that I hadn't realised I needed until I set eyes on it. The most pleasure comes from finding just one shop hanging on to its trade by dusty finger-tips, and piling books in my arms as I roam the tight aisles, only ending when I can't carry any more.

Hay-on-Wye, therefore, while it seems a bibliophile's paradise on the surface, is actually more like a pornographic emporium. Everywhere you look there are the multicoloured blocks of books lined up, titles just beyond vision, but their presence gaudily overwhelming. You can buy any book here. You can come to buy a book you plan to buy. You can find anything - eventually. But why even start? No book here can surprise you, since finding it is ultimately inevitable. Here a book is a symbol, a badge. No-one walks without a book in Hay in May. Except me. I am a secret book-lover.

Categories: hay-on-wye, books, secret, literature,
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