Thursday, April 16, 2009
Reading and Writing: Part One
Every Saturday and Sunday, three second-hand bookstalls appear in Dublin's Temple Bar Square, a stones-throw from the river Liffey. One in particular is run by a chap (sat down with his back to us in the photo) who is the moustachioed, fez-wearing shopkeeper to my Mister Ben - (from the children's TV series of that name, whose secret doorway and portal to the otherworldly adventures was a changing room in a fancy dress shop) - and it is (partly) for this reason i call his foldaway cart: The Magic Bookstall.
There is (what feels like at least), a supernatural element and aroma surrounding the whole business of purchasing books from this man. My small library of books, is founded on the foundational stock from his wooden crate boxes.
Several years ago, I began buying books from him. Every weekend I would wander into the Square and acquire those books whose titles and content seemed most apt; with the act of buying, seeming like serendipity itself - as the process of selection was entirely extemporanous and never deciding prior to spotting the book but knowing intuitively: that book is the next one i must get.
Every book delivered by the gods of Fate, and i learnt to trust in a seemingly chaotic and random princple as the moment of satisfation and intellectual succor connected ultimately to some higher, empyreal calling and essentially, a celebratory inward event: like scoring a spiritual goal in a game-with-self and saying "ye hey, the old magic's alive and well."
And it was a few months ago that I instinctively understood the first phase of my relationship with the Magic Bookstall, had ended after the cart was emptied of the stock, ordered for me it seemed, from Heaven itself.
Until that weekend a few months ago, every Saturday or Sunday saw me ferrying away at least one and often four and five volumes, and it felt as though the stall would never run dry of magic titles i had to have in order to found reality as an intellectually creative observer and painter of verbal shapes seeking a stay against the calamity of Dublin life.
Finally, i came to know that a plateau had been reached, from where one first becomes conscious, can gaze across and clarify in a comprehensible manner, thesteps of the journey to where we are at present - on a firm inner ground paved by pages from the Magic Bookstall - and also Chapters vast second hand floor in their new premises on Parnell Street opposite Lidl, in the Moore Street district where the call and cry of an inimitable inner city Dublin accent selling fruit and flowers, ring as clear and fluted now, as it has done for generations.
There is powerful magic there also, but one yet to be harnessed. It is not the supernal mist invoked by the most unique profession of Dublin flower sellers that is the subject of this blog-post - but of a different, felicitous and befitting, otherworldly aspect surrounding the appropriation and appropriateness of the books to hand upon the shelves of my small library. One which began life in libraires vast and small from (conceivably) all across the planet, and which came to rest, finally, several yards from the Heavenly Cafe, where i would (and still to this very day), decant to read and watch society's fabric spin and yarn from distaff and spindle, to create a prosaic picture with all the awkward bits left in. Flawed yes, accurate - perhaps.
Inscriptions I have found in many of the books an other, ultimately inexplicable force led me to hook and slope off home with after a few pleasant hours perusal and coffee, gazing at the traffic hithering and tithering to and fro about the square - usually with live music of various description and ability wafting across from the corners of the six or so streets which converge into the quad where anything can happen, any book yield itself up in the vendors cart-like contraption holding the boxes in which the cargo stares, inviting us to take them home.
A copy of James Michie's English translations of Horace's Odes, purchased pretty much at the begining of my affair with the otherworldly aspect of poetic life several years ago,
"Ingest and become as one with the Muse
much love, Patrick"
The identity of the dedicator and the person who the volume is dedicated to, no one knows, yet the warmth and cordiality of the platonic love, is evident. Often-times i think it Patrick Kavanagh dedicating to Seamus Heaney, or another less well known Patrick sending it forward to someone else. It could be anyone. It could even have been a relative or freind of my parents or grandparents perhaps, i wonder now and again as I gaze longingly at the perfectly executed copper-plate script, day dreaming and lost in inventions of pretense, fabricating histories and lineages on the strength of eleven words in fading red ink.