RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
18 February 2011
Overheard in the bookshop (2)
‘ I’ve stopped reading H. P. Lovecraft, so have you got any Heidegger ?’
‘ Have you anything on sixteenth-century oak coffee-tables? ‘
‘ I’d like to order a brand new copy of this out of print book …’
‘ Where do you keep the books you don’t stock ? ‘
Scruffy man, bearing box of books:
‘ I was just on my way to the tip with these ‘ ere books when I saw your shop. I thought you’d like to buy them ‘
How kind ! Mmm. They’re a bit rough, but I’ll offer you two pounds.
‘ Two quid ! I might as well throw them away for that !’
(And he did ).
Would you take 75p for this post card ? After all, you’re not going to sell it !’
‘We’ve got so many books at home, we’ve no room for any more ! We’ve got one shelf on the landing and another under the stairs !’
‘ How do you make a living out of this lot of old rubbish? ‘
‘ Oh Plates ! These are rather like the ones I tore out of a book in Sheffield University Library ‘
‘ Hey, this is a good book. I’ll buy it in Burnley !’
‘ Can you keep it on order and I’ll try and get it elsewhere !’
Two men looking at the Bible:
‘ The man who wrote that must be fair raking it in ‘
‘ I have a credit for £25 ‘
Yes, that’s right
‘Can you show me where the £25 books are please ?’.
‘Have you got any of the Narnia novels by C.S. Lewis ? My daughter wants one’
Yes, I think I’ve got them all. Which one do you want ?
‘I want Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe…’
‘I don’t what it’s called and I don’t know who wrote it, but the girl on television had long dark hair ‘
‘My son would like to know if you’ve got a copy of The Rubber Yacht of Victor Kiam ‘
‘ Have you a copy of James Joyce is useless?’
‘ Have you got that knitting book by Yasser Arafat ? ‘
‘ Do you have a copy of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the Dormobiles ? ‘
‘ I’m looking for a book ( or maybe books ) written by this chap Ibid…’
‘ Do you sell frozen chickens ? ‘
‘ Look, I know you’re a bookshop, but do you by any chance sell resuscitation dummies for first-aid classes ? ‘
‘ Where can I find teddy bears’ sunglasses ? ‘
‘ Do you have any books ( note plural ) on Florence Nightingale’s walking stick ?’
Hard to believe that, post-Python, some of these customers weren’t having a larf. I recall that hilarious pre-Python bookshop skit by the late lamented Marty Feldman and John Cleese from At Last the 1948 Show (1967)
Customer Good morning. Can you help me ? Do you have a copy of ‘Thirty Days in the Samarkand Desert with a Spoon’ by A.E.J. Elliott ?
Assistant. Um…well, we haven’t got it in stock, sir.
Customer. Never mind. How about ‘ A Hundred and One Ways to Start a Monsoon ?
Customer. An Indian gentleman whose name eludes me for the moment
Assistant. I’m sorry, I don’t know the book, sir.
Customer. Not to worry, not to worry. Can you help me with ‘David Copperfield ‘ ?
Assistant. Ah, yes. Dickens…
Assistant…I beg you pardon ?
Customer. No, Edmund Wells.
Assistant. …I’ll think you’ll find Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield, sir.
Customer. No, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield with two ‘ p’s’. This is David Coperfield with one ‘ p’ by Edmund Wells.
Assistant (a little sharply). Well in that case we don’t have it.
Customer. Funny, you’ve got a lot of books here.
Assistant. We do have quite a lot of books here, yes, but we don’t have David Coperfield with one ‘p’ by Edmund Wells. We only have David Copperfield with two ‘p’s ‘ by Charles Dickens.…..
Customer. How about ‘Grate Expectations’?
Assistant. Ah, yes, we have that…
Customer. ….That’s G - r-a -t -e Expectations, also by Edmund Wells.
Assistant. I see. In that case we don’t have it. We don’t have anything by Edmund Wells, actually, he’s not very popular.
Customer. Not Knickerless Nickleby ? That’s K-n-i-c-k-e-r-…
Customer. Or ‘Quristmas Quarol with a Q ?
Assistant. No, definitely… not !
Customer. Sorry to trouble you.
Assistant. Not at all…
Once again, thanks to Shaun Tyas for permission to republish extracts from his More Bookwork Droppings (1990) and also to Methuen for extracts from The Golden Skits of Muriel Volestrangler, FRHS & Bar (1984).
Many thanks Robin. Hard to top Shaun's collection. Of the many malapropisms and misheard titles that have perplexed our staff I can only recall one at this moment - someone asking for 'The Seven Pillars of Neasden' and that may have been a wind-up. We did have an opulent looking woman who said she had been looking for twenty years for a copy of East Lynne by Mrs Henry Wood. We found a copy for her in the basement for £2 which she said was a ridiculous price and left (as Driff would say) "in a chauffeur driven huff." We once had some partygoers wanting masks of President Mitterand and were able to direct them to a shop 3 doors away that sold them (Stephanides.) All in a day's work.
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Years ago I was asked for "Solomon Dastra". After working with the customer for some time, I figured out that it was Brian Jacques' "Salamandastron" she wanted. Close!
The other way round: A customer came forward after looking at the Philosophy shelf and asked for books on Taoism. I heard "Terrorism" ...
I had someone come in looking for French cultural critic "Hack-wheeze Doritas" once.
I had a young couple come in my book shop asking for "You Sillies" by some Irish guy. The Irish author clue only came later and I said do you mean Ulysses by James Joyce? Oh, she said, no one ever corrected me before. I told her that now she has been corrected.
At a Glasgow Art school exhibition I once noticed a charming watercolour of Maggie Thatcher running through a cereal field - it was called 'The Thatcher in the Rye'.
Hack- wheeze Doritas-- that must be Jacques Derrida, who I have heard called Jack the Reader. As for Terrorism, in a reverse of this it is not totally beyond the bounds of probability that George Bush could walk into a bookshop looking for books on the subject and be directed to the section on Taoism. I was in a shop in Fremont, Ca that had 2 shelves on the subject. Also someone looking for books on The Tao might be directed to the finance section...
Friend of a friend (always a "friend of a friend" in these stories, isn't it?) was supposedly directed to the Natural History section when he inquired at Hatchards for a book on Grinling Gibbons.
Two of my favorites that happen again and again are,
The woman (usually) who comes to the counter and says, "how much are the books?" and the specimen who comes in, looks around and asks, "is this a library?"
The woman who was looking for a book that "sounded like a dinosaur" for her child's school project. It took a while to figure it out, but she left with a Roget's Thesaurus.
Then there was the person who came into my friend's bookshop asking for a book called "What To Do About Nothing" (it turned out to be a play by Shakespeare).
"someone looking for books on The Tao might be directed to the finance section..." Where they might find 'A Taoist on Wall Street'!!!
3 weeks ago:
"Would you be interested in buying these?"
"Oh I can't buy things, come back in 2 weeks when the boss will be here. They look like the sort of thing we want"
1 week ago:
"Is the boss here?"
"No, sorry, try coming back next week. We're pretty interested in this stuff."
"Aha, are you interested in buying these?"
ahem, that last one sounds like it was me, sorry. (not the boss)
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