Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Open Book (I can dream, can’t I?)

I know a lot of writers. And plenty more readers. This past weekend was spent in the company of a number of my most beloved among them, and I came back with a tote-bag full of books. (What I’m reading now is Priestdaddy, a memoir by Patricia Lockwood. Lockwood is a poet whose father was a Lutheran minister who switched to Catholicism and could, thus, be that oddity: married Catholic priest with kids. So far, so good.)

Anyway, what the writers and readers among us share, besides trading books and authors, is that, at one point or another, most of us have fantasized about running a bookstore.

Even now, when I’m at age when I know plenty better, when I’m walking down Charles Street with my friend Marin and we spot an empty store front, we’ll stop for a couple of minutes, peer in, and discuss where we’re going to put the armchairs when we open up shop. We know, of course, that running a bookshop would more than likely be a losing proposition – a fool’s errand to end all fool’s errand. And, mostly, we admit to ourselves that in our bookstore, the doors would mostly be locked, and we’d just sit around in our armchairs, drinking tea, eating scones, and reading. Fortunately, in our bookstore-running fantasy, we don’t need to make any money. In fact, we can lose money. (Good thing. What’s a fantasy for if it can’t be perfect anyway?)

There’ve been bookstores on Charles Street in the past – a nice indie one, a really lame-o Lauriat’s... But it’s been a couple of decades since we’ve had one around. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how a neighborhood of highly educated and presumably literate people can support two shops that appear to sell nothing but doorknobs and not one freaking bookstore. Sigh. At least we have the excellent Trident Booksellers & Cafe just a mile and change away…

Anyway, my writer/reader friend Sophia had a recent post on FB that linked to an article (from last year) on a bookstore in the charmingly-named Scottish town of Wigtown that has a studio upstairs that they rent out on Airbnb:  

The first ever bookshop holiday / residency experience, Scotland's National Book Town welcomes you to play-bookshop for a week or two. We'll give you your very own apartment and bookshop below, supported by a team of friendly volunteers to make your trip as lovely as possible. Set up by The Wigtown Festival Company, The Open Book's aim is to celebrate books, independent bookshops and welcome people around the world to Scotland's National Book Town. The fee for your stay is low because we are a non-profit. It covers the running costs of the holiday but that is all. A laptop and WiFi are provided, plus bicycles for those who like to explore the bucolic countryside on two wheels


I’m not quite sure how it works, but it sounds like trying your hand at running the shop is optional:

We offer you the bookshop, apartment and orientation. All the rest for your bookshop holiday is up to you. Please note that this is not a volunteer opportunity, nor are we paying you to work. This is a holiday that you are paying for, classified under cultural tourism and you can enjoy the bookshop as you wish.


But most of those who’ve Airbnb’d there seem to have become shopkeepers for the duration of their stay. Here’s Jared, the most recent reviewer. (And, by the way, all 44 reviews are five-star.)

I know what some of you are thinking - how can I take a week off from work, fly all the way to Scotland, and drive through the countryside just to spend a week volunteering in a bookstore. Well its more than just that. This is the most unique traveling experience I've ever had. I don't know if I have run into a community more giving, kind, and willing to open up their doors and lives to strangers. Go to Wigtown, be a shopkeeper, hike the trails, cliffs, and woods that surround the town, have a pint at the pub, explore, and talk to people. Book the trip (if you can!), trust me you won't regret it.

Jared ain’t kidding about book it if you can. I looked out a year and couldn’t find much of anything.

The pictures, of course, look heavenly. My first reaction was that there are only a couple of days a year when things are so picture-perfect Brigadoon/Finian’s Rainbow-ish in Scotland. The country is beautiful, but not exactly known for its lovely weather. But I looked it up, and this neck of the Scottish woods has weather that’s milder and sunnier than other parts of the country. Which is not to say that it’s like San Diego. Even so, I like just thinking about sitting there – even in the dark and gloomy – sipping a cup of tea and eating a scone, selling or not selling a book.

I can dream, can’t I?

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