Many moons ago, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and nobody had heard of the internet, I worked in a bookshop for a few months. It was a branch of Hatchard’s, but was also known as the Ancient House because its premises were a very beautiful fifteenth-century merchant’s house. Here is a photograph of it from Wikipedia (it is no longer a bookshop). If you are ever in Ipswich it is worth a visit – the pargetting is particularly lovely.
Inside, the rooms ramble pleasingly and although there were plenty of members of staff it wasn’t possible to have someone in every room. Now and again a young man would disappear into the depths with a large bag and, if none of us were free to go and dust the shelves nearby in a pointed manner while ‘keeping an eye’, we would assume he was depredating the stock. (He probably wasn’t, I imagine that successful shoplifters are a bit more subtle.)
I hadn’t thought about the shoplifting of books for a long time because I didn’t imagine that it happened in Britain any more, now that you can acquire them on the internet for 1p, not that anyone would because no one reads books nowadays (insert grumping old person emoticon)... I was therefore surprised to read this article in the Independent. I am sorry for the bookshops, and stealing is indefensible, but I was also a tiny bit heartened that Beckett is considered still worth nicking.
(Gothic castle literature template, by wyldraven; from here)
So. You’ve made your brew, settled down in your armchair and picked up your novel. Is there a haunted house? A monster? Bad weather? A lot of swooning? (A mark of the coarseness of our modern fibre is, I believe, our inability to swoon readily. I have never swooned in my life so must be particularly vulgar.) The Guardian is at hand to help you identify whether or not you’re reading a gothic novel. How many of them have you read?
And finally, although I posted the link to this in the comments of my previous post, it’s just such a great picture I could not resist putting it here. For those of you who doubted the savage nature of a snail of prey, here is one looking very aggressive indeed, probably having just sighted some prey.
(Screaming snail, marginal illustration in Xenophon, Retreat of the Ten Thousand (French translation), France ca. 1501; BnF, Français 701, fol. 46r; from here)