Excerpt from The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lost for Words Bookshop

by Stephanie Butland

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland X
The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland
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  • Published:
    Jun 2018, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan

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About this Book

Print Excerpt

POETRY

2016
Unlooked-for

A book is a match in the smoking second between strike and flame.

Archie says books are our best lovers and our most provoking friends. He's right, but I'm right, too. Books can really hurt you.

I thought I knew that, the day I picked up the Brian Patten. It turned out that I still had a lot to learn.

I usually get off my bike and wheel it on the last bit of my ride to work. Once you pass the bus stop, the cobbled road narrows and so does the pavement in this part of York, so it's a lot less hassle that way. That February morning, I was navigating around some it's-my-buggy-and-I'll-stop-if-I-want-to woman with her front wheels on the road and her back wheels on the pavement, when I saw the book.

It was lying on the ground next to a bin, as though someone had tried to throw it away, but didn't even care enough to pause to take proper aim. Anyway, I stopped. Of course. Who wouldn't rescue a book? The buggy-woman tutted, though I wasn't doing her any harm. She seemed the type who went through her days tutting, like a pneumatic disapproval machine. I've met plenty of those; they come with the nose-ring territory. They'd have a field day if they could see my tattoos.

I ignored her. I picked up the book, which was Grinning Jack. It was intact, if a little bit damp on the back cover where it had been lying on the pavement, but otherwise in good nick. It had a couple of corners folded down, neatly, making interested right-angled triangles. I wouldn't do that myself–I'm an honourer of books and, anyway, how hard is it to find a bookmark? There's always something to hand. Bus ticket, biscuit wrapper, corner off a bill. Still, I like that there are some words on a page that are important enough for someone to have earmarked them. (Earmarked, in the figu- rative sense, has been around since the 1570s. In case you're interested. When you work within five metres of four shelves of dictionaries, encyclopaedia and thesauri, it's just plain rude not to know shit like that.)

Anyway. As Archie says, I digress. Buggy-woman said, 'Excuse me, I can't see past you,' but she said it politely, so I shuffled the back wheel of my bike onto the pavement so she could get a better look at the traffic. And then I remembered not to make assumptions and judgments. Everyone is allowed to like poetry. Even people who tut at cyclists.

I said, 'Is this your book? It was on the ground.'

She looked at me. I saw her clock the piercing and the fact that my hair is black but my roots are brown, and waver, but, to give her credit, she apparently decided not to judge, or maybe my clean fingernails and teeth swung things in my favour. Her shoulders dropped a little bit.

'I can't remember the last time I picked up a book that didn't have lift-the-flaps,' she said, and I almost handed the book over to her, right then. But before I could offer it there was a break in the traffic and she launched herself across the road, trilling something about going swimming to her kid.

I looked around to see if there was someone close by who might have just dropped a Liverpool Poet, or be retracing their steps, searching, eyes to the ground. A woman standing outside the off-licence was going through her bag, urgently, and I was about to approach her when she pulled her ringing phone out and answered it. Not her, then. No sign of anyone in search of a lost book. I thought about leaving it on the off-licence windowsill, like you would with a dropped glove, but it doesn't take much in the way of weather to ruin a book, so I put it in the basket–yeah, I have a bike with a basket on the front, what of it?–and I kept on my way to the second-hand bookshop, where I've worked for ten years, since I was fifteen.

Excerpted from The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland. Copyright © 2018 by Stephanie Butland. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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