Munro’s Books

I’m still on vacation in Vancouver, though I head back to Halifax tomorrow. Obviously, I haven’t had much time for blogging–in fact, I just spent two days in Victoria, at the elegant Empress Hotel, where they are far too elegant for wireless and so I went without the internet for as long as I have in ages! I was too busy playing sentimental tourist to notice, really, though it was odd not to be able to look things up when they occurred to me.

My trip has not been without benefit to my life as a blogger, though, because I am coming back with some good new reading material, mostly thanks to a long stop in Victoria’s amazing “indie” bookstore, Munro’s Books. I can’t think of a better use for a blog post than to put in a plug for them. What a treat it was to browse shelves crowded with such a fine selection; it was particularly notable to me, after being limited often to Coles and Chapters in Halifax, that they carry what I think of as the “catalogue of the recent past”: not just the blockbuster bestsellers and the latest releases by big name ‘literary’ authors, with a selection of ‘classics’ to round things out (and really, for all the miles of shelf space at Chapters, that’s still about what you find), but writers’ back catalogues and interesting works that are no longer new releases but haven’t, after all, expired, as you might think from looking for them elsewhere. Just as an example, they had about eight titles by William Boyd (whose remarkable Any Human Heart I reviewed a while ago), and about five by Hilary Mantel that predate Wolf Hall (I bought Beyond Black). Sure, you can usually get ahold of these older releases through Amazon (or Chapters online), but I like to take a look at books when making my selections, a luxury I have often had to forego in recent years. It was difficult to limit myself to three books (my other two, after much deliberation, were Anne Enright’s The Gathering and Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop), but I had to keep in mind that I would be packing and carrying them on the bus and ferry back to Vancouver and then stuffing them into my suitcase to come home as well (along with all the Kidsbooks purchases). That’s why I didn’t get, for instance, Mark Helprin’s A Winter’s Tale, or Laurence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet, or . . .

Anyway, I’ll be home soon, with a few books and lots of memories. I have to say that a particularly fun, and particularly nostalgic, part of the trip to Victoria was a visit to Miniature World. This little museum was a childhood favourite, and the most remarkable thing about going back after a gap of probably 30 years is that it doesn’t seem to have changed at all. The displays, including a whole series of war scenes (under the heading “Fields of Glory”), a cross-Canada model train, several scenes from Dickens, and a great collection of doll houses (with all kinds of working lights and fireplaces and other moving parts), are the work of dedicated amateurs, as is evident in the hand-done calligraphy signs on the exhibits. The carpets are dingy, the ceilings are low, but the glass is so clean you frequently foget it’s there and bang your forehead on it as you lean in trying to see all the astonishing little details, done with so much loving care. In its own quirky way, it’s just as moving as the great hall of totem poles in the Royal B. C. Museum.

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4 Responses to Munro’s Books

  1. Colleen says:

    “after being limited often to Coles and Chapters in Halifax” – Really? No Bookmark, or any of the myriad used bookshops with amazing, if random selection, esp. JWD?

  2. Rohan says:

    I do go to Bookmark, but their small physical size does somewhat limit them, despite their good taste. Use bookshops are OK, but you have to be very open to serendipity. That’s fun, but I also usually have a list of things I’d like to see–and have you been in JWD lately? It’s a health hazard!

  3. Colleen says:

    No, I haven’t been to JWD in about a year but it was rather dangerous then too. Personally, I think the danger is part of the charm, but I can see how others would disagree. 🙂 Does Bookmark not do special orders anymore?

  4. Rohan says:

    I’m sure they do special orders–but then ordering things commits you to them, right? The bliss of a larger, well-stocked store is that you can browse and sample before you choose. It’s true that you can get some way towards this with Amazon’s “see inside this book” function, and then decide to order something. But I just love the experience of moving along a shelf and taking things off it to open and read a little bit of. Anyway, I’m not trying to speak against Bookmark (or JWD). I just really enjoyed Munro’s.

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