I usually find time once a month to check in on an independent book store and peruse its wares. For the last three months each establishment I've visited has informed me of its imminent closure. So far these places have all been mediocre shops where I had to dig deep to find something I cared to take home with me. But yesterday the shop in question was David Mirvish Books.
If I'd known, I would have steered clear of it: a closing book store is a thoroughly depressing experience, and I've lost the carrion-cleaning impulse of my youth.
When it was fully stocked David Mirvish Books was a gorgeous space to browse around in. It had three levels; the upper and lower floors were accessible and visible to the main floor, which had a towering ceiling and an abundance of natural light. The place was loaded with coffee-table books displayed with their faces out. The building's location was prime -- snug inside Toronto's Annex, next to Honest Ed's and an easy walk from Kensington Village. When I lived on Brunswick Avenue a typical Saturday or Sunday would start with a meet-and-browse at DM's, followed by an early lunch at one of the Annex cafes or bistros.
Book stores and libraries are sacred spaces to me. There have been times in my life when I walked into a library and wondered if what I was about to encounter would precipitate a nervous breakdown or the rediscovery of my soul -- or both. As we try to gauge the sea-change sweeping over the written word and its dispensers it's tempting to have a go at the Emersonian approach -- "Why shouldn't it be a library purely of light and mind?" Another more common temptation is to equate the approaching digital library with the historical change from horse-and-buggy to horseless carriage.
I am not immune to the appeal of that last metaphor. But speaking as a thoroughly digitized Mennonite, the generation that fully embraced the utility and pleasures of the horseless carriage sacrificed a hell of a lot more than simple locomotion up a grassy hill and through the big woods. So too the bookstore and, eventually, the library. It's fine to greet the era of easy access to volumes of information, aesthetics and thought. And it may well be that book stores and libraries will become as quaint a memory as the hot-stove and cracker-barrel. But for now they remain precious public spaces I hate to see shuttered and abandoned.
Photos cadged from here and here.