This said, if the problem is acknowledged, solutions could be developed. The bookshop was actually the confluence of several factors, the grey-haired mystic, guard and guide; the material; and the feeling such places engendered. We cannot reconstruct the entire experience but we can construct an effective alternative. These days these mystics still exist and arguably they are more compelling for their experiences across the now multi-threaded experience of living with and sometimes off books. We simply need to capture them on film, both in debate and in teaching, to convey the intellectual stimulation, interest, excitement and humor of the field. We need perspective, what that old man behind the counter provided when he pointed “its in the back, on the left. Bring it here and I’ll explain it.”
These days such presentations should be filmed and posted to YouTube and other sites. In time 50 or 100 such presentations will vie for most watched in the category and we learn what is effective. As well we can ask the willing to post links on their sites to these perspectives. In time, together, this could become a force and further debates and presentations elaborate the possibilities.
For today we need to find a way to bring the best minds, the motivated and entertaining together to create these presentations. We won’t be able to emulate the mildew and must of the old bookshop but the spirit, logic, and excitement of collecting – that can be renewed and updated.
If we succeed a generation hence the outcry won’t be “where are they?” Rather it will be “what do we do with them all?”