Posted By DMB

My doctor says I can venture out again with a mask and great caution but since the bookshops are all closed I have nowhere I want to go. Our annual book fair has just been cancelled and all the paper shows and the Sunday Market are also in suspension so there’s only the internet if you want books.

Our shop is now open again and can be visited, although we recommend a call first, 10am to 5pm – Monday to Friday. We hope to start seeing old friends again – we continue to buy books every day.

We continue with our email lists, a new on-line bookfair, which seems to be working, and we continue to quote to our regular clients, so business goes on although different from the old days.

We’re going to be hearing a lot about the “old days” I think, probably forever now. Everybody’s life is changed in some ways and permanently too. Better learn to adjust. Luckily for me at my age I have mostly all I want: books to read, my home collections to play with, and am never bored. It’s the young I feel for, all that energy and life bursting out and nowhere to go.

I just bought the DVD of the great documentary The Booksellers a documentary centred on New York booksellers and the New York City bookfair which provides a great view of many booksellers, and collectors. Fascinating and great nostalgia for me, old friends and fascinating unknowns and newcomers since I stopped doing the circuit. Not to be missed.

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A lunch club, of which I’m a member, regularly has the host pose a question which goes around the table where we receive answers, often very witty ones, from the members who include people from every form of book-making in Canada, from writers to booksellers.

I was to be one of the hosts when we were temporarily inconvenienced by the plague and I intended to pose an around the table the question: What book in the last while has most disturbed you?

This question arose with me because of a book I bought at publication in 2017 and still haven’t read, usually getting too depressed to continue somewhere in the first chapter. The book, Edward O. Wilson’s The Origins of Creativity, got a great review from Bob Fulford. I bought it and shortly thereafter went into the hospital taking it along with a dozen other books as emotional sustenance.

It wasn’t a book for hospitals, and I never got past the first page.

Its essential theme was that in a great evolutionary leap, starting some three million years ago we began ruling the world, our magnificent brains allowing us to create our astonishing civilization. But the downside is that we are still ruled by the emotions of our ancient ancestors which is why, as Wilson put it on page one, “We are both supremely advanced and supremely dangerous.”

I was flummoxed. I couldn’t get past that simple but supremely logical explanation of why the world is such a mess – it’s because we’re so dangerous, operating with emotions we barely have a clue about, our brains merely making us even more cunning in misusing our incredible mental gifts.

It has completely changed my view of the world. I now view all events from that perspective and I must say all events, all the evil and stupidity everywhere, fits perfectly in that framework. And my previous consternation at the depths humanity can stoop to, is now clear to me.

I’ve picked up the book 20 times and failed every time to get very far without dropping it in despair. I’ve just started it again and have managed to get to p68, my most successful foray to date. Whether I will manage to finish it remains uncertain.

My world-view now completely altered, I can only see one way out. We must focus our brilliant minds on the real problem and begin to defeat our primitive animal instincts with the only weapon we have that provides any hope: that superlative brain.

It turns out my constant quoting from that great American philosopher, Pogo, isn’t just a joke after all! “We have seen the enemy and it is us.” It’s true.

 
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