Bandon. I’ve just discovered a new [to me] series of books. Damn you, Bandon Books, you’ve left me without a prayer.
I arrived the other morning with a minor objective, to buy a pocket-sized notebook and a single new book to read. I walked out with the notebook and two new books. Reading one of them over lunch [Robert Macfarlane’s The Gifts of Reading brought a few tears to my eye and a bunch of dog-eared pages for more books I’ll want to buy.] Oh, and the new-to-me series? Faber Stories. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Come Rain or Come Shine jumped off the shelf and demanded it come home with me. I couldn’t resist. I finished Macfarlane over lunch. Ishiguru will be a break in my 400-page bedside book in the next night or so. Unlike Penguin Books, which I always associate with the classics I avoided reading in my school days, the new Faber series intrigues me – contemporary authors in bite-size pieces. While they’ll easily fit both my time and wallet budgets of the next few months, I’m afraid they’ll introduce me to even more authors I’ll want to read. Has Faber created an entry-level drug?
And about those Penguins – I remember when we called the students who read them Robbers [Required Orange Book Readers]. They made the rest of us look bad by showing up for class after not only reading, but analyzing and understanding the week’s assignment. More recently, after moving my classroom seat to the other side of the syllabus, I appreciated these students a lot more. The time they took talking and discussing things was time I didn’t have to spend on the same subject. Oh, and full disclosure: the Macfarlane book that I’ve already read twice is a Penguin, but it’s sans the iconic orange cover.
But back to Bandon Books Plus. Why haven’t I ever darkened their doors before? It’s in a shopping mall. After spending too many years of my professional life in their plastic environs I’ve become a born-again advocate for fresh air and restored historic towns with vibrant shopping streets. And there’s nothing more obnoxious than a born-again anyone.
Bandon’s one of those towns I’ve passed through dozens of times, always on the way to somewhere else. [As did TV personality Graham Norton, who grew up there and continues to say good things about his youth there.] The one time I stopped, a year or so ago, it reminded me of Los Angeles. Ireland’s OPW was busy paving the river, a task it’s honed to perfection. New apartments and wide-windowed flats lined the construction site – a riverbed stripped to dryness by temporary dams. A short half hour from Cork, it appears to me that they’ve given up on restoration and embraced suburbanization – excuse me, renewal – wholeheartedly. There’s even a paved nature walk along the neatly-channeled newly-paved river. [While the river-paving project continues an old nearby building simply collapsed onto a main street. I’m curious to know if there are better uses for all the concrete being poured.] I’m just wondering how all the new residents living on the flood plain feel about the steady stream of trucks running past their doors, nearly all smelling of diesel and manure, as they’ve done for years. Bandon may not have the cache of Cork’s closer suburbs, but it’s on its way. Give it another few years.
But back again to Bandon Books Plus. I’m impressed. Many of us complain bookstores not surviving, and when those that do “branch out” beyond “ye olde bookshop” full of musty tomes to become a community resource for all things ink and paper – remember that they’re surviving, adapting to their community’s needs. If the lotto tickets, ice cream and office supplies bring in footfall that author visits don’t, more power to them. And if you’ve a great selection of children’s books for granny to give, why not add some toys that the non-reading child can enjoy while waiting for their too-busy parents to make time to read to them. It’s to their credit that they’ve ignored the preaching of people like me and chose to locate where their customers are. In this case it’s in a mall. It’s interesting that the town’s library is also in a mall, just a few hundred yards away.
If you’re anywhere near them, either in Bandon or online, check them out. In fact, their Facebook page is impressive, besides promoting their ongoing events, it tells us that they have 1,700 followers. Not bad for a town of fewer than 7,000 people. And did I mention I spent less on the three volumes I bought from them than I’d planned to spend on a single book? I guess I’ll need to go back and spend more one of these days.
This piece is just one of a number I’ve written about my long-term love affair with books. If you’d like to see more simply click on the “Books” category below. You can also subscribe, so that you’ll see these blogs as they’re written, as opposed to social media’s algorithms. As the saying goes, if you like my writing, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell your enemies.