Illustration by Christine Renney
The bookshop is big and busy. I feel crowded and I falter, unsure now why I came in; to buy a particular book or simply to browse?
I could easily stay here for hours, days, weeks, months, years. I wonder if all the books are here. A ridiculous notion I know, no one place, not even this gallery on five levels, could possibly house everything now in print.
I need an objective, a reason to move again and I wonder about all the books that aren’t here. Perhaps I should search for those but all that comes to mind is the playwright Joe Orton. I remember how he and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, had defaced books from Hampstead and Islington libraries.
Would that work here? Obscene drawings in the inside covers of the paperbacks in the three for two section? I can’t draw but I could at least manage something akin to the Cerne Abbas giant, a stick figure man, erect penis bigger than his arms. But which book? ’Fifty Shades of Grey’? No, too obvious. Maybe I should write something short and concise and in block capitals – TOO BIG TOO MUCH or I’ll just scribble an angry and childish scrawl.
I don’t have a pen but they must sell them here and I set off to buy one.
On the fourth floor(20th Century Dramatists), sandwiched between Miller and Pinter I find Orton’s ‘The Complete Plays’. I pull it from the shelf and, hunching over it, open it and I quickly find a space beneath the titles. There is a good three quarters of the page blank.
I move my arm in a little arc and press my pen to the paper. But I can’t, I won’t, deface the defacer. I pull back leaving just a single blue dot.