When I worked in a second-hand bookshop — so easily pictured, if you don’t work in one, as a pizza essay example of paradise where charming old gentlemen browse eternally among calf-bound folios — the thing that chiefly struck me was the rarity of really bookish people. Our shop had an exceptionally interesting stock, yet I doubt whether ten per cent of our customers knew a good book from a bad one. Many of the people who came to us were of the kind who would be a nuisance anywhere but have special opportunities in a bookshop.
1897 and wonders whether you can find her a copy. Unfortunately she doesn’t remember the title or the author’s name or what the book was about, but she does remember that it had a red cover. Like most second-hand bookshops we had various sidelines. We sold second-hand typewriters, for instance, and also stamps — used stamps, I mean.
We also sold sixpenny horoscopes compiled by somebody who claimed to have foretold the Japanese earthquake. How the book thieves must love those libraries! It is the easiest crime in the world to borrow a book at one shop for twopence, remove the label and sell it at another shop for a shilling. Our shop stood exactly on the frontier between Hampstead and Camden Town, and we were frequented by all types from baronets to bus-conductors. Probably our library subscribers were a fair cross-section of London’s reading public. Dell, with Warwick Deeping a good second and Jeffrey Farnol, I should say, third.
English novelists have dropped out of favour. It is simply useless to put Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Trollope, etc. Would I like to be a bookseller de métier? On the whole — in spite of my employer’s kindness to me, and some happy days I spent in the shop — no. Given a good pitch and the right amount of capital, any educated person ought to be able to make a small secure living out of a bookshop.
You can get their measure by having a look at the trade papers where they advertise their wants. If you don’t see an ad. But the real reason why I should not like to be in the book trade for life is that while I was in it I lost my love of books. There was a time when I really did love books — loved the sight and smell and feel of them, I mean, at least if they were fifty or more years old. The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell’. At the corner of Pond Street and South End Green is a pizza house that used to be Booklover’s Corner, a book shop where Orwell worked in 1934 and 1935. When he was first working here, Orwell lived above the shop, writing Keep the Aspidistra Flying.
The bookshop, described by one customer as ‘a gloomy cave of a place’, was until recently , but after Orwell’s time, the Prompt Corner, a chess-players’ cafe. Now it is a pizza house. From the book “Orwell’s London”, page 46. This plaque, commemorating Orwell’s time here, is just to the left of the door.
It is not in the photograph in Orwell’s London, so it must have been placed here after 1984. This advice runs counter to the cultural assumptions we have about mistakes and failure, namely that they are shameful things. We’re taught in school, in our families, or at work to feel guilty about failure and to do whatever we can to avoid mistakes. This sense of shame combined with the inevitability of setbacks when attempting difficult things explains why many people give up on their goals: they’re not prepared for the mistakes and failures they’ll face on their way to what they want. But for many reasons admitting mistakes is difficult. An implied value in many cultures is that our work represents us: if you fail a test, then you are a failure.
You may never have felt this way, but many people do. For anyone that never discovers a deeper self-identity, based not on lack of mistakes but on courage, compassionate intelligence, commitment and creativity, life is a scary place made safe only by never getting into trouble, never breaking rules and never taking the risks that their hearts tell them they need to take. This essay will cover all three. First, we have to classify the different kinds of mistakes. Stupid: Absurdly dumb things that just happen.
Stubbing your toe, dropping your pizza on your neighbor’s fat cat or poking yourself in the eye with a banana. Simple: Mistakes that are avoidable but your sequence of decisions made inevitable. Having the power go out in the middle of your party because you forgot to pay the rent, or running out of beer at said party because you didn’t anticipate the number of guests. Involved: Mistakes that are understood but require effort to prevent. Complex: Mistakes that have complicated causes and no obvious way to avoid next time. Examples include making tough decisions that have bad results, relationships that fail, or other unpleasant or unsatisfying outcomes to important things.