Every detail of my trip to London has been lived and relived, doubtless because life has been so dull since the pandemic struck in 2020. Remember when we quarantined books? I quit that early on. But I have decided to record my London adventures here, in some form or other, in various degrees of verity, or rather veraciously but from various points-of-view, and I may interweave them with new adventures in the U.S.
And so I begin.
“Nothing ever happens to me,” Camilla Haven, the heroine of Mary Stewart’s witty Gothic novel, My Brother Michael, claims in a cafe in Athens. (I wrote about this novel here.) And then Camilla makes an impulsive decision to drive someone else’s hired car to Delphi, and turn it over to the mysterious Simon, who allegedly needs it, while she needs to see the Delphi ruins. But suddenly she is in danger and the adventure turns Gothic as she roams and scrabbles up the mountains!
Ah, I know just how Camilla feels. At the Royal Academy in London I commenced a Gothic climb up a gorgeous but treacherous glass staircase. Instead of admitting to vertigo as I neared the top, and sitting with my head between my knees till the dizziness passed, I actually hastened my footsteps because I heard someone behind me. Did I fear a villain in pursuit? No, I did not. It was my spirit of competition! Camilla? Are you hearing this? God forbid that anybody should pass me on the glass staircase! Now climb that mountain faster!
Well, my dears, I have something new to record in American life. We visited Jackson Street Booksellers in Omaha – a huge, excellent used bookstore, established in 1993, which has an eclectic collection, as good as anything I saw in London, and many ladders, because the bookcases are floor-to ceiling. According to the website, and to what we have seen over the years, it has ” a special interest in scholarly titles in all fields with a focus in the subjects of art, literature, architecture, design, history, science and philosophy.”
Do you want a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary? Are you looking for a particular Library of America book? The novels of Hugo Charteris? The Penguin Virgil in English? A history of the 1960s? Civil War books? Essays by the Transcendentalists? Books on anarchism? Frederick Exley’s trilogy? Poetry published by Black Sparrow Press and Folio Society Trollopes? Old, valuable books locked in glass cases?
I personally am a fan of Hortense Calisher, but did not care to to climb a FOUR-STEP LADDER to look at these books. No, I would have to find someone to climb for me, because the glass staircase in London was challenging enough for one year. After an hour and a half, I spotted my husband in one of the aisles and he clambered up the ladder to retrieve some books for me. It wasn’t easy, because he had to remove books piled on top of the top-shelf books. He gingerly juggled them and moved them aside then handed down my books. Eureka! They were in stunning shape.
I only bought two books, now that I am no longer a bibliomane. One was $4, the other $6. My husband bought a book for $6.
By the way, Jackson Street Booksellers is as good as – or better than – the bookstores I’ve visited in London. The books are in superb condition. That is because they have guidelines for what they will or will not buy.They will not buy:
- Book Club Editions
- Ex-Library Books
- Out-of-date Travel Guides
- Computer Programming Manuals
- Anything that is highlighted or underlined
- Any book which has a broken binding or missing pages.
And that, in my opinion, makes them a super bookstore! Do visit:
Jackson Street Booksellers, 1119 Jackson Street Omaha, NE 68102
Second location: Solid Jackson Books, 3925 Farnam Street, Omaha, NE 68104
And they also sell on Abebooks.