Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tipoff Time with Intersecting Lines!

Since Tim, TimT and myself are effectively raking ourselves over smouldering literary coals so that you don’t have to, I thought it would be a nice idea if we were to provide intelligence on good book resources in and around the fine city of Melbourne (and, once my wife and I have relocated, Brisbane). I don’t have many friends because frankly they’re too much hassle, but if I did, one thing I’d hate to hear from them is “Oh James, I found this great little bookshop in [insert location here] and picked up [a bunch of awesome books] for only [minuscule amount of currency]…pity it was the last week of their going-out-of-business sale!” Man, that kind of thing would really piss me off.

With this in mind, I (and possibly the others) will, whenever I (we?) am (are!) able, provide you with the delightful results of my (our!) frequent bibliophilic reconnoiters, wherein amazing bargains may be had. And so today, as I limped along Chapel Street in Windsor-Prahran, looking for the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack, I came across one of those mushroom bookshops, usually Angus & Robertson remainder stores, that pop up from time to time in vacated premises, offer a startlingly uninspiring (can something be simultaneously startling and uninspiring?) selection of product, and then vanish before you can take your stuff back for a refund.

But I sensed, today, that this one was a little different. The clue was in the pile of Iron Council’s by China Mieville sitting in the front window, new editions at only five bucks a pop. Now, Mieville is a cock, but he’s a relatively popular, culty sort of author, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt for me to have a poke around. The front of the store was jammed with the usual array of gardening, feng shui, aromatherapy and Donna Hay cooking hardcovers, but, as the ancients used to say, stand on the side of a hill with your mouth open for long enough and eventually a roast duck will fly in, and I had no urgent bowel movements to attend to, so I ventured a little further, sifting through a varied assortment of rubbish in the hopes that I might eventually uncover something that, when the inevitable bowel movement came, I would have to read while attending to it.

I must say, I have never been quite so impressed by a pile of slightly dusty, remaindered books with a full accumulated inch of repricing stickers on them. Within minutes I had secured: City of Saints and Madmen and Veniss Underground by Jeff Vandermeer; What Does a Martian Look Like?: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart; Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang; and, I am somewhat sheepish to admit, Funnelweb by Richard Ryan. With the exception of the final volume, which was too mindlessly entertaining to pass up, these were all books that I had seriously considered paying full price for on prior occasions, in other establishments, but just never got around to. The princely sum for this selection of delicacies? Twenty bucks.

Naturally there was a great deal of crap to be found as well, mostly a plethora of crime books and cheap-looking biographies of Hitler, plus the ubiquitous housebrick-thick World’s Blankiest Blanks, but whatever, this is some pretty good stuff and you’re certain to find a surprise (naturally, I accept no responsibility if you don’t).

How To Get There: This no-name place was directly across the road from the Prahran Town Hall on Chapel Street, if you’re on the right-hand side of the drag and heading towards Windsor Station, but before you get to the Chapel Street Bazaar. Standard-sized paperbacks are three for ten dollars and everything else seemed to be five bucks. Minimum EFTPOS transaction $15, but there’s an ANZ ATM just across the road. While you’re in the area, there’s a secondhand bookshop further along towards Dandenong Road which is also pretty decent – Syber’s Books.


At 8:29 AM, Blogger TimT said...

Good idea, one of these days I might actually get around to writing about some of the better Newcastle bookstores, which, if anyone finds themselves down that way, will be able to use as a guide. There's quite a few.

I'm in Coburg, there are no bookstores here. The nearest is in Brunswick!

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Sybers is pretty good, isn't it? Bit overpriced, but I often find things I need (or rather want) there.

What's the deal with China Mieville? I haven't read any of his books, but I'm curious about him because he seems to inspire love-hate reactions.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I've been to that five dollar shop and picked up a few bargains. Wish they'd had the Vandermeer books in then, seeing as I just paid $20 for City of Saints and Madmen at Minotaur.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger JPW said...

China Mieville started off really well with 'Perdido Street Station', a sort of future-noir sci-fi fantasy steampunk fantasy book with some really imaginative creatures and creations - I plowed through it and quite enjoyed it. Then he wrote 'The Scar' which was pretty much the same book, but his ideas were losing steam and becoming increasingly stupid. Now he's written 'Iron Council' which is a book about politics, set in the same universe, and his pot is dry. You've never found a fantasy book so filled with bizarre inventiveness that will bore you so thoroughly.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger JPW said...

Re: Mieville, here's a good review extract:

“Even Miéville's crazy knack for creating endless menageries of bizarre creatures has lost its power to impress. 'Oh look, a man with half another man's body grafted on,' or, 'Oh look, a centaur person with his head facing backwards' pretty much sums up one's reaction to the almost conveyor-beltlike parade of weird critters trotted out in Iron Council”

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous TimG said...

I love those remaindered shops, and I can't resist going into them. Filter through the pulp, the rapidly-assembled celeb bios, history books about that decisive October afternoon in the Boer War, and you'll find a cheap gem or two. A while back (well before Jake Wassisname got his pecs all over the movie) I was hunting all over for the book of Jarhead. Just when I had given up hope, there is was, large format paperback, seven bucks, mine all mine.
Still haven't read it though...


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