Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lusting at Zeitgeist

It’s a German word, I know. Which means, the spirit and outlook of the age. But we never saw it when over a year ago on our way to the campus, roommate Prathibha and I first passed by the row of shops just outside our dormitory’s gate.
We were only aware of the most pleasurable things staring at us from the glass walls: Jeanette Winterson’s, “Arts and Lies,” Neil Gaiman’s collections, and again, further down, Winterson’s “Oranges are not the only Fruit.”
We were almost late for the morning classes but we couldn’t help ourselves. We entered the shop, almost gasping for breath, to find more treasures inside (perhaps, the world classics crammed in such a small space): Gabriel Garcia’s “No One Writes to the Colonel,” in at least three editions; “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” some old classics by Chesterton and other titles I thought I’d never ever find on earth.
It was only much, much later, when Pratish and I would meet our German roommate Jana would we find time to look at the shop from a distance and read the German name above it.
If there was one pleasure that Pratish and I were hanging on to during our summer stay in Manila, it was this very small bookstore that offered the best of the world’s classics in such a small space. The prices, however, were not really as dirt-cheap as it could go: the owner, of course, knew what she was selling and had kept the prices only as low as P100. I discovered that in Manila, you can book-hunt to places where you can actually find books by your favorite authors at P50 (try the uppermost floors of the National Bookstore in Cubao) or even at P20. Try the Instituto de Cervantes during its anniversary and you’d get them with long-stemmed American roses!

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