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The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

The Haunted Bookshop (1919)

by Christopher Morley

Other authors: Douglas W. Gorsline (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Roger Mifflin (2)

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English (76)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
Long ago I fell back on books as the only permanent consolers. They are the one stainless and unimpeachable achievement of the human race. It saddens me to think that I shall have to die with thousands of books unread that would have given me noble and unblemished happiness.

Scott Esposito made a shocking confession a few years ago on Coversational Reading: he didn't go to used book stores. He bought used books exclusively online. I was and remain shocked. Julian Barnes noted once with typical eloquence in The Guardian that the internet has certainly solved the dilemma of The Collector, but what it has obscured is the clumsy accidents in the stacks which change our lives.

I picked this up at a sale a few years back. My attentions were drawn to such because of a GR list about numerous texts cited within, including Burton's Anatomy. Well, not only is Anatomy of Melancholy referenced, it is inspires the protagonist and the novel three-quarters of the way through. This can be read a well crafted potboiler about 1919 Brooklyn. it is also an alert about what is slipping from view. The Haunted Bookshop was selected as a diversion on day ravaged by sinus issues. It s call is greater than that. It is an affirmation of our nerdy treks.
( )
1 vote jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
*Spoiler at the very end*

Last summer I read Parnassus on Wheels, which is a kind of prequel to The Haunted Bookshop, in that it deals with Helen McGill, an irascible woman of a certain age who finds what he soul longs for when she purchases the Parnassus book wagon. In Haunted Bookshop, Helen has a supporting role, and her husband, Roger, is front-and-center as the owner of the eponymous bookstore in Brooklyn where he and Helen have settled, their wandering days over.

I truly enjoyed the first book, and finally undertook the sequel when I signed on to Readercoin and found that the story was engaging enough to make up for any shortcomings in the narration. In brief, it takes place at the end of the first World War, and deals with a mystery, a rather silly one to my way of thinking involving a book that disappears and reappears, and disappears again. Haunted bookshop indeed! It felt contrived, and often required the reader to believe that the kind of villain who could successfully carry out acts of domestic terrorism during the war, could be so inept about this particular plot. But never mind that, it doesn't matter. That's not the reason to read this book.

There's a sweet, goofy love story between the juvenile leads, that runs through the book as well, but the real focus is Roger Mifflin, a dedicated book person for whom selling books is secondary to having them around to read at his pleasure. Roger, who is sometimes pompous and silly, but is always well-meaning and kind, has an opinion on everything, and is a treasure trove of book references to the point where a bibliography might prove a welcome addition to the text. (There is what looks like a fairly comprehensive list of books mentioned over at Goodreads Listopia.) The pleasure here is listening to Roger talk, to philosophise, to recommend books as cures for what ails a person's soul.

A good deal of the charm of this book has to do with Morley's voice, a playful, ironic, and remarkably well-read one. No one escapes his critical eye or his mordant observations on human nature, and yet it's clear he has tremendous affection for his characters. He paints some vivid pictures of life in Brooklyn just after the war that made me long to travel back in time to experience the shop, the people, and the neighborhood.

I would recommend you read both books, in order, to get the full effect, but they can be read and enjoyed separately.

And for those of you for whom this kind of thing is important: The dog dies. Sorry. ( )
  Tracy_Rowan | Aug 16, 2018 |
This is an amusing tale. The characters are somewhat hapless, but all ends well. I can see why Morley involved himself in the theater; this would make a fine drawing room comedy (although of course it would require more locations). ( )
  deckla | Jun 27, 2018 |
Summary: A mystery in a bookshop, involving a book that keeps disappearing, a wealthy businessman's daughter, a young advertising salesman, a gregarious bookseller, and a German pharmacist.

What could be better for a bibliophile than a mystery in a bookshop? This classic by Christopher Morley begins with a young advertising salesman, Aubrey Gilbert, trying to sell advertising to the eccentric and voluble New York bookseller, Roger Mifflin, proprietor of Parnassus at Home a.k.a The Haunted Bookshop. In an explanation posted in the store, it is explained that "THIS SHOP IS HAUNTED by the ghosts of all great literature." Gilbert fails to sell advertising, but stays for dinner, listening to Mifflin share the first of several discourses on the mystique of books and bookselling that run through the book. Here is a small part:

"My business, you see, is different from most. I only deal in second-hand books; I only buy books that I consider have some honest reason for existence. In so far as human judgment can discern, I try to keep trash out of my shelves. A doctor doesn't traffic in quack remedies. I don't traffic in bogus books."

The bookshop seems to be haunted by more than ghosts of great literature. A book requested by a bearded customer written by Thomas Carlyle on Oliver Cromwell is missing. Throughout the story, the book, a favorite of Woodrow Wilson, will reappear and disappear several times in the course of the story. When Gilbert returns with a lost and found ad for the book placed, not by Mifflin, but by a chef at a nearby hotel, a chef Gilbert had run into, holding the book he had advertised as lost, the mystery deepens as they puzzle over what could be going on. While mystery is deepening, love is blossoming. Mifflin has agreed to allow young Titania Chapman, the daughter of a wealthy businessman with whom Gilbert has an account, to get experience working in the shop, at the request of her father. The moment Gilbert meets her he is smitten.

He is also caught up with the puzzle of the missing book, which only deepens when he finds the cover, minus the book, sandwiched in some books in Weintraub's drugstore, Weintraub being the bearded gentleman who had called that first night when Gilbert and Mifflin met. Before he can make it home, he is nearly thrown off a bridge into the river, suffering a blow to his head before onlookers come to his rescue. Worried about Titania, he takes a room opposite the bookshop. When he sees Weintraub go into the store after hours, using a key of his own, he assumes that Mifflin is in on the plot, perhaps to kidnap young Titania for ransom, or worse, the book being a way of communicating.

The real truth is far more sinister. Until Gilbert and Mifflin tussle on a Philadelphia street, Mifflin is blissfully unaware of what is swirling about him, lost in the wonders of books, and Gilbert woefully mistaken. Back in New York, Weintraub has left a suitcase of books with Titania for a caller. Both suspect that they were lured to Philadelphia to set up something far more serious and that the suitcase is dangerous. Will they get back in time? And what is in the suitcase? And how does it all relate to the mysteriously disappearing volume of Carlyle?

This was a delightful good time, with diverting soliloquies by Mifflin on books and scenes of domestic bliss with his wife and little dog Bock. One of the most amusing chapters was the Corn Cob Club, a gathering of booksellers discussing the trade. In this instance they debate whether booksellers have an obligation to steer customers to quality works, or simply sell what they want. As you might guess, Mifflin was in the former group. In another soliloquy, he declaims:

"You see what I'm driving at. I want to give people an entirely new idea about bookshops. The grain of glory that I hope will cure both my fever and my lethargicness is my conception of the bookstore as a power-house, a radiating place for truth and beauty. I insist books are not absolutely dead things: they are as lively as those fabulous dragons' teeth, and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men."

He dreams of stocking a fleet of traveling Parnassus stores that will scatter through the country. Although Mifflin appears to be a bookstore version of Don Quixote with dreams of grandeur, how many of us have felt some of the same things as we prowled the aisle of a wonderful old bookstore? Yet he bests younger Gilbert, and awakens to the real world dangers facing young Titania. But will he make it in time?

For those familiar with the real world of books, you may know of author Ann Patchett's Parnassus Books in Nashville. As far as I can tell, Morley's story was not the inspiration for the store's name. Rather, as best as I can tell, they go back to a common source, the significance of Mount Parnassus in mythology as the home of the muses, or in the words of the real Parnassus Books, "In Greek mythology, Mount Parnassus was the home of literature, learning, and music. We are Nashville's Parnassus, providing a refuge for Nashvillians of all ages who share in our love of the written word." It seems that Parnassus at Home was Roger Mifflin's (and Christopher Morley's) realization of the same dream.
  BobonBooks | Mar 12, 2018 |
One of the best novels about life in a bookstore. Almost everything that Morley wrote in 1917 about the bookseller's life holds true today. ( )
  rickklaw | Oct 13, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Morley, Christopherprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gorsline, Douglas W.Illustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Orth-Guttmann, RenateTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rudnicki, StefanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the Booksellers
Be pleased to know, most worthy, that this little book is dedicated to you in affection and respect.
First words
If you are ever in Brooklyn, that borough of superb sunsets and magnificent vistas of husband-propelled baby-carriages, it is to be hoped you may chance upon a quiet by-street where there is a very remarkable book shop.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Disambiguation notice
The Haunted Bookshelf is an error for the title The Haunted Bookshop.
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Book description
A number of versions are available free on-line @ the Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/texts
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0380626950, Paperback)

This anthology is a thorough introduction to classic literature for those who have not yet experienced these literary masterworks. For those who have known and loved these works in the past, this is an invitation to reunite with old friends in a fresh new format. From Shakespeare’s finesse to Oscar Wilde’s wit, this unique collection brings together works as diverse and influential as The Pilgrim’s Progress and Othello. As an anthology that invites readers to immerse themselves in the masterpieces of the literary giants, it is must-have addition to any library.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This classic story of romance and intrigue in a Brooklyn bookstore is one of the most beloved mysteries of all time Aubrey Gilbert stops by the Haunted Bookshop hoping to sell his services as an advertising copywriter. He fails to accomplish his goal, but learns that Titania Chapman, the lovely daughter of his most important client, is a store assistant there. Aubrey returns to visit Titania and experiences a series of unusual events: He is attacked on his way home from the store, an obscure book mysteriously disappears and reappears, and two strange characters are seen skulking in a nearby alleyway. Aubrey initially suspects the bookstore's gregarious owner, Roger Mifflin, of scheming to kidnap Titania, but the plot he eventually uncovers is far more complex and sinister than he could have ever imagined. A charming ode to the art of bookselling wrapped inside a thrilling suspense story, The Haunted Bookshop is a must-read for bibliophiles and mystery lovers alike. This ebook has been professionally proofread to ensure accuracy and readability on all devices.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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