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Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Packed with sublime, enthusiastic descriptions of reading and literature."

Date: Oct 23 2010

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Reviewed by Michele Filgate for the Star Tribune


Most readers pride themselves on being selective about their taste in books. The inner critic in bookworms' hearts will be delighted with Laurence Cossé's charming piece of fiction, "A Novel Bookstore."

 

Imagine the ideal bookstore: an exquisitely curated Parisian space called the Good Novel that carries only high-quality fiction. The books are chosen by a top-secret committee of writers, selected by owner and heiress Francesca and head bookseller Ivan. When several members of this committee are attacked, Francesca and Ivan go to a police officer and reveal to him the story behind the Good Novel.

 

Cossé cleverly constructs the mystery with even a dash of romance, but that's not the best part of the book. "A Novel Bookstore" succeeds by conveying true book lust: It's packed with sublime, enthusiastic descriptions of reading and literature. Francesca writes a manifesto for one of the French newspapers, in which she says:

"We want splendid books, books that immerse us in the splendor of reality and keep us there; books that prove to us that love is at work in the world next to evil, right up against it, at times indistinctly, and that it always will be, just the way that suffering will always ravage hearts. We want good novels."

 

The bookstore is met with praise and criticism and soon becomes a popular target by writers and publishers offended at being excluded from the shelves. A historian who is a friend of the bookstore defends the owners in a letter he writes to a newspaper. He makes an excellent point that also applies to some recent arguments in the literary world:


"Delvaux's idea was that you cannot oppose popular literature and elitist literature, that there is in fact no point in trying to distinguish them, never mind the fact that it can be difficult. Both types of literature include a quantity of insignificant books, and a few masterpieces, and the only worthwhile distinction is to promote great books, some of which are very simple while others are difficult."

 

In an age where bookstores are competing with online retailers that offer discounts, independent bookstores have the advantage of being tastemakers. They cull the massive number of titles published each year and pick the best books for their business. Would the store in this book work in real life; a store that ignores publishing trends and just sells what they believe in? It seems to be the stuff of fiction, but in a way it's what booksellers have in mind when they hand-sell and recommend the titles they are most passionate about.



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