I started a new job last week in a suburb called Nunawading and came across this little piece of Nunawading that elicited both promise and despair —  McLeods Books.

I stepped out of the railway station, and this little gem stared at me from across Station Street, beckoning like a houri to the afterlife (non-conglomerated bookstores tend to affect me that way).

The display window should have given me a hint, but I thought the owner may just be creativity impaired.(If you’re any kind of bibliophile like I am, the following images can be very disturbing.)



No premonition from that whatsoever, but I walked in. Assailed by the scent of old paper and ink, I was speechless from the sight.




There was no order, no rhyme or reason to how the books had been shelved. Dostoevsky sat next to Nora Roberts. Historical tomes were piled next to a shelf of erotica. Books tumbled like the Tower of Babel felled by a mysterious wind.

And then the clincher — an old man, ancient as the Diamond Sutra, and no doubt the owner of the shop, sitting on a creaking chair at a creepy nook amidst this sea of books doing what? No prizes for guessing — WATCHING AFTERNOON TELEVISION. 😐

Oh, I could have cried then.

Instead I disappear to some other obscure cranny to click these pictures.

On my way out, I notice a sign by the door stating “We are not buying any more books unless a sale of $10 or more”. There’s a good sales tactic.

I wondered if I could ask him to hire me to revamp McLeods. I’d take crappy pay and overtime work hours for that job any day.


9 responses »

  1. Chaos, though detrimental to books in the long run, makes for good eye candy sometimes Pallavi. There is a greater chance of finding a rare gem in such disorderly collections than in a systematic arrangement. It shows that the seller doesn’t know what he is selling and probably doesn’t care.

  2. Clearly, those awful pictures were taken without the shop owner’s permission. I’m gonna call up that nobleman and ask him to be wary of you the next time you visit his shop – I know you will do it again.

    Any chance you might consider changing the background color? My delicate eyes hurt when I read these silly posts.

  3. Is that such a rare sighting in Oz land? Because pretty much all the ‘non-conglomerated’ bookstores in Delhi and Bangalore look like that. I am comforted by their lack of diction, they sort of liberate books from the ridiculous straitjacket of genre boards…’fiction’, ‘travel’, ‘humour’, ‘self-help’…the only thing is we are not allowed to take snaps in bookstores in India, but that’s probably just because of the poor lighting!

  4. @ Baba Yaga

    That rare gem would require many an hour of diligent searching, Arjun. There is NO system – not by author, genre or anything. It’s all so randomly piled up, my head hurt from browsing title after title and I hadn’t even progressed by the first shelf.

    Yes, I think the pity was more the indifference of the seller and the treasure he had right there.

    @ Tanmoy

    Even non-conglomerated ones in Melbourne are beautiful treasures. There is a poetry bookstore caleld Collected Works that is such a loving monument by the owner to the art of poetry. He has no library skills really, but the whole store reflects his passion for the art. I suppose my problem is why this guy owns a bookstore when he so clearly can’t be bothered with the books

    As for pictures, this guy most likely knew all along. I was hardly hiding and dodging his gaze.

  5. This bizarre looking bookstore really reminds me of an ironic line, (though may not be related to it thematically), when one “tries to make order out of chaos”. Anyways Pallavi, cross-pollinated analogous litotes’ apart, one mustn’t also forget, (with a pinch of raillery, though), that’s its actually one’s old rugged jeans that paradoxically perfectly fits on someone than the newly purchased one. I hope there’s an iota of sanity in my analogy. Or else dismiss me off as insane!

  6. Wow, what a nightmare! And yes, I think there’s also a part of me that would take joy in bringing order to the chaos.

    Glad you enjoyed the EWF (thanks for the honourable mention). Angela Meyer linked to your EWF post on Twitter, which is how I found myself here.

    Was nice bumping into you at Deakin the other day too. 🙂

    Oh, and by the way, you’ve actually oversold me a little – I’m yet to give a lecture at Deakin! I’m a tutor who’s also involved in various SCCA projects from time to time.


  7. Hi, Stu, thsnks for dropping by. And I stand corrected – though where I come from tutor and lecturer are pretty much the same thing, so I just equated them in my head. 🙂

  8. Hey Palla,

    wow – the article is so beautifully written!! I was just savouring the words and analogies that you made… very artistic use of words and I really appreciate that – v few books that I read today use language like this.. most books end up using language just to get the point across and don’t bother about the way they get their point across 🙂

    Look forward to going through more of your articles.

    I have a bone to pick with you though. When you say ” … and came across this little piece of Nunawading that elicited both promise and despair”

    It can’t be elicit!! You can’t ‘elicit promise’ in this sentence… I think ‘afforded both promise and despair’ or ‘gave both promise and despair’ fits the bill better… Cuz elicit seems like the word that you would use only with emotions etc that arise from within you…

    There. I know you’re rolling your eyes at this. 🙂 I couldn’t help but nitpick at this since everything else in your article seemed so fitting!! Keep writing.. 🙂 And darn you for going to all those writer’s festivals. Hmph.

    • Thanks for commenting, Megh. And go on nitpick some more; good to know people read it with such minute detail.

      And yeah, I think I’m getting high on all these festivals. I’m gonna be so depressed next week. 😐

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