bookseller

he isn’t paid to
be helpful — leave him be — he’s
merchandising books

In the dream, I am trying to find my way around a bookshop, but the assistant whom I approach isn’t helpful. I don’t find the book I want, or even the correct section, and end by climbing out of the window, wondering vaguely why I’m not using the door. ‘Merchandising’ is a verb I grew familiar with in my days as a shop volunteer for Cancer Research UK. It means display. I was helping induct 2 new colleagues at work yesterday, I guess I felt I had to put on a ‘display’ for them. Somehow, book knowledge is what I tend to fall back upon when I want to impress. Actually though, I had been specifically instructed to be helpful towards them: I believe this dream calls into question whether I fully succeeded. The unhelpful bookshop assistant must clearly be me. There isn’t really space here to explore the image of the climbing out the window. Probably relates to Henri Beyle, whose pen name was Stendhal. I used to toy seriously with the idea that I might be his reincarnation. His novel Le Rouge et le Noir which I read many years ago, includes at least one episode where the anti-hero Julien climbs through a woman’s bedroom window in order to seduce her. So by implication the window has books on one side of it, and a woman on the other. Books and women were Beyle’s two main passions and are probably mine too. Escape can be in either direction.

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