Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell 2020
Monty Python meets bookselling in this hilarious, sophisticated, and clever description of the customers who frequent Bythell’s used book/antiquarian bookshop somewhere in Scotland. Using a Lamarckian schema of genus and species, Bythell describes his clients with unerring accuracy and great humor. I smiled, chuckled, and most of the time laughed out loud as he worked his way through the classification system including Expert, Young Family, Occultist, Loiterer, Bearded Pensioner, The Not-So-Silent Traveller, Family Historian and a bonus chapter on The Staff. Under each ‘genus’ is a number of species, so that the genus Bearded Pensioner (Senex cum barba) is divided into four types: the Lycra-clad, the pantalon rouge, the downsizers and the misers.
Here’s a taste of what is in store for you in the chapter on The Bearded Pensioner: “This genus includes both male and females, although it tends to be dominated by males (by a whisker). Almost everyone in this genus travels the country in motorhomes or caravans, like a swarm of geriatric locusts, complaining about everything and never buying anything. The top travelling speed is 45 mph (also favored by farmers who cruise country roads with piles of dead sheep in the back of their pickups), ensuring that everyone else is perpetually late for appointments…..”
The funniest chapter of all deals with the genus, Viator non tacitus, or the Not So Silent Traveller, species crepans, i.e. farter. “This can be a silent type, and more often than not, it is. In a way, there’s something slightly more noble about an audible farter, though……” It only goes downhill from there, but you get the idea.
One more reason that I enjoyed this book is that it was published by David Godine, a Boston publisher with a tradition of producing great books in a fine style over many years. This one is no exception with an attractive cover, excellent font, and a good feel in the hand.
Not for everyone, but pretty great for those with a puerile sense of humor. If you like John Cleese, you’ll love Shaun Bythell