By Kathie Felix
After seeing Sara Paretsky’s mention of Christopher Morley’s “Haunted Bookshop” in Monday’s SinC blog entry, I started thinking about fictional bookshops and libraries.
The exercise began easily enough. Every December, I watch the 1957 film “Desk Set” (starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gig Young, Joan Blondell and more) and marvel that computers were making such a big splash in the world of research more than 50 years ago. The majority of the film takes place in the research department of the fictional Federal Broadcasting television network, a special library setting that seems similar to many of the library information desks I’ve known.
Next, I thought about the libraries in the 2002 film “Possession” (with Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle). From there, it’s a short jump to those inspiring double-decker libraries in grand houses in books and movies such as “Rebecca,” “Jane Eyre,” “Gone With the Wind” and just about any work by Agatha Christie and Jane Austen. Thinking about the library in “My Fair Lady” led to a Google search, where I learned that the musical seems to have created a benchmark for personal libraries – as in “I’m dreaming of my own ‘My Fair Lady’ library.”
As soon as I realized that I couldn’t remember if “The Music Man” gives us a glimpse into Marian the librarian’s workplace, I decided it was time to move on to fictional bookstores.
The first bookstore that came to mind was the Embryo Concepts Book Shop, Audrey Hepburn’s Greenwich Village workplace in the 1957 film “Funny Face.” The next shop turned up in the “Highlander” television series – Shakespeare & Company, the Paris bookstore operated by Watcher Don Salzer. Then there's the Mystery Woman bookshop that Samantha Kinsey (Kellie Martin) owns in the Hallmark channel's 11-film "Mystery Woman" series.
As I began to run out of fictional bookshops, I called C. Ellett Logan, president of SinC’s Chesapeake chapter. She reminded me of the 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail” (starring Tom Hank and Meg Ryan). The movie updates the 1940 Ernst Lubitsch film, “The Shop Around the Corner,” (starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart) and moves it from a gift shop in Budapest to two bookstores in New York City. The newer film brings the plight of the independent bookstore into sharp focus as The Shop Around the Corner, an indie, finds itself in an unanticipated face-off with a new neighbor, the Fox & Sons Books superstore.
Of course, there are many more fictional bookstores and libraries than those mentioned here. If you can find the time between episodes of wassailing, visions of sugarplums or a long winter’s nap, let us know about the locations of some of your favorite fictional bookshelves.
In the meantime, I’m going to check my own shelves. I have an urge to take another look at Cliff Janeway’s Twice Told Books in John Dunning’s Bookman mysteries. And I'm always in the mood to see what's going on at or near Death on Demand, in Carolyn Hart's series of the same name.
Kathie Felix writes about publishing, technology and education for a variety of media outlets. She is the managing editor of the Sisters in Crime blog.