Friday, December 24, 2010

While visions of bookshelves dance in our heads…

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.

10 comments:

Sandra said...

I love the movie Notting Hill, and the fictional "Travel Bookshop" it features on Portobello Road (and its employees). It is based on a real book shop, but that's located around the corner from the filming location which is actually some other sort of store I think.

Linda Leszczuk said...

In "The Owl and the Pussycat" (Barbra Streisand and George Segal), Segal's character, Felix, was an unpublished author who works in a bookstore - big, chain type.

And Desk Set is my favorite of the Hepburn/Tracy comedies, althought I love them all.

Merry Christmas.

Eileen said...

When Harry Met Sally has a great bookstore scene. As someone else mentioned on FB, 84, Charing Cross Road...and Funny Face, Crossing Delancy (some of the best in that one)...many more, I'm sure, but those come to mind first.

Kathie Felix said...

Thanks for sharing the wonderful film tips! It's been way too long since I've seen these movies. "Crossing Delancey" is great! I think I'll watch it this weekend -- and then work through the rest of these terrific films.

Marni said...

Desk Set and Notting Hill are two of my favorite movies with great libraries. Thanks for reminding me of so many greats! Merry Christmas!

Sandra Parshall said...

I loved 84 Charing Cross Road. A correspondence between a reader and a bookseller might seem impossible material for a movie, but it works beautifully.

Diane Vallere said...

Woody Allen's Hannah and her Sisters has a nice bookstore scene, which might actually be Bleecker Street Books.

And thanks, Eileen, for mentioning Funny Face. That's a GREAT scene!

Cathy Pickens said...

Ooo, what great reminders of must-see-again movies. I've also noticed how often walls of books nestle comfortably in the background in all manner of 1950s TV shows. "Perry Mason" wanders into LA houses with books. Even "Leave It To Beaver" had a library!

M.M. Gornell said...

In books, Carlos Luis Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind, and the library of forgotten books. I'll never forget the library "pictures" he painted with his words.

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell

Donis Casey said...

As an ex-librarian, Desk Set is one of my favorite movies of all times. It just goes to show that there is always and will ever be anxiety and confusion at the onset of new technologies. Besides, Tracy and Hepburn are smokin'.