Posted by: nastypen | June 26, 2007

Screw Big Bookstores

…I can’t believe I just said that…..

Well, screw it, I say….

Friends have been texting me if I went to Bonifacio High Street lately and have geekgasms at their new bookstore there. One was almost in tears describing the place. Four storeys. Books in neat piles. Heaps and heaps of boxes. One mentioned I could get an erection just looking at the graphic novel section.

Well, no, I have not gone there. And, no, I don’t plan to. First, the place is just too goddamn far. Any place that is not accessible via metro rail sucks ass to me. Secondly, the name Bonifacio High Street smacks of historical ignorance. You have a strip of shops oozing with brand names stoking the fires of cultural imperialism by the multinational companies….and the place is named after Andres Bonifacio, a revolutionary leader against imperialism, an identified proletariat….If the real Andres Bonifacio went strolling in that strip, he would be chased out either by the security guards to protect the elite from “his kind” or by the hyperbolic prices of stuff one does not really need…. Such sheer idiocy.

What an oxymoron. Bonifacio and High Street….. this smacks of level of stupidity like the other favorite oxymoron of mine which is “MMDA Art.”

So, no. I don’t have plans to go there.

And besides most of the big bookstores now cater to a “reading” public that has a shallow treatment of books. Lifestyle books? Ugh. Da Vinci freaking code? Puhleeze. Coffee table books? Do you read them or look at them?

I know of a person who flew in from Cebu and asked me to accompany him to Fully Booked in Rockwell. I took him there and he bought a couple of books. I noted the titles and the author is from Cebu. I said, “Why on earth are you purchasing those titles here when you can get them from the author himself in Cebu?” He just blinked, “I want to say to people I bought this in Fully Booked.”

I wanted to walk away from him slowly then break into a run screaming for my sensibilities to be unsullied. Who would have thought books as a luxury item? It’s scarier than post-apocalyptic zombies.

While I admit a considerable chunk of my personal library harks from these bookstores, they pale in comparison to the absolute high I get everytime I find gems of literature in the likes of second hand book bins like book sale.

You have no idea on the joy I get from purchasing Albert CamusThe Stranger for 18 pesos from a Book Sale branch. Or how I almost fainted to see James Joyce‘s groundbreaking A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for just 25 pesos. These two titles helped shape what is modern literature and the 20th Century cultural mindset and for how much? Less than a taxi ride. What can you get in Fully booked and Power Books for 18 pesos? Post cards? Nice.

I got the book about the correspondence between former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill with American President Franklin Roosevelt for 35 Pesos, hardbound. the very same title is worth close to two thousand pesos in Fully Booked.

The big bookstores do have a great staff. You’re looking for a title, they scurry about for it. In book sales? Don’t hold your breath. But that’s just the charm itself. I indulge in these dingy holes in the wall book shops for a process I employ of scouting for good books. You go to these second hand bookstores with nary an expectation and you almost always find something interesting.

It’s like the ukay-ukay concept, in which you plow through piles of clothes only to find a good pair of unused Gucci boots (friend of mine found this among other things).

A literature professor in UP also shares the feeling of proud achievement of spending less than a hundred pesos for a Jose Luis Borges novel. there is something about buying fantastic literature for a pittance by dirtying one’s hands to find such precious works in a metaphorical trough.

Speaking of which, you get a whole lot of trash books in the process. Like in the Book Sale in Robison’s Ermita, I saw a book entitled The Pink Swastika which says that Nazism and the holocaust came to be because of the homosexual elite in Germany. Then I saw the blurbs of “praises” for this book. They were praised by rightwing assholes; the types who would want a return to a society with slavery. So, yes, trash.

But still, I am absolutely happiest when I score, yes, score, Simone De Beauvoir‘s autobiography for a price of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. It’s like a reward after several minutes of diving into piles.

I must share that, so far, the best Book Sale branch I have gone to is at the Makati Cinema Square. I saw the local actor Pen Medina (and one of the finest actors at that) bending over for some books there, and it just added several notches to his Sexy Beast title. I also find myself trooping to the second hand books stall near the Arts and Sciences 101 in UP Diliman. They have great titles there for the bibliophile. Some books there are pricier, but they have titles that I trust will not be found in most Book Sales…nor in some big bookstores as well.

Just bear with the squattings, the sweat, the grime, the dust in these second hand bookshops. You might end up getting a copy of Anais Nin‘s Delta of Venus for 60 pesos; the same title in big bookstores will probably cost by adding another zero at the end of that number.

Can’t stop the flood, bitches.



  1. Much like owning pets and having kids, some people have made reading some sort of affectation. This has led to this…

    It’s sad but true.

  2. Ako pod, Booksale fan. 🙂
    You can find some good selections in this website: Macs01 can meet in UP.

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