Chasing the Paper Hound Through TimeFriday, July 26, 2013
Chasing the Paper Hound Through Time
Guest Blog by John Lekich
In Time After Time, Malcolm McDowell plays a young H.G Welles. Through the use of a time machine, the Victorian writer is propelled to modern day San Francisco in search of Jack the Ripper. Being an adaptable sort, he adjusts reasonably well to all manner of jarring changes. But even a reasonable man has his limits.
There’s a prophetic scene where Welles ends up in the contemporary apartment of an attractive young lady. You can sense him giddily thinking that, if he can just figure out the futuristic workings of this libertine’s mind, he might get lucky in a very post-Victorian way. His hopes are momentarily dashed when he looks around with a befuddled expression and asks: “Where are your books?”
The movie was made in 1979, long before people regularly began predicting the demise of books due to the rise of technology. Still, I find myself thinking about that scene a lot lately. Much like McDowell’s Welles, I’m at an age where I feel like a man out of time. I come from a generation that takes genuine comfort in being surrounded by books. So when Alex – one of the most devoted book lovers I know - suggested that we visit The Paper Hound, I was all for it.
Vancouver’s newest used bookstore, The Paper Hound is located in a heritage building at 344 West Pender. If you’re used to dodging displays of scented candles in corporate-inspired book barns, The Paper Hound will be a revelation.
Co-owner and veteran bookseller Rod Clarke refers to The Paper Hound as a boutique bookstore. The welcoming space – lots of natural light, exposed brick and books that have been handpicked to satisfy the most eccentric title-chaser – suggests nothing less than labour of love.
It’s not hard to imagine McDowell’s Welles wandering into the Paper Hound and finding unexpected solace in their Philosophy section. Browse the various shelves and you’ll find works by everyone from novelist Stanley Elkin to film critic James Agee. (Alex lifted his ban on purchasing any more books when he couldn’t resist buying a biography on the man who invented the brassiere.) I picked up a hardcover anthology of Damon Runyon stories and a Chester Himes paperback for less than the price a designer sandwich.
Talking to Clarke, I make an attempt to stump him with some of my favourite obscure writers. I go as old school as I can but it’s still no dice. He has A.J. Liebling in stock and – when I bring up New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell – he nods his head knowingly. Mention George V. Higgins and he exclaims: “The Friends of Eddie Coyle!” Ludwig Bemelmans? “Hotel Splendide!”
Like Paper Hound co-owner Kim Koch, Clarke is convinced there’s a viable niche market for book hounds craving tactile reminders of their favourite writers. They don’t see that niche disappearing anytime soon, “I think we’re beginning to see more of a localist movement where people are beginning to appreciate books as singular objects,” says Koch. “And then, there’s that whole generation who’ve never really been exposed to the experience of a used bookstore.”
How did they come up with the name? “There’s the idea of the chase,” says Koch. “That obsessive pursuit that drives book collectors.”
Clarke and Koch also wanted to tie in the hound’s keen sense of smell. “A lot of people love the smell of old books,” explains Koch. “That sweet smell of decay and vanilla. They’ll walk in the door and the first thing they’ll do is take a deep breath.”