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CBW Book Club: Shakespeare’s Pub/Shakespeare’s Local

I realized, on this twelfth day of January, that I never actually recounted the events of November 18th. You know, when we invaded an actual bookstore — Old Editions — for our latest book club, Shakespeare’s Pub (Shakespeare’s Local if you’re British) by Pete Brown.

Whoops.

Book stores are awesome

I arrived at the same time as Dave, and while we waited for everyone else to arrive we walked around. I know this makes me sound like one of those text-images you see on Facebook with Minions or a sepia tone, but I love books, real books. They have a smell! Damn, I love the smell. I read all of my comics on my iPad and have an extensive Kindle collection, but man, I love old things. They have an intrinsic magic.

I enjoyed walking through Old Editions: it has a good mix of books that have always been fairly popular, things you may not have known you wanted and things that you can’t imagine wanting yourself but know someone will.

And then there was he room upstairs that Ron, the owner, invited us to look through, the one that has all the expensive and rare books. I don’t trust myself around other peoples’ expensive objects out of a fear that the thing will suddenly combust in my hands, so I declined.

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Sometimes you bait the bear and sometimes the bear baits you

Okay, I’ll be honest: I didn’t finish the book. Neither did anybody else, actually, apart from Mark, and he’s an English teacher so it’s a bit unfair. I had only just gotten to the question I had, which Mark tells me isn’t really answered, which is: why this pub? The George Inn does have quite a lot of history, but Brown even admits in the last little bit I read that it’s mostly speculation that Shakespeare came there at all.

I think in the end the reason is that there has been much written about The Tabard, where Chaucer definitely drank, and yet this place, itself full of history and right next door, has been largely ignored. It works for me, and anyway the book actually covers The George as it relates to the history of Southwark, which I found more than enough to go on.

The part I liked the most was how the laws at the time shaped the development of London and its surrounding areas. Essentially, one of the main driving factors behind the rise of Southwwark — now a part of London itself but back then on the outskirts — was that the city had restrictive laws, so people said to hell with it and built their inns, shops and houses just outside those laws’ jurisdiction so that, for instance, someone could stay longer than the night without havin a character reference.

Drew, Scott and I asked Mark what we had missed, and among the subjects was that of bear baiting, which at first sounds awesome but which, it turns out, is actually torturing bears for sport, which left me feeling like a bit of an asshole.

The night draws on

As time passed we switched subjects, as we often do, except this time we were in a bookstore and with two bookstore employees: Ron, as I mentioned, and Matt Alexander, brother of Jeannie, whose bio I would link except I just remembered I haven’t actually published it yet.

Whoops again.

We told them about the other books we had read, and essentially held a book club retrospective, highlighting our favorite parts from books like Nickel City Drafts (for me, the ship captain who had to drink his way out of certain death at the hands of robbers) and Three Sheets To The Wind (the Six O’Clock Swill).

They reciprocated by telling us about the used book trade: going to peoples’ houses, the types of people who come in wanting to buy or sell. We got to look through some old but excellently maintained magazines. As someone who got a library science degree because they were interested in everything I felt among my people.

Next time

Alex — not present but in my opinion the best person to suggest such a thing — tossed out Alan McLeod and Max Bahnson’s The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer, which was something I’ve been meaning to read myself anyway, so that’s what our next book will be. We’ll meet on February 24, which, um, was three months’ notice when we scheduled it.

Whoops, thrice.

Anyway, read! Read it all.

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