Sunday, July 14, 2013

The City of Dreaming Books By Walter Moers

Where shadows dim and shadows mate
in caverns deep and dark,
where old books dream of bygone days
when they were wood and bark,
where diamonds from coal are born
and no birds ever sing,
that region is the dread domain 
ruled by the Shadow King.
...Walter Moers

I am completely, hopelessly and heads over heels in love and I think I may have very well found my current all time favourite book even though I am only at page 21 of this 455 paged speculative fiction- something new I learned today, this genre called speculative fiction, but I digress.

Imagine having an authorial godfather once you are old enough to read. Imagine him to be 888 (a very auspicious number for Chinese) years old when he died. Then imagine being bequeathed a piece of perfect writing, so immaculate that you might find reading it "a terribly traumatic experience. It will dash all your hopes and tempt you to abandon a literary career. You may even consider doing away with yourself." Finally, imagine travelling to a city called Bookholm, in search of this genius of a writer.

I am starved of the words required for me to describe every tingling down my spine and every single sweet sensation I experienced as I savoured the jewels of the 1st 21 pages. Let me show you why.

In Western Zamonia, when you've traversed the Dullsgard Plateau in an easterly direction and finally left its rippling expanses of grassland behind you, the skyline suddenly recedes in a dramatic way. You can look far, far out across the boundless plain to where, in the distance, it merges with the Demerara Desert. if the weather is fine and the atmosphere clear. you will be able to discern a speck amid the sparse vegetation of this arid wasteland As you advance, so it will grow larger, take on jagged outlines, sprout gabled roofs and eventually reveal itself to be the legendary city that bears the name of Bookholm. 

You can smell the place from a long way off. It reeks of old books. It's as if you've opened the door of a gigantic second-hand bookshop- as if you've stirred up a cloud of unadulterated book dust and blown the detritus from millions of mouldering volumes straight into your face. There are folk who dislike that smell and turn on their heel as  soon as it assails their nostrils. It isn't an agreeable odour, granted. Hopelessly antiquated, it is eloquent of decay and dissolution, mildew and mortality. But it also has other associations: a hint of acidity reminiscent of lemon trees in flower; the stimulating scent of old leather; the acrid, intelligent tang of printer's ink; and overlying all else, a reassuring aroma of wood. 


Is there any wonder why mere mortals like me find it hard to review this book? What possible words can I string together to do all that justice? Maybe I should just resort to sounds like sighs or oohs and ahhhs . 

So for the next few days if you don't see me hanging around on blog land, you know where I'll be.

Bookholm, of course!