Imaginary Bookshops (6 & 7)


The Book Ship sails 365 days a year. Its rusting hulk is packed with banned books, each one wrapped in a discarded carrier bag to protect it from the damp salt air.

The Book Ship accepts payment in many forms: news, scraps of story, puzzled expressions.

The Book Ship finds need to anchor off the coast of countries with, as well as those without, democracy. Book Activists row ashore and put books into the hands of people they meet, scatter them on benches and tables wherever people gather, slip them onto the shelves of school libraries.

Manuscripts don’t burn and the Book Ship can’t sink.


The Locked Room Bookshop presents a mystery. The door is, of course, always locked. Yet the very regular opening hours are clearly displayed on a laminated sign that is blu-tacked to the interior of the window. The window is also locked.

If you go to the end of the terraced row of shops, and then up the alley that runs along the back, you’ll find an unlocked gate and a concrete yard housing only a grey wheelie bin and a blue recycling bin. The back door is locked. The downstairs window is locked. Over the wall, you can see a ladder in the next-door yard, a fishmongers, and you eye the upstairs windows, then the chimney. You decide against it and return to the front to stare in at the rows of spines you can’t touch, the titles you can’t clearly see, wondering what mysteries they hold.