The bookshop is, and will always be, the soul of the trade. What happens there does not happen elsewhere. The multifariousness of human nature is more on show there than anywhere else, and I think it’s because of books, what they are, what they release in ourselves, and what they become when we make them magnets to our desires.
A memoir of a life in the antiquarian book trade, A Factotum in the Book Trade is a journey between the shelves—and then behind the counter, into the overstuffed basement, and up the spine-stacked attic stairs of your favourite neighbourhood bookshop. From his childhood in rural Ontario, where at the village jumble sale he bought poetry volumes for their pebbled-leather covers alone, to his all-but-accidental entrance into the trade in London and the career it turned into, poet and travel writer Marius Kociejowski recounts his life among the buyers, sellers, customers, and literary nobility—the characters, fictional and not—who populate these places we all love. Cataloging their passions and pleasures, oddities and obsessions, A Factotum in the Book Trade is a journey through their lives, and a story of the serendipities and collisions of fate, the mundane happenings and indelible encounters, the friendships, feuds, losses, and elations that characterize the business of books—and, inevitably, make up an unforgettable life.
Praise for A Factotum in the Book Trade
“A dizzying diversity of books and authors strike against each other, creating sparks of insight. In the space of a few pages, he mentions Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Green, Emily Dickinson, William Hazlitt, J.L. Carr and Patrick Leigh Fermor, offering concise assessments of each. Frequent footnotes, rendered as chatty asides, deepen his memoir’s digressive charm.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A Factotum in the Book Trade is an extraordinary work that will give all readers an increased appreciation for what books are and the many intricate roles that books play in our lives.”—Ottawa Review of Books
“An accomplished poet and beguiling essayist […] [Kociejowski is] spiky and forthright in his views.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“[I]n the book’s swirling opening chapter […], we find him reflecting on a working life (mostly in the antiquarian book trade) […] Mortality sets off this reflection […] then books […] and bookselling […] It is this interplay between books (Kociejowski has authored books of poetry and travel writing) and bookselling (a staging ground into which enter books, employees and casual customers, but also literary archives, personal libraries, collectors and celebrated authors like Patti Smith, Robert Graves and Bruce Chatwin) where the magic happens.” —Michael Turner, The British Columbia Review
“An absolute ‘must’ for the personal reading lists of all authors, publishers, booksellers and dedicated bibliophiles, A Factotum in the Book Trade is an absorbing, entertaining, informational, and inherently fascinating combination of memoir and book trader insights and commentaries. One of those life stories that will linger on in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf … A Factotum in the Book Trade should be on the Biography/Memoir shelf of every community, college, and university library.”—Midwest Book Review
Praise for Marius Kociejowski
“Kociejowski draws on all the aspects of his life in these engaging, idiosyncratic personal essays … [that] proffer the reader equal measures of autobiography, insight and quirky charm.” —Michael Dirda, Washington Post
“Here the charm is deep, the splendour unlaboured; the colours of history, reckoned afresh, saturate singular people, in whom passion is lucid again … here is one who collects his extraordinary resources, and strides.”—Christopher Middleton
“It is a testament to the power of this superb book that I felt not despondency, but … elation.”—Adam Thorpe, Times Literary Supplement
“Treasures are revealed … with a formidable erudition, and at their best they gleam with an enameled splendour.”—Ken Babstock, Globe and Mail
“Kociejowski writes beautifully … unusual, poetic, and thought-provoking.”—Library Journal