Our favourite book stores series reaches ‘the Venice of the North’ as John Maguire finds treasure gleaming under the grey Mancunian skies in Paramount Books…
Window designs for high street stores are generally clinically prescribed to the last detail. The retail Stepford mantra being retail is detail, retail is detail. During my time managing a book store in the smog that is London (a chain that later went bankrupt); I was constantly up against the Universality of Bland. One example of my battles with the fat men in retail, landed me with a verbal disciplinary for my inventive window homage to The Book of Bunny Suicides: Little Fluffy Rabbits Who Just Don’t Want to Live Any More (2003), black comedy cartoons drawn by author Andy Riley. Yet, when the book sold copious amounts, funny nothing else was said. The EXEMPLARY display was used in the end of year annual presentation, as a model of best practice. Irony with a capital I!
Another time, I was forced to get rid of the CLASSICS section to be replaced by BRATZ top trumps. A sorry affair! However, my anarchic streak kicked in; the punters of the store signed a petition that, of course they had decided to set up themselves. I mean, the General Manager would never have the audacity to perform such a ‘thought crime’, to indeed rage against the machine; biting the corporate hand that fed him, now would he? Anyhow, enough back story!
So present day: when I came up to the window of PARAMOUNT BOOKS, on a charcoal grey Saturday morning in Manchester, a smile did instantaneously plaster across my face. It was I believe bordering on Heath Ledger’s Joker. The glass plastered with an Aladdin’s cave of temptations.
Vintage BOXING WEEKLY, a DR WHO surplus of literary memorabilia, European literature, Old JUDY and DANDY comics and an entire BRUCE LEE magazine collection, ‘unread’ and ‘untouched’ since publication in 1977.
A frame of originality! A stark contrast to the generic high street windows, trying to be bang on trend. Stepping inside the store, classical music flooded the space and the question was simple,
Where do I begin?
The other retail mantra, eye line is the buy line is not the motto here, everywhere you look there are distractions: a cellophane-clad copy of Ian Fleming’s THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, a haphazardly stacked pile of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, pulp horror and a scattering of books that makes up the poetry section, also to add to the charm there is a basket of fruit comprising bananas and garlic. A spell-binding cave that you could actually lose whole years, not just hours in.
I was delighted to find an autobiography by Dirk Bogarde. My appreciation for this phenomenal actor began when I caught a screening of VICTIM at Fact, Liverpool and was accentuated to another level when I saw the movie, THE NIGHT CALLER. I also didn’t mind the film adaptation of DEATH IN VENICE. I particularly loved this book, as I read it in Venice and for a fleeting moment I was momentarily back there on the Lido di Venezia.
This is what PARAMOUNT BOOKS does to you, it’s like the whole experience starts the monkey mind swinging from tree to tree, re-visiting memories and thinking about the past, the now and a feel of optimism for the future. This kind of place exudes something that can only be labelled as magic. A good friend of mine tipped me off to it and it is this type of personal recommendation that keeps little hidden treasures like this haven being re-discovered.
For those who have not yet visited, I am envious because I guarantee you will recall your first time. It is I think the Vatican of Cool.