Musty treasuresOne of the best inventions of modern mankind is the used bookstore.
There are two English-language used bookshops in Seoul that I know of; earlier this week, I paid a visit to Abby’s Book Nook, located near the mosque in Itaewon. It’s impossible to park anywhere near, so I’d suggest you either leave your car on the main drag in Itaewon and hoof it up the hill or take a taxi. Get out at the mosque entrance (taxis don’t like to go into the street where the store is located); as you face down the hill, the bookstore is about 50 meters down the street to your left, on the right-hand side.
Used-book browsers have to have eclectic tastes, because you never know what you’ll find. Peter McNevin and his wife Eun-hee had the following on hand earlier this week:
James Clavell fans, and I admit I’m one, will find several of his Oriental potboilers here. I spotted a first edition of “Whirlwind,” based loosely on H. Ross Perot’s exploits in getting his people out of Iran after the revolution, and copies of “Noble House” and “Gaijin.” There were several Jackie Collins novels for modern bodice-ripper fans and several titles by Michael Crichton. Tom Clancy was represented by “Clear and Present Danger” and “Patriot Game.”
Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist” was not in stock, but his second novel, “Angel of Darkness” was. I’d suggest you read the two books in that order, although “Angel” isn’t a sequel. Stay away from his third effort, “Killing Time,” a first-class stinker reviewed here a few months ago.
A wonderful old WWII novel, “Run Silent, Run Deep,” by Edward L. Beach, is on the shelves, as is Lloyd Douglas’s “The Robe.” I was tempted by a 10-volume set of Toynbee’s “A Study of History”; maybe in a bigger apartment.
I was disappointed in the selection of Westerns; there were several Louis L’Amours, but nothing by Zane Grey. There’s a fair selection of science fiction, although not much in the way of older books. I spotted one Heinlein, one Philip Jose Farmer and one very good novel called “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. Merle Miller’s interviews with Harry Truman, “Plain Speaking,” is available, as is a defense of Monica Lewinsky, “Monica’s Story,” by Andrew Morton. No thanks. But I was intrigued by a biography of Dorothy Kilgallen.
Humor? Some: P.J. O’Rourke, Erma Bombeck and Tim Allen were on the shelves, but I was disappointed not to find any of Bennett Cerf’s anthologies.
Is that eclectic enough for you? One last gem: Martin Cruz Smith’s third in his chronicles of Moscow police Inspector Arkady Renko, “Red Square,” is there. Try to find the first two in the series, “Gorky Park” and “Polar Star.”
The selection of books is heavily biased toward more recent issues, whether fiction or nonfiction, and as at any such emporium, many of the books are on the shelves and not in personal libraries for a very good reason. But as English teachers come and go, Mrs. McNevin observed, they are often forced to leave some keepers behind.
by John Hoog