Thursday, 19 February 2015

So, So Sad about Ocelot

I'm really, really sad. My favourite ever bookshop is closing down in mid-March. Ocelot on Brunnenstraße is a beautiful big space full of well chosen books. They also sell coffee and really good cake. They host events and cooperate with a radio station and they run a blog and sell print and e-books online. They have quirky things like a sofa by the YA titles and a weird Japanese cube made of glass and electricity. Like all German bookshops, they will order any book you like and it will be there the next day. They will be really helpful and friendly about it too, and if you're me they'll ask you your name and you'll start spelling it and then they'll say, "Oh, right, I know!" If you're not on first-name terms already, that is.

You can go in with a friend and wander around for a very long time, recommending books for his dad's birthday present. And there'll be lots of good ones to choose from, of course. You can go in after two generous Mai Thais on their long night of book shopping before Christmas, and be too drunk to buy anything but have a really nice time just admiring the really expensive titles. Or you can go there to sit at the long table and drink a Diet Coke and talk to a journalist who's writing your friend's obituary. If your book happens to be mentioned in the London Review of Books you can tell them and they'll lend you their copy, because they're just sweet like that. You can pop in on a Saturday and run into a friend and tell her what a stinking bad mood you're in and feel instantly slightly better. Or you might run into a local writer looking at the recommendations, who will discourage you from buying anything because it's all rubbish, apparently, not like his books. You might go in there once with a friend and then find they're stocking her book in the YA section at a later date, and when you tell her she'll be really pleased. They might even ask you to moderate a reading by a top British writer, and then either they or the publisher will buy you a Wiener Schnitzel afterwards.

I wasn't sure whether to write anything; it feels a little tactless after their campaign to Save the Ocelot. And I know all us Ocelot fans had been hoping the Christmas season would pull them back out of insolvency. I think it went well; just not well enough. I think there was a miscalculation somewhere along the line, as there will almost inevitably be when you do something big and brave like opening a gorgeous bookshop in a large space. And it makes me sad that this ambitious project, which has captured hearts and minds and launched a million style pieces, hasn't managed to stay afloat. I know that's not for lack of enthusiasm.

I feel sort of pleased to have experienced this place, a book shop the way I think book shops ought to be, never patronising to its customers, always welcoming and involved with the publishing and literary world, a place to feel comfortable about loving books but never anonymous. I can't imagine there'll be anything to match up with it any time soon. The insolvency administrator is hopeful someone will buy the place outright and continue to run it. I sincerely hope so. If you happen to be rich, you should really think about it. If I was rich I know I would.

No comments: