Clive Linklater runs a second-hand bookshop in Hastings, England. REFLECTIONS FROM A BOOKSHOP WINDOW is his take on the used book trade, at least how it existed in England around 1990 - i.e., before the Internet. What separates this book from most other books on second-hand bookselling is Linklater's campaign to be humorous from the first to the last page. Unfortunately, much of his humor is sophomoric at best, and it soon wears thin. I usually am receptive to books about the book trade, but here the slapstick became so annoying that I could barely manage to hang in there until book's end.
Some of Linklater's humor is scatological in nature. There is, for example, an entire chapter detailing, and comparing, the explosive effect on his bowels of an Indian curry and that of his wife's steam pudding. Another frequent motif is sex - for example, his sporadic efforts to cajole his wife into engaging in it, the story of "Wilson's willy", and how "every time I get on a train, I seem to end up sitting opposite a young girl wearing an incredibly short skirt". To that last observation, Linklater appends the parenthetical explanation, "The young girls are wearing the short skirts, not me" - which serves as an example of his frequent linguistic funnery.
It's not all silly. There are some decent jokes and there also are some cogent, witty social observations, such as this one on the definition of the poor: "According to the Labour Party, the poor are those who cannot afford satellite television and a timeshare apartment on the Costa Del Sol. According to the Conservative Party, the poor are those who live in cardboard boxes that are less than ⅞ths of a centimeter thick. * * * According to my definition, the poor are all those people who think that £100 is a lot of money."
And if one is patient and can tolerate the tomfoolery, one can learn about such things as book auctions, booksellers who are congenitally obnoxious to customers, and the mysterious phenomenon by which certain used books never find their way to a customer but instead are sold from dealer to dealer to dealer, seemingly ad infinitum. But again, this account of the second-hand book trade was from before the Internet, which I suspect has changed the business as much in the UK as it has here in the States. Even so, I suppose that book dealers still are plagued by prospective sellers expecting good, hard cash in return for boxes of Readers Digest condensed novels.