My Vancouver: Book Heaven

          Borges envisioned paradise as a library, and during my recent brief visit to Vancouver, I spent many happy hours in two very different nirvanas for bibliophiles: the Central branch of the Vancouver Public Library and MacLeod’s Books.
          For me, one of the great strengths of the Central Library is the wonderful collection of Canadian and American poetry. The other is the magnificent architecture, whose curved outer shell features study tables offering views on two sides: the library’s interior and the shiny, wet streets of Vancouver with their endless parades of colourful umbrellas . . .


. . . or, if you prefer, the enclosed concourse of shops at the library’s entrance:


By contrast to the Central library’s showy architecture and bright interior that opens itself to the world is a more introverted kind of book heaven: MacLeod’s Books.


The interior is a glorious jumble of overflowing boxes, precarious piles of books, and shelves that are more often than not double-stacked. The poetry is in the basement, womb-like with its narrow and claustrophobic, over-stuffed aisles:


          Fortunately, I’m not claustrophobic, and part of the pleasure of MacLeod’s is the treasure hunt, the possibility that at the bottom of a pile or behind that first layer of shelved books is the prize that will take a place of honour among the equally messy heaps of poetry next to my bed.
          The photograph below was taken by a young woman with whom I’d struck up a conversation. She was looking for a book of poems by Anna Akhmatova. By chance, I turned to the shelf behind me and there it was: a beautiful, hard-cover copy of the complete poems of Akhmatova. She looked so happy when I handed it to her, and in return, she took a photograph of me in paradise.


Camille Martin

2 responses to “My Vancouver: Book Heaven

  1. sounds likea fabulous excursion. I remember hanging out at the Vancouver public library on a trip but didn’t get as far as that bookstore.


  2. Both are worth a pilgrimage.


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