Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Melbourne Streets - the Bookshop Count

Darlene's got a post up on her blog naming some of the fancier streets in Melbourne, but what hasn't been mentioned so far is something of vital importance - namely, the BOOKSHOP COUNT! I thought I'd rectify this oversight by listing the bookshops on some of the better-known Melbourne Streets.

Sydney Road - one and a half, a very unfortunate state of affairs. (Brunswick Books closed down a few months ago). There is, however, a rather ramshackle 'artistic' bookshop on Albion Street, just a block away from Sydney Road. Also a comic store that never seems to be open in Moreland. You can buy a comic, and then drive off down Sydney Road and the Hume Highway until you hit Sydney!

Lygon Street - Three. Borders and Readings, opposite one another. There's that gigantic bookshop on Rathdowne Street which is worth mentioning, and there's another bookshop, right down the end of Lygon Street, which is usually run by pasty-faced Goths playing classical music. You can pick up some nice poetry and SF volumes in that one.

Chapel Street - 2 and a half. Angus and Robertson sometimes set up a 'bargain' store at the Yarra end of Chapel Street. 'Penny Syber's Books' is an excellent, traditional second-hand bookshop just a few stores down from the Astor Theatre. You can go bookshopping, go to the Astor museum, then see a movie! (Penny's husband* David Syber also ran an off-again on-again bookstore in St Kilda - apparently he keeps on re-opening his failing business in different places. They both specialise in sf and fantasy, but aren't limited to that.) Also a good graphic novel/comic bookstore on Chapel Street. Oh, and Borders right down the South Yarra end.

Fitrzoy Street (St Kilda) - Two bookstores, one a very good second-hand bookstore at the end of the Street (I once picked up an excellent collection of Aubrey Beardsley poetry and art there, as well as several Raymond Chandler's and 'Father Brown' stories). The other is a slightly wanky one right in the middle. It's tiny and has several political mags displayed prominently in the window out front. Seems to specialise in left-leaning authors like Monbiot.

Brunswick Street - three-and-a-bit bookshops. One a swanky new store called 'Brunswick Street Books' with two levels and a great range, if you like new books. The others a second-hand store a bit further along, which I think specialises in first-class second-hand books, if that makes sense. They have several weird alcoves. There's also a (clothing?) store that has a table out front with books on it. Polyester Books, of course, is awesome. And there's another record store which has a couple of mags and comics (I picked up a copy of the American 'National Lampoon' there). I think there used to be ANOTHER second-hand bookshop on Brunswick Street, but they closed down.

Smith Street - two-and-a-half bookshops. There's one right at the start, which I think metamorphosed from a second-hand store to a 'new edition' store. Quite small, some interesting books. There's also a second-hand record store which has a good bookshelf (SF, but I think there's even some poetry there). There's a specialist Travel bookstore that sells mostly Lonely Planet books, too.

For those in the Fitzroy area, Gertrude Street also has a good bookshop just on the corner with Brunswick Street. You can get a new book there and saunter across the road to the French Creperie, (A place where they sell pancakes, not a place frequented by sleazy Jacques Chirac types). Elizabeth Street in the city also has several interesting locations, one of them being Magnation on (I think) the Collins Street corner, a two-storey shop devoted solely to magazines.

*'Husband' - not sure about that, he could be her brother!


TimT said...

Incidentally, I'm wondering even more about the accuracy of this sentence:

'(Penny's husband* David Syber also ran an off-again on-again bookstore in St Kilda - apparently he keeps on re-opening his failing business in different places. They both specialise in sf and fantasy, but aren't limited to that.)'

If you can keep on re-opening your failing business, is it really a failing business? Is it your business to re-open a failing business?

Maybe it's not a failing business, it's just ailing. Or a bookshop with very eccentric opening hours, and a slightly less-than-definite location ...

Tony.T said...

I used to get stacks of books at Sybers in the 90s.

Back when I used to read.

Tim said...

Pretty sure David Syber has reopened his failing/successful store somewhere in Caulfield.

These word verification things are getting ridiculous. This is my third go at posting this comment. Is that a j or an i? I say it's an i, let's find out.

Tim said...

It was an i.

TimT said...

This David Syber is certainly tenacious. You'd think that running a perpetually failing business wouldn't be good for business, but he seems to have found a future in it. I must visit his store.

Ben.H said...

Whoa. So Basilisk Bookshop (the other 2nd hand one, I'm guessing) in Brunswick St has gone, the weird one at the bottom of Smith St now sells new stuff, and there's another place in Gertrude Street. The bookshop scene in Melbourne moves faster than I thought!

What about Book Affair (motto: We Hoard Every Last Piece Of Trash We Can Get Our Hands On - Jealously!") on Princes Street, just off the corner of Lygon?


TimT said...

I think Basilisk bookshop is that first-class second-hand bookstore I mentioned, a little way along Brunswick Street? Not sure. Maybe the existence of the other second-hand store on Brunswick St was just a hallucination on my part ...

I did mention Book Affair, but didn't include them in the Lygon Street count as they're just off it. Forgot to mention, it's right next to *another* bookstore - 'Academic Books', or similar.

Both Elizabeth Street and Swanston have some corkers, including Kill City and Metropolis Books.

ras said...

Oh TimT you just make your fair city more and more appealing but I have to wait til december to move down there!

So many book stores, so little time, so little room in my bookcase.

As a fellow novocastrian I may have to get some advice from you on the best way to move down on the cheap and get set up and a job quickly.

Don Quixote said...

What about Swanston? There's a nifty little book shop down the Flinders end and you've also got the underground crime bookstore and the general academic one.

TimT said...

Moving's always a toughy, Ras - how are you getting all your stuff up to Melbourne? Did you bribe a family member?

I'd just set up some temporary accomodation over a few nights with a family member or old friend and go about house hunting. Either that or link up with one of the many backpacker places around Melbourne. They're usually easy. USUALLY.

DQ - So many bookshops, so little byte space!

Ben.H said...

The other second-hand place in Brunswick Street is/was Grub Street Books - please don't tell me it's gone!

I remembered the Academic and General next to Book Affair in Princes Street but didn't mention it because, meh. Same goes for the A&G in Swanston Street. The real good place in Swanston Street is up on the corner of Grattan Street, which is sort of a spill-over store for Sainsbury's in Camberwell.


TimT said...

Sometimes I don't know what I don't know. I certainly didn't know that about the Sainsbury's store. Never bought anything from them that I recall, though I did once have my eye on a lovely collection of Walter de la Mare poetry. Alas, it disappeared before I could get the cash together ...

Caz said...

Despite being a multi-national, Borders is really good, not just for the range of specialists subject books, and music and films, but most especially because they'll order anything you want.

Lot of bookshops have staff who won't offer to order something, or if you manage to extract that remote possibility from them, they whine at you, as if ordering a book is the most onerous and difficult thing in the world, and it's arrival this century can't possibly be guaranteed.

By contrast, Borders staff always offer straight up, no deposit needed, they'll even take an order over the phone - no getting off the couch! A couple of weeks later you get a call or a little card in your mail box to let you know you book is in.

They cheerfully put books aside too, and there the books will be, waiting at the centre counter - walk in and out in five minutes, no desperately searching around the store for three hours.

Yeah, the magazine shop (corner of Eliz & Collins, just up from Optus, and next to Hudsons Coffee) is quite a nice little place, neat and clean, and all the mags you could ever want.

TimT said...

I shop at Borders quite a bit, partly out of perversity. But their powers stretch only so far, I fear. Next time I go in there, I'll give them a real test. 'Hello, I'm looking for the libretto of 'A Touch of Venus', co-authored by Ogden Nash and S. J. Perelman, as well as the video, with a script by F. Anstey and Ava Gardner in the main role - can you get it in for me?'

I actually am looking for that - as can be told from some of my previous posts, I'm quite enthusiastic about Perelman and Nash. We'll see if they can rustle anything up ...

And their magazine collection is quite impressive. You can get obscure Kansas publications such as 'The Funny Times', for instance, and they're about the only place that stocks 'The Onion'. Amongst other things.

Elizabeth Street not only has Magnation, but it has that other news store on the corner of Bourke Street that actually stocks weekday copies of international papers like The Guardian, The Telegraph, etc.

TimT said...

UPDATE: 23 October 2006 - yesterday I made that request at Borders I mentioned above. To her credit, the girl at the counter didn't bat an eyelid at the request, just went to her computer to check.

They didn't have it. The search continues! Next stop - ebay!

Lenny said...

David Syber's bookshop in St Kilda didn't fail. He moved out of the premises because the landlord chose to up his rent to extortionate levels. The joke was on the landlord because the shop is still empty, or was the last time I looked.

As for keeping on re-opening, the shop was in the St Kilda location for many years.

Just another minor point, Penny's shop is not a few doors down from the Astor, it is all the way across Dandenong Rd (a formidable thoroughfare), and the Astor opens almost always at night, apart from some weekend matinees.

David and Penny Syber are 2 of the best, most knowledgeable and most amiably eccentric booksellers in Australia.

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