His shop was a curious illustration of Malthusian theory, for he sold books (if at all) arithmetically, but bought them geometrically. As far as I could tell, he also bought indiscriminately; he put his new purchases in flat cardboard boxes of the kind used for peaches and kiwi fruit, and piled them up dangerously between the shelves so that most of them became inaccessible, or accessible only at the risk of being crushed by a falling pile of such boxes. He said what was obviously true, that one day he would have to arrange the books, but there was no shelf-space on which to do so—it was already taken up with pre-existing stock. Besides, he was out most of the time, searching for more books, leaving the shop to a woman assistant who quite clearly had no interest in books, reading, or customers and could not or would not understand that browsers are put off by the bright shining drivel of popular radio played at high volume; when I asked her once to turn it off, she said with the asperity of incipient martyrdom, “I’m here all day on my own.”
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