Wander 8: A Bookshop in London Town
Updated: May 18
Bundled up in exactly 4 1/2 layers I walked past Bloomsbury Park after a morning spent wandering the British Museum until I reached a pedestrian street I might have missed if I hadn’t been searching for it. It was an autumn day, the kind where the wind carries leaves in spirals up in the air and back down again. With notable exceptions including the sounds of the nearby park and my increasingly worn rain boots hitting the weathered walkway, it was rather quiet for a city.
In the early afternoon, the sun stood its defense to the biting cool of an English fall. Equipped with my (now finished) copy of Pride and Prejudice, an umbrella, a city atlas, two pairs of socks, and a taste for tea, London was mine for the taking. I shed my tourist persona: I scoffed at souvenir stands or the idea of asking for directions. navigating the underground system. Starting each day with only the scrap of a plan, surely if I just kept walking I would end up where I was meant to be. I committed to becoming acquainted with as many English bookstores as I possibly could.
I was alone, but not necessarily lonely. There were far too many things on my mind to let the thought of loneliness sink into empty crevices. Maybe this was freedom- the simplicity of being without having to be. These thoughts continued to slip in and out of my mind when I stumbled upon the soft grey storefront of Persephone Books.
My tired feet led me through the door with a little more excitement in those cautious steps as I entered the world inside.
There is always something wonderfully new and invitingly familiar about a bookstore, each cover greeting you either as an old friend or a new acquaintance, for it was a room of books, a room of stories, a room of voices- some left unheard until now.
My timid hands began searching the spines of the books, colored with the same soft London grey. In every title, I searched for an answer to the question my wandering hands asked: Which one of you is meant for me?
And then I saw it.
Three tiny printed words on a description taped to the shelf:
“An unrecognized masterpiece.”
With a sudden clarity so new to me, I knew that it was the one that I’d been searching for. Or perhaps it had been searching for me.
Those three words sent a chill down my spine and froze me in my steps. Those three words were the answer to the question I didn't know I was asking.
If you have something to be said, you say it. If you have something to be heard, you write it.
In addition to being a store, Persephone Books is an independent publishing company dedicated to reprinting forgotten works primarily by unrecognized female authors- writers who were denied their voice. For them, no one was present to listen, no one except a pen and paper.
Still, they wrote. Recognition or not, they wrote their stories.
And I wrote mine.
Last May I came to a place in my life where I lost the reason I had been existing. Everything I worked for, depended on and gave myself to slipped out of my desperately clenched hands.
I’d lost my why. And in turn, I found my why not.
On the empty page of my life, the answer was left for me to find, to lose, to discover, and to create with my words and my story. I have thousands of words seen only by my eyes alone, written not for anyone but rather the necessity of their own quiet existence. This blog is a fraction of that.
The idea of an unrecognized masterpiece solidifies that the importance of our work is not in the guarantee of an audience or in the promise of praise. It’s telling a story despite - or perhaps in spite of - whatever comes next. It’s trusting the ones meant to hear it, will. It's knowing that the story itself is enough.
Our stories deserves to be heard. All we need to do is tell them. And tell them well in song lyrics, scripts, lines of poetry, news articles, novels, magazines, and even blog posts.
The essence of any masterpiece must exist for itself alone, recognition or not.
The rest comes and goes as it pleases, beautifully and inevitably out of our control.