It’s not haunted! Sorry, but it’s not. Several times throughout this really weird little book, we’re told that it’s haunted by the ghosts of writers who wrote the stories that never leave us!
But not real ghosts.
This book is really really odd. Ostensibly it’s about a bookseller in New York who is approached by young adman in the 1918 and told that he could have his business increased. He tells him that it doesn’t work that way, but encourages him to come back and look at books and see if there’s something he might be interested in. Then, there’s a thread within this book about a young woman of questionable high-society education interning in the shop so that she gets some real-world experience instead of high ideas (her father’s a businessman). And then there’s a bunch of conversations about the nature of reading and selling books. And then there’s a mystery about a missing book. And then there’s a spy story and bombing plot? And then there’s a long anti-war diatribe.
And the book is only 100 pages. So for me the most interesting part of this is seeing who Christopher Morley writing about being worthy of being read then, in the past, and then in the future. He speaks very highly of GK Chesterton’s The Man Who was Thursday, an interesting pick since he rips off part of the plot for this. And then he’s very interested in a not famous play by Thomas Hardy, a book by Thomas Carlyle that no one reads any more (especially in light of no one reading Thomas Carlyle anymore), and he’s in the throes of HG Wells being about the most famous writer in the world at the time, and not for his science fiction. This all adds further proof to how weird and kind of empty the world of letters was between 1900 and 1920 and how much we needed something to add to that world.