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Following the recent media furore over Gordon Brown’s identification with Heathcliff (the Wuthering Heights version, not the cartoon cat. I think. Did anyone double check?), I ask you:

Which fictional character would you vote for?

Answers, discussion and campaign slogans in the comments please.

(I would like Shirley Keldar as PM, I think. Or Marian Halcombe, but she’s my answer to everything).

What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favorite source of books was unavailable? Whether it’s a local book shop, your town library, or an internet shop … what would you do if, suddenly, they were out of business? Devastatingly, and with no warning? Where would you go for books instead? What would you do? If it was a local business you would try to help out the owners? Would you just calmly start buying from some other store? Visit the library in the next town instead? Would it be devastating? Or just a blip in your reading habit?

Well, obviously my first response would be “cry.” Then again, I don’t have a favourite bookshop, per se. I’m not sure what I’d do without Amazon, to my shame, since their ‘new & used’ section feeds my habit like a crack dealer feeds….well, someone who takes crack, I suppose. Plus, it combines my favourite thing – books! – with my second favourite thing – mail! – and until someone finds a way to combine all the things that make me happy in one quick, cheap online purchase, I can’t see my allegiance changing. And I haven’t decided whether or not I want kids – my carbon footprint may be the only thing I leave behind.

My local second-hand bookshop is a thing of wonder and joy. I’ve picked up books there that I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and their stock of Virago novels was unparalleled. Note the term ‘was’, and then go and look at my bookshelves. Oops. It’s a five minute walk from my flat, and a ten minute walk from the park (fifteen if you stop at Starbucks en route). What more can you want? If it closed down, though, I would probably go either into central London and pay full-price for my books, or get the bus and go into the town where I used to live and raid that second-hand bookshop or go to Charing Cross Road  – what the second-hand bookshops there lack in variety, they more than make up for in atmosphere.

I would be hugely, deeply saddened if I went to Murder One only to find out it had closed down overnight. It’s packed to the rafters with pretty much every crime and mystery novel ever published, and is a bloody sobering experience for any author with designs on that genre. However, it is also pretty claustrophobic (and lacks disabled access from what I can tell), so most of my woe would derive from the fact that I would then have to walk to Piccaddilly Circus to find what I was looking for. But more on that one later.

I do try to shop at independent bookshops whenever I can – I maintain that sheltering from the rain in Word Power played a pretty big part in my choosing Edinburgh as my chosen ivory tower of academia – but there’s something to be said for a big anonymous chain that happens to carry some of your favourite hard-to-find magazines. Borders on Oxford Street carries Nylon, Bust, Ms, Bitch and Curve. Sometimes (normally when I’ve just been paid) I’ll go and pick up a stack of glossies and elbow my way into the Starbucks upstairs to drool over the life I could be living if I hadn’t just spent so much money on magazines. If it closed down, I’d just go to Foyles for my subculture magazine fix, which I should go to anyway but I’m lazy and Borders is easier to get to.

If it was my hometown’s local bookshop, I’d just laugh and go “serves you right for firing me when I was 17.” I’d miss the white chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies, though, not to mention the killer smoked salmon ciabattas and Snickers milkshakes. It’s a much nicer coffee shop than it is a bookstore, and that’s not just sour grapes. They organise their biography section by author. *shudders*

The one that would really cut me to the core would be the loss of Waterstones. I’ve yet to find a branch I don’t like – whether it’s the one in Deansgate in Manchester that was the highlight of any family outing as a child, the one in Covent Garden that I take a massive detour for on my way home in nice weather or the piece de la resistance – Waterstones Piccadilly. It has five floors with a coffee shop in the basement and a cocktail bar at the top. It has a stationery section, sells the New Yorker and Private Eye, and their crime section is, well, to die for. Their gender studies section is disappointing, but their YA section is varied and contains a giant dalek. They have some fabulous poetry, and their literary-themed cocktails in The 5th View make up for any other faults (although personally my erstwhile partner-in-crime Sapph and I prefer the Dusty Springfield).

If I’ve missed any London-based literary treasure troves, please comment!