Peter Briscoe’s THE BOOKSELLER is presented as four stories. The first three brief vignettes take readers inside the mind of an unnamed character – male, aware of and attractive to women. An inward wistfulness in these vignettes leads well–stylistically–into the final and longest of the stories. The last novella-length piece, “The Bookseller,” introduces us to three named characters: a frustrated scholar, Señor Grigorio Molina, who requires rare books that have disappeared from a library in Ecuador for his academic work; Inspector Guillermo Robles who must investigate the book theft; and Doctor Andrés Vidal, a scholar who assists the library director and befriends the inspector. This story carries its plot lightly, unwinding in an unexpected way, while making space for a thoughtful meditation on the nature of libraries. Quoting Umberto Eco’s sentiment, “If God existed, he would be a library.” Doctor Vidal asks himself “Can one sentence capture the essence of something that contains an infinite number of sentences.” Briscoe rises to the challenge of capturing essence concisely. His writing packs rich thoughtfulness and vitality into surprisingly few words. Indeed, one of the greatest strengths of this piece work is its graceful prose. Another facet of Briscoe’s style is how much more it is auditory than visual. He is not a writer of extensive visual cues—no periwinkle cravats or ravaged features identify Vidal, Molina or Robles. He brings his characters to life mainly through their thoughts and their speech—these characters are heard more than seen. This approach, as if the story is whispered to its readers, suits this thoughtful novella by creating a tone of intimacy and introspection.
The plot and characterization in Briscoe’s final piece, “The Bookseller,” breathe easily beside a compelling love letter to libraries woven through his storytelling. Libraries, which at their best contain, “what everyone who came before you has discovered…” Libraries, “… where a reader can go anywhere, microscopically, telescopically, past, present and future and especially into the minds of other humans.” Briscoe addresses the history of libraries, the role of curation, the difference between an archive and a library. As one character describes his experience, “… he entered the library as others enter a church.” In this sentiment, the author’s own truth seems to be quietly disclosed.
THE BOOKSELLER is a gem–refreshing in its gentle introspection via Peter Briscoe’s warm, elegant, spare stories–with just enough compelling characterization and unique plot to carry its readers comfortably along.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader