I was ten the first time I visited London, England. My mother and I had come down on the train from Dundee. One afternoon, she took me to Foyle’s Bookstore, which was huge even by the standards of the late 1950s. It occupied a large city block and much of the store was set up the way you’d expect — fiction section, children’s section, best sellers on a table at the front. But there were “rooms,” quadrants at the back of the store devoted to a single publisher.
I now suspect those publishers paid for those spaces, but what drew my attention was their uniformity because, in those days, their respective covers were all the same.
One room was Faber & Faber with pale blue and white covers, black trim and lettering to highlight the author and title of each book. It exuded cool in both temperature and style. Faber & Faber, the pinnacle of literary class, the promoters of modernism.
The other room was filled with Penguin books, solid orange, bold and hot. Penguin was the publisher who brought high-quality writing to ordinary people, influencing British culture, politics and art, science and discourse of every kind.
On the cover, their authors and titles were also in black lettering on a white background, outlined in black. A few books faced front, the white patch for the author and title providing relief for the eyes, but most of the books were spine out. At the bottom of each spine was the little penguin logo.
When I walked into the room, I was engulfed by orange punctuated by rows of little penguins an inch above each shelf. My mother browsed the shelves, then wandered into other parts of the store. I remained mesmerized. When she was ready to leave, she found me still there and still staring.
“Someday, I’m going to have an orange spine,” I said.
“That’s nice, dear.”
She didn’t know how much I meant it.
Aline Soules' work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Houston Literary Review, Poetry Midwest, and The Galway Review. Her books include Meditation on Woman and Evening Sun: A Widow’s Journey. Find her online at http://alinesoules.com, @aline_elisabeth, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/alinesoules/
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