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The six species of bookstore wildlife in KL

Written by
Joyce Koh

1. The Famous Five
Along with the change of the seasons, The Famous Five shows up when the government issues free book vouchers. Like magic, this species will start appearing by the flocks when signs proclaiming the acceptance of BR1M vouchers mushroom at all major bookstores. The Famous Five then flaunts the stacks of vouchers to buy notebooks and miscellany. Meanwhile, the rest of us eye the vouchers hungrily.

2. Gaston
On its first outing to the bookstore since its kindergarten days, Gaston only appears at the bookstore on the hunt for a gift for its bookworm friend, or when it suddenly gets the urge to reread a book it last encountered 20 years ago. It hangs out at the nearest customer service counter, displaying its ignorance and terrorising the staff with helpful descriptions like ‘the cover is green’ or ‘I think it’s about an orange clock’.

3. Mr Penumbra
The longsuffering mainstay of every bookstore, the Mr Penumbra only took on the job due to its love of being surrounded by books all day long. It’s always rubbing its hands together in glee at the idea of introducing new reads to you. Identify it through muscular book-bearing forelimbs, elephantine book location memories, creative book-themed nests as well as remarkable patience for ignorant customers. Most Penumbras also harbour a secret desire to work for Flourish and Blotts.

4. Gandalf
Also known as the You Shall Not Pass, the Gandalf is a sad by-product of an age where comfortable couches no longer belong in bookstores. Camping in bookstore aisles trying to finish the (only unwrapped) book in one go, the Gandalf is almost always inadvertently blocking the shelf on which is the book you’re searching for. A subspecies includes the Backpack Patrol with their giant backpacks taking up the entire aisle, making it impossible to traverse the sci-fi landscape.

5. Klaus Baudelaire
This particular book-devourer paws at the latest titles, rubs itself against the bookshelves (classic territorial behaviour), takes furtive sniffs at books, and navigates the aisles with ease. It’s also why bookstores are still in business. It came in for one book, but it’s guaranteed to leave with at least seven (‘I’ll get discounts with the member’s card!’). The latest Tao Lin? Yes. The complete illustrated works of Oscar Wilde? Why not. A new cookbook by Adam Liaw? Of course.

6. Fitzwilliam Darcy
The tweed-coated, pipe-puffing Fitzwilliam Darcy lingers in the relative safety of the literature shelves, preferring to pick up books written before the 1800s. Apart from parroting famous authors, this literature snob also turns up its nose in a display of hostility when it encounters a commoner purchasing mainstream fiction or movie editions of books. To rid yourself of the mustiness that emanates from it, escape to the YA or the chick lit section for a breath of fresh air.

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