Book Stage

Manfred Meurer is a book-lover and the proprietor of Book Stage, the crammed, musty, lovely book store across the street from the Studio Theatre in Stratford, Ontario. If you love the smell of books - in the morning, afternoon or evening - as I do, as well as the thrill of discovery, you’ll love this store. It beats online shopping to a pulp. I have no idea how many books Manfred has in his store and I doubt that he knows either, give or take a thousand or so. Yet he seems to be able to find what you want. He has always found what I wanted, sooner or later.

I hadn’t seen him in a while, dependent as I am on my driver friends’ patience or on the Festival bus schedule. Last week I was granted a rare opportunity to drop in and say hello. As always, I asked him if he had any women’s diaries. He said he thought I had finished with that project and had stopped looking. See, I wrote a book, Reading Between the Lines: The Diaries of Women (Key Porter Books, 1995) about, obviously, women’s diaries, but when I finished it, I never stopped buying, reading and keeping women’s diaries. I have a huge collection now, too large to disperse. I just bought another diary this week, one by a First-World-War nurse, only recently discovered and published in 2013. Anyway, I told Manfred I’m still looking.

He is very patient and now long-suffering, I fear. I also fear that he buys more books than he sells, most days. I asked him, impertinently but sympathetically, if he was making much of a living. Not really, he said, but he owns the charming building he lives/works in (store below, home above) and he has relatively no expenses. He is not too happy with people who come in to do research, plundering information and then leaving without buying or paying for library hours. I wouldn’t be happy with them either, but then I was remiss. I left without a purchase, not like me.

So I’ll try to make up for it by quoting from his book mark: “Selected new books, fine used, rare and out-of-print books for readers and collectors. Book search offered.” Next time you’re in Stratford, pop in and buy a book, and say hello from me.

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