Pisces Print, Christchurch, 1991, $45
Second-hand booksellers are a breed apart, either mute chainsmoking social misfits concerned only with turning dog-eared Mills and Boons into cash, or erudite but loquacious to the point of distraction oil first editions, art, life or anything else you want to talk about. John Summers, proprietor of a legendary Christchurch establishment until last decade, belongs to the latter category. His autobiography, Dreamscape 1, borders on the Dickensian. It paints his life in the round – breeding, schooling, military career, spiritual values and views on writers and publishers seldom encountered in today’s book barns. He writes with humour and panache, albeit at a length not seen since the height of the House of Reed. Book editors won’t be able to read this without mentally wading into it with a big blue pencil, but the rest of us will find it fascinating, if sometimes slightly bewildering. A second volume is promised/ threatened.
Gavin McLean is a historian with the Historic Places Trust.