While readers are fairly content with the title ‘The Village’ as being descriptive, I have been asked, a number of times, where the name ‘The Story Bazaar’ came from. I have replied with varying levels of seriousness ( ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’ ). But, in truth, I did give it some thought. I wanted something demotic, not high brow, so ‘story’ or ‘tale’, rather than ‘literature’ and I didn’t want anything formal, like ‘publication’. It also seemed important to me to indicate a place, especially given the virtual nature of the publishing imprint, where such things might be got. So, a market, a shop or a bazaar.
My early childhood was filled with wonderfully illustrated compendium books, often belonging originally to uncles, aunts or older cousins and handed on to me – ‘The Favourite Wonder Book’ (pub. 1938), ‘Tales from Our Islands’ (1949) and ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ (1935), to name but three (see photo below). I wanted to capture something of their residual, often exotic, magic in my naming. The books, which are still stored, carefully, in our study, were inspirational in their introduction to the classics – ‘The Favourite Wonder Book’ includes stories by Dickens, Thackeray and Wilde as well as by contemporaries, Wodehouse, Milne, Karel Capek and O.Henry. There was poetry by Christina Rosetti, Keats, Browning and Wordsworth. They were exquisitely illustrated, by, amongst others, Arthur Rackham, Anne Anderson and Bernard Venables and seemed to lead me seamlessly into other books. It was only, years later, when I came across Bruno Bettelheim’s Uses of Enchantment, his study of the role of the traditional story or fairy tale in a child’s cognitive development, that I understood that magic a little better. N.B. Readers of ‘The Village’ will spot the connections, both with the old library book which Molly takes to Peter and with Paul’s journey into the ‘forest’.
So, ‘Schaherezade’ being taken – by a lady advertising services quite different from books and reading – I lit upon ‘The Story Bazaar’ and proceeded to purchase the name, for my company and my domain. A perfect example of books begating books, this time via a publisher.
Names and naming have provided writers with much subject matter over the years. Umberto Eco wrapped up a discussion of Plato, and the realist v. nominalist philosophical debate, in a medieval detective story. Henry Reed used an army instructor’s brusque description of the parts of a Lee Enfield rifle to make a comment upon war. H.P.Lovecraft’s ruined city has generated many a nightmare and it, too, reaches back to the Arabian Nights, to Rudyard Kipling and Omar Khayam. And we all know that ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…’ – back to that debate again.
Place names too are evocative. I am a lover of maps and the map of London provides much fuel for the imagination. There are many Hills, Greens, Oaks and Steads. Indeed trees feature heavily – Seven Sisters, for example, was named for seven huge elm trees – possibly because of the afforested nature of this part of the Thames basin when London was but a small settlement. So, presumably, people Scratch[ed]wood in what was part of the ancient Middlesex forest, long before it became, of all unromantic things, a service station? But there are names which are less self-explanatory and not without intrigue. Who was Ponder ( the keeper of the pond? ) and how, most mysteriously, did he meet his End? Now thereby must hang a tale…….
Readers interested in Bettelheim’s theories and others of similar vein might enjoy Francis Spufford’s ‘The Child That Books Built‘ a personal example of those theories. I recognised that child as someone like myself. The works mentioned above are, of course, ‘The Name of the Rose’, ‘Naming of Parts’, ‘The Nameless City’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
If you enjoyed reading this blog piece you might also enjoy How does a book sound? and Story of a Journey.