In The Corpseman of the Liberties a young boy in the old Liberties of Dublin learns about growing up through his handicapped cousin and a strange bookseller.
Ashen, his skin, unsmiling, smokereeking with thin strands of hair like the tines of a fork. I never saw him leave his bookshop even to get a breath of air—where did he go to eat, to get provisions? There was no name on the facade of his shop in Cuffe Street. Not like Dillon’s, the butcher’s shop next door with its gold plate lettering, or even Gillespie’s sweet shop across the road with its black enamel painting, at least telling people who they were. ‘In the name of jaysus,’ Anto said, ‘people should tell you who they are.’
But the front of his shop was a smooth grey almost like an invitation to fill in the blank space. Not that it bothered us at the time. As kids, we paid no heed to things like that. We were just interested in the comics, the second hand buys. He paid us for Toppers, Beanos, Dandies and Hotspurs all categorised neatly in rows on his dark wooden counter. Adult books walled the premises, some hardback, some exotic paperbacks, one with cancan dancers highkicking, showing off their petticoats, a book which Anto whisked away the minute he laid eyes on it.