It takes a lot to laugh in a state of despair, but a little bookshop in the English town of Fowey seems to have found a way in.
For the last year or so, a typically British tongue-in-cheek sign has been covering the front window of the Bookends of Fowey bookshop in Cornwall, UK. Now, following a viral tweet by BBC reporter Nick Garnett, we all got a glimpse at the genius sign.
Bookshop in Fowey, Cornwall. pic.twitter.com/lxCgaZpsIz
— Nick Garnett (@NickGarnettBBC) August 29, 2019
The joke was devised by David, who co-owns the shop with his wife Ann, and who'd prefer to be identified using his first name only.
In a world many of us can hardly recognise anymore, the absurdity of the notice sounds almost logical. It's a joke that has emerged in several iterations, perhaps most notably in this New Yorker cartoon.
We're going to need a bigger bookshelf. pic.twitter.com/dXzmGa1NyC
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) May 13, 2019
"It’s really funny because it makes Americans laugh just as much as British people," Ann, co-owner of the bookshop, told Mashable. "It's just that thing where you can still laugh in an awful situation and that was his intention – my husband is quite a joker."
Over the past few years, book sales of dystopian tales, like George Orwell's 1984, have skyrocketed. The word 'Orwellian' is now used incessantly to describe the unusual conflict between heads of state and members of the press. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, too, has become a symbol of protest for women fighting for their reproductive rights in the U.S., where restrictive abortion laws have been passed in several states.
The irony of it all is that we have had insightful fiction writers issuing warnings for us —the future generations — directing our gaze to the values and institutions that they deemed most vulnerable. And yet, today, it seems we are unwitting passengers on a slow train heading backwards.
But, as the Brits like to say, "keep calm and carry on." We might as well have a little laugh along the way with a book underarm.