THINKING BOOKS

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The Independent Culture
LONDON's Golden Square, tucked behind Piccadilly Circus, has always seemed a strangely enchanted address, entirely appropriate to a new bookshop dedicated to philosophy and things of the spirit. "It's a feeling around these days that materialism has reached its limit," says spokeswoman Emanuela Ferrari Osborne, who is aiming "to make available the sacred texts of the world's great teachers at affordable prices".

Symptoms of this new age of enlightenment are not hard to find when 40 modern poets band together to rip off (erm, pay homage to) Ovid, and a Norwegian schoolteacher pens a blockbuster novelised philosophy handbook for teenagers (Sophie's World, reviewe d last week). But in libraries and bookshops up and down the land, the shelf marked "philosophy" is traditionally the dumping ground for everything from astrology to Zoroastrianism via reincarnation, creative visualisation and yoga, and Golden Square Book s is no exception. Occultism and the dreaded divination jostle for space with poetry and theology. The West End has no shortage of such establishments - Mysteries, Atlantis, and the evocatively named Watkins are all a mere astral trip away. But it's imp o ssible not to feel a sneaking regard for a venue which has hosted such engaging events as Stephen Hill's lecture, "Was Tom Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby Strangely Prefigured in Plato's Philebus?"

It would be nice to think that GSB's punters will be leafing through Pascal rather than running with the wolves or finding a sitter for their inner child - though Osborne reports on a demand for good parallel-text translations of the classics, one fears

that it would require some bold political gesture such as that made by the ancient Greek city of Elis to promote deep interest in the ways of wisdom. Elis, as the new Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (£19.99) succinctly has it, "deserves immortal fame" for passing a law which exempted all philosophers from taxation. My kinda town! 8 Golden Square Books, 16 Golden Square, London W1R 3AG (071 434 3337). Open Mon-Sat 10.30am-7pm.

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