Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Biblio-Mat or: How I Learned to Stopped Worrying and Love The Green Machine

Recovering from rolling in the new year, I was to meet a friend for a late lunch at the Lakeview, my favourite diner in the city. Arriving much too early from a prior engagement, I had decided to wander around the area when I remembered a most curious shop of books and images that I had walked by hundreds of times. The Monkey's Paw, it was called. Feeling I had nothing to lose but time, I walked in and proceeded to peruse the odd assortment of ancient and rare texts.

As with every bookstore I walk into, my first question was to ask if they had a hardcover copy of Slaughterhouse Five, one of my most cherished books that was near impossible to find hardbound. "I'm afraid this isn't the type of bookstore where you find what you want," the shopkeeper, Stephen, said with a grin, "but you'll find what you didn't know you were looking for."

My fears of waking up as a cockroach
have largely been unfounded.

Ominous, to be sure, but he was of course correct. No sooner than I had rounded the corner did I spy a vintage collection of Kafka's collected short stories. Twenty dollars was more than a fair price for a hardcover containing The Metamorphosis and The Penal Colony. However, my euphoria of upgrading a book on my top shelf was soon eclipsed by the discovery of a most fantastic automaton: the Biblio-Mat.

A most classy and sophisticated machine.

Tucked in the back like a secret whispered by a passing stranger was a pastel green machine that stated for two dollars it would dispense a book chosen at random. 'A mechanical celebration of serendipity', it was described. Not one to pass up on the sublime marriage of two of my favourite things, books and randomness, I popped in my two dollars without hesitation.

The machine shook. The machine rumbled. The machine whined as levers and cogs turned inside its iron belly. Finally, with a ding not unlike that of a toaster oven, it shot out a book wrapped with a band of white paper branding it a product of The Monkey's Paw. It was not a book that I would pick up, but as it was fate that brought it to me, I knew I had no choice but to read it.

After discussing the germination of the concept for this random book dispenser with the shopkeeper, I realized that this machine was truly indeed the essence of serendipity. It is a chance encounter with a book that can bring nothing but joy into your life as even if the text itself does not appeal to you, the process of obtaining it leaves a smile on your face.

Even the gift certificates are gorgeous.
With that in mind, I returned home with the resolution that I will visit the Biblio-Mat once a week and read whatever it gives me, cover to cover. I may not enjoy every one, but I will take pleasure in giving my bias opinion of each title on this blog, along with any other adventures in the book world. At the very worse, I will come out of this year a more well-read man.


  1. The Biblio-Mat is a wonderful thing and I can think of no better response to it than the one you are taking. Since I do not live in Toronto I will have to observe your good fortune through this square monocle rather than try my own luck. It is enough, and I am grateful.

  2. Thanks for the kind words! If you ever do find yourself in the city, I highly recommend checking it out. I might actually start posting about the non-Biblio-Mat books I've bought at the Moneky's Paw one of these days. You really never know what you might find and if you don't find anything that interests you, a $2 random text will always brighten your day.