Posted in Reading, Writing

Painting the Town Yellow

In this month’s Tetbury Advertiser, I’ve been revisiting one of my favourite topics: eponymous buying, inspired by the purchase of a book that shares it’s name with a local shop. 

Cover of the Yellow Lighted Bookshop bookWhat’s the connection between Tetbury and Vincent van Gogh?

No, it’s not the starry starry nights, the abundance of sunflowers (in the florists’ at least), the wonky-legged chairs in certain cafes, nor even the occasional pipe-smoking man seen wandering through town in a straw hat. It’s one of the shops – The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, named after Lewis Buzbee’s delightful book, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, which weaves together a memoir of his life as a bookseller with the history of books and bookshops.

But what about Van Gogh? I hear you cry.

Bear with me, I’m getting to that…

Buzbee derived his book’s title from a quote from the great Dutch artist, who wrote that he longed to paint “a bookshop with the front yellow and pink in the evening”.

I’m assuming Van Gogh meant as an artist, rather than as a a painter and decorator, although that tack would have earned him more in his lifetime than his canvasses ever did.  Whether he ever did it, I’ll never know. But I am very glad his ambition inspired the book’s title, because it panders to my passion for what I call eponymous buying. I’m not sure if that’s a recognised phrase, but it’s the one I use in my head to mean acquiring a product that shares the name of the place you buy it from.

Food and Drink Named After Towns

It’s easy to do with food or drink: Sancerre (the wine) in Sancerre (the French town in which it’s made) or, less romantically, Eccles cakes in Eccles. It’s a shame I don’t like cheese – I’m missing so many easy ticks there – but the roll-call of wines I can handle.

Photo of Debbie and daughter outside French wine shop
Buying Sancerre in Sancerre a few years ago (hence slightly smug expression). Looks as if we may also have been to a store called Chaussures Rouges.

Eponymous Shops

The names of products and towns are more frequently associated than the names of products and shops. You can’t buy boots in Boots, for example, and White Stuff seems to sell clothes in every colour but white. Anyone trying to buy an apple at Apple would be disappointed.

If I wasn’t such a purist about spelling, I might enjoy buying shoes in Schuh, or, at a push, macs in TK Maxx. I haven’t checked the quality of the drugs in Superdrug, but I’ll take their word for it that they’re super.  However, for a lad to go into Ladbrokes and come out as a lad, broke, would be a Pyrrhic

Arguably, some people do leave the fashion chain Fatface with a fat face, but only if they’ve gone in with one in the first place. Whoever thought that was a good fashion chain name needs a firm talking to from Top Shop. And yes, you can buy tops there.

Yellow-Lighted Victory

So I felt I had scored a rare victory when leaving The Yellow Lighted Bookshop recently with The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop under my arm, the name of the book exactly matching the name of the shop in which I’d bought it.

But I failed to find what I really needed to go with it: a good eponymous snack. Anyone care to invent a Tetbury bun? I’m sure there’s a gap in the market.

To find out more about Lewis Buzbee (great name!), click The book, by the way, is wonderful. Every booklover and every bookseller should read it. I’ll review it on my bookblog soon, and will come back here to link to my review when I’ve written it.

To find out more about the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – yes, the actual shop – click


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English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

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