Carrer de Quart, which grows out of Carrer dels Cavallers in central Valencia, is the kind of street where you are bound to find yourself at some point. Whether you go there because you feel the gluttonous urge to eat the best paella in town or are simply lost having just been spewed out of the decadent insanity that is Cafe de las Horas, is immaterial. But you will be there, and by being there, you are most likely to bump into El Doctor Sax and ask yourself this question: should I go in?
And, indeed, should you? The simple answer is - not if you have to ask.
El Doctor Sax is not even a bookstore. I'm guessing it's a state of someone's subconscious but you can't be too certain. The place is a delightful hobbit-hole cluttered with imaginative postcards, random books, deranged stationary, quirky T-shirts, denim handbags, one-euro DVDs and Christ knows what else. In fact, I believe Richard Burton would thus describe 'the order of Martha's mind'.
But random books can be random in a random way. Here, the incidental nature of the bookshelves is not just insane - it is intriguing. There is no sense in a volume of French poetry in the Spanish language lying side by side with a rare Patti Smith biography, but then again - maybe there shouldn't be any sense, or alphabetical order, or a clear intention of what book you are going to end up with. After all, there's a stylish cover featuring Roman Polanski that you cannot resist. It might be in German, but should that really stop you?
It's a cramped space, and you can hardly see a Frodo Baggins hiding under the barrage of accidental paraphernalia. He is supposed to be in charge - if he even exists. You are dizzy and you almost can't breathe from the sheer possibility of finding the one novel that has always eluded you. You feel that El Doctor Sax is a mess but the only place in the world where you could stumble upon some obscure classic you have to improvise to buy. And face it - you are simply dying to buy it. There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more.
Going back into the street is a joy, too, as your sense of wonder oozes into the disjointed groups of people hurrying towards the inevitable Canela restaurant. You are slightly drunk from the odd experience, slightly awestruck. You still don't know what it was, though it does feel like an oxygen shot in the midst of a stuffy season.
And then, seconds later, you bump into the Sex Place which is right next to El Doctor Sax. But you are rushing to Plaza de la Virgen and so you are going past it to avoid that all-important question: should you go in?
Because that's a yes - if you have to ask.