If ever we find a site to synergise with us, it must be Trasho Biblio. Set up by Tommy McCormick, Trasho Biblio is a” small independent library based in Edinburgh with a focus on subculture and forgotten classics”. In an age of technology where reading takes place (more and more) through the joys of a Kindle, Trasho Biblio brings back the joy of feeling, hearing, and smelling books. But not just any old books. It's classic books like To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) Harper Lee, Brave New World (1932) Aldous Huxley to counterculture books like Fup (1983).
Built (initially) on Tommy McCormick's love of books and his interest in John Waters, Trasho Biblio is like the hidden gem you don't tell too many friends about: so don't tell too many people.
A bus ride and trips with-Warhol, Harper Lee, Jack Kerouac et al
Growing up, I had an on-off love affair with books. I associated reading with school. I hated it there, so I never bothered to pick up a book and read. However, in later high school I realised I was barely scraping by as an average student but needed the marks as I wanted to go to college. Being 1997 my entire class were submitting their final essays on Trainspotting (1996) and my English teacher joked that anyone choosing a different book would get marked up by examiners by helping break the monotony.
I really needed those extra marks, so I went deep and picked Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) by James Joyce. Despite it being way above my reading level something clicked in me and I loved it. I nailed my final essay and coming out with an A (and a college place to boot)! Despite the success, I felt I had missed out on incredible books through school. I spent the next few years devouring all those modern classics kept at the front of every book shop – On The Road (1957) Jack Kerouac, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) Harper Lee and more.
After a few years, I lost my love for reading as gigs, clubbing and excesses took over-I made zero time for books again. Fast forward about a decade and I got a job in Edinburgh while I was based in Glasgow. My only way to commute on my wage was by bus – a two-hour ride either way that was filled with loud phone conversations, football fans or wasted people.
I threw myself into books- I was physically there but mentally wandering through 80's New York with Warhol or living in the fantasy world of Marco Polo. That bus ride went from nearly breaking me, to the highlight of my day. I was consuming a book a week. That was in effect the genesis of Trashio Biblio.
“Without obsession, life is nothing”- John Waters
John Waters is someone I've always held in high regard, not only for his films but for his ability to be such an incredible human. Sharper wit than anyone that's ever lived, always right on with his views and of course, his impeccable taste in all things creative.
When I was trying to choose books for those bus journeys, I had no idea where to start. I had smashed through a lot of the most famous books in my late teens and after a decade hiatus had no idea what to look for when I went into a bookshop. Just slowly working my way round reading the backs to find a synopsis that hooks me or trying to figure out if the helpful booksellers have anything in common with me so I can trust their taste.
I needed guidance and that came in the form of John Waters. His music and film picks never failed me before so I entrusted my future escapism (and happiness) into his hands and as expected came up with gold. I spent a year buying and reading as many books he had publicly recommended.
While working my way through the books recommended by John Waters, I was continually adding to a long list of books I wanted to read. When I went to try and buy them, I soon discovered a chunk of them were way out of my price range, some worth hundreds of pounds, and I just hated that.
Over a few drinks one day with two friends, I was complaining about having an unachievable dream reading list that I'd need a lottery win to get access to. They then pointed out that I was sitting on a unique collection of books and maybe I should be sharing those books to raise the funds to buy those harder to find on my list. That conversation started a six-month plan that evolved into me starting Trasho Biblio.
Trasho Biblio taking us to Dream land (ers)
I like to build smaller collections within the library to give members a direction to their reading. This way they can deep dive a subject, a writer or publisher. For example, we have all 52 books from cult Scottish publisher Rebel Inc who had a focus on counterculture. Their releases had a huge influence on a whole generation of Scottish folk and still hold their weight today. You'll find Fup (1983) by Jim Dodge, several novels from Barry Gifford and personal favourite Richard Brautigan. They stopped publishing around 2001 but I managed to collect around ninety-percent of the collection by scavenging through Scottish charity shops over 12 months.
We also have a growing collection around Andy Warhol which is still in its infancy. We have around 20 books either about the man himself or those connected to his factory gang, from Isabelle Collin Dufresne's autobiography (professionally known as Ultra-Violet) to the novels of fellow pop artist Rosalyn Drexler. Even if you're reading this saying you hate Warhol, you'll find a book to enjoy in this collection as not all his peers kept up their devotion to him.
As mentioned previously, the biggest collection and the foundation of the library are those books that John Waters has publicly recommended and it's also when we start to find the real gems in the collection for any of his fans. We have Bad Popes (1969) by E.R. Chamberlain, a detailed history of early leaders of the Catholic Church whose fucked up lives make Game of Thrones look like kids tv.
For me, one of the most important discoveries in the Waters collection is the writing of Cookie Mueller. A long-time member of Waters' Dreamlanders gang and starred in many of his most famous films and that was the extent of my knowledge. However, being introduced to her writing was a revelation for me and I completely devoured as much of her writing as possible. Sadly, a lot of her work is now un-published but the library helped me have the budget to snag a rare copy of the late 90's release Ask Dr. Mueller (1997) which is a collection of her books, her art reviews for Details magazine and her advice column for NYC's East Village Eye.
You want to walk with John Waters too?
If you head over to our website you can sign up to become a member and borrow books from the library. We try and keep the cost as low as possible to make sure as many people as possible have access. Even if you don't fancy joining, we always entertain book chats or suggestions so do feel free to get in touch . We are a proud DIY project and as such will also be keen to team up with any fellow creative projects.