The Economist had some letters in the last couple of weeks from people ruminating on terrible experiences of bookstore ignorance they had encountered: someone who asked for Dickens's A Christmas Carol and was sent over to the DVDs; someone who asked for Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and was told "If it's a book, it'll be over there"; and so on. I have encountered unhelpful bookstore assistants too, but I wasn't too ready to pile on with further stories, because I once (briefly) worked as a bookstore assistant. It was my first regular paying job, before I became a rock musician. And I still remember the day a middle-aged woman customer demanded to know if we had "Kreissoppa Tebberley" in stock.
I asked her to repeat the title, and it was quite clear she was saying Kreissoppa Tebberley. Unable even to parse it any more than phonetically, I ventured to ask what that first word was, so I could perhaps use its spelling and (for there was no web back then) find the title in question through the standard reference work Books In Print. But she looked at me as if I was an unsavory white thing that had crawled from under a rock.
"Kreiss!", she barked, more emphatically. But this didn't ring any bells with me. I probably looked like a rabbit in headlights by this point.
"Kreiss!", she shouted in my face. "Jesus Kreiss!"
The book turned out to be a book by the anti-fascist Italian doctor Carlo Levi of his period exile in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy. The people of the area used to say that Christianity had never really reached them because Jesus had not troubled to go further south than Eboli, to the north of them in Campania. He called his memoir Christ Stopped At Eboli.
I was indeed ignorant of that book, so in a sense she was right to regard me as an ignorant young puppy. But I no longer laugh at frightened young people who are unable to parse book titles barked at them by demanding middle-aged members of the literary classes. I remember Kreissoppa Tebberley, and the woman who (doubtless) went away thinking she had met a bookstore assistant who had never heard of Jesus Christ.