Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Aftermath...(and opinions)

Last night we were selling books at the launch party for Jimmy Carr & Lucy Greeves (' put the apostrophe where it belongs grammar gurus!) new book The Naked Jape.

A swanky underground place with a free bar, full of casually dressed media types - you know the scene. Nobody is wearing shoes - they're Jimmy Choos darling! There were canapes too but since I was wearing green corduroy trousers and a pair of muddy walking boots the staff kept bypassing me with their trays of yummy titbits. What's a man to do? A steady diet of champagne and Japanese lager is a recipe for one thing only. Yup. I did it again and TOTALLY failed to impress the rich and famous...

...First there was the attractive blonde who marched over, dazzled me with her smile and said "Hi, I'm Lucy"

"Hi, I'm Matthew" I said and shook her hand. Then she left.

Lucy? Who the fu*k is Lucy? Maybe she works for Penguin. Amazing the way these people seem to expect you to know who they are I thought to myself. About an hour later it struck me. Oh THAT Lucy, the one who wrote the book I'm selling...DOH.

Then there was the woman who said "Do I really have to buy one of these? Can't I just walk off with one?"

"You could steal a book, but then I'd have to arrest you and beat you up!" says the foot in mouth oaf. It was (Adam later informed me) Shazia Mirza, the rather famous comedian.

As for Jimmy I thought he was a good bloke. He came over and said hello. Later I saw him coming out of the bogs and he said "Alright mate". When I got home (Adam was driving, don't worry - he came and rescued me later) I turned on the telly - and there was Jimmy.

Lifestyles of the rich and famous eh? (Yawn)

In a separate incident the shop was stormed by artists on Sunday. They put art in the windows and spread art bookmarks throughout the shop. If you come in while the exhibition is running (Bookmarked - until 25th November) you will find bookmarks dotted around the shelves like colourful fungus.

As ever, we like to do things a little differently. Rather than a Halloween window we have art. Not a commercial decision - an artistic one.

BTW the "private" view is tonight. Everyone is welcome though. Guess what? There will be a free bar...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Art Attack!

The shop was stormed by artists on Sunday.

The residue of their action can be seen over the next month or so...

Bookmarked is an interactive exhibition where artists designed and made bookmarks that are now spread in fungus fashion through our stock. There are a huge variety of bookmarks made from all sorts of materials. Some are discreet, hidden within the pages while others burst forth like mutant flowers and scramble down the spines...

Some are metal, some fabric, some paper - all are interesting and worth hunting down.

The "private" view is on Tuesday at 7pm but everyone is welcome to attend.

Yeah, I know, we're at it again. Boldly going where no sensible bookshop would ever go! But what's the point of having yr own shop if you can't do wacky things in it from time to time?

Friday, October 27, 2006

My new favourite website

I won't tell you where I come suffice to stay it's on the right side of the scale.

Guilty Pleasures part 364

Went to see The Devil Wears Prada last night and enjoyed it way more than I should probably admit to. Sometimes when you sit down to a film and after the first 20 seconds you know, you just KNOW that it's going to be a totally brilliant couple of hours, well this is one of those.

Came in this morning and picked the book off the shelf and started flicking through it but it's just not a patch on the movie. Or, rather, Meryl Streep so totally owns the role of Miranda Priestly that it's impossible to read the book without thinking of her. When there's no room left for your imagination to create your own image of a character then there is no point reading the book.

And speaking of book/film adaptations, a customer came in this morning asking for a copy of The Thin Red Line by James Jones after recently seeing the movie. It's out of print in this country. How did that happen? Publishers huh? Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Finn discovers Finnland

It was quiet, the dead of night. Finn lay in his cot and chatted to Miffy. He was just saying how difficult he found this whole walking/balancing thing when Miffy suggested he might like to try flying instead.

What a good idea!

Before long they were speeding through the skies. Miffy kept urging Finn to go higher and so he did. Up and up and up, through the clouds and into space...

Space was great fun. You could go even faster in space where there was no air or gravity to hold you back. But there was all sorts of junk floating about, a great ring of human dirt left by astronauts and cosmonauts on their previous visits.

Finn looked at Miffy. Was she smiling? Oh...so that was it. Finn grabbed Miffy by the feet and she opened that enigmatic x mouth of hers.

Miffy the space hoover! (Or Dyson!)

Finn guided Miffy around the earth, hoovering up all the space junk. Along the way they ate a couple of defense satellites, a surprising number of spy satellites and the odd piece of "star wars" missile gear. They also ate the Sky TV satellites but left all those that were there for research purposes. First orbit they left those that predicted the weather but then Miffy ate them too.

Finn realised he was losing control. Miffy was insatiable. The tiny x was now a huge X - almost as big as dad's gob when he was trying to fit a fork of sausage, egg, beans and bacon into it. And they were heading for the Moon!

Oh blimey, what started out as fun was now looking rather dangerous. If Miffy ate the moon planet earth was in real trouble and Finn was more into saving the world than destroying it. Oh arse. A promising little life so far but now Finn was going to be responsible for the end of the world. His frown spread from the forehead to the rest of his face. He began to cry.

But what's this? Here's dad. And there's Miffy, normal mouth - an inscrutable x.

"Had a bad dream?" asked dad.

Ohhh....thought Finn...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Christie Malry's Own Case Histories

Do you ever find clues, a sort of forensic trail in a novel which leads you to suspect what the author might have been reading when (s)he wrote it?

Obviously, I have an example.

I've just started reading Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson, and the book I read before that was Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry by BS Johnson - two books with little if any apparent similarity except that they are both good. Anyway, early on in the Atkinson book, we meet a character whose brother-in-law was a polar explorer, and I thought, hmm. Haven't I just read a book where the main character's father was a polar explorer? Oh yes, it was Christie Malry. Anyway, not a particularly interesting coincidence, so I didn't dwell on it and moved on. Then, only a few pages later in the Atkinson, I came across this: "Sometimes it seemed to him as if the entire world consisted of one accounting sheet - lost on one side, found on the other." Which really made me stop, because that's the basis of the entire plot of Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (the double-entry in question refering to accountancy, and not to something you might have to search for on more dubiously-oriented websites.)

I don't think it's plagiarism and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I just find it interesting (assuming that was the book she was reading, and not just two coincidences in a row) how little bits of the writer's real world can end up in their fiction.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sweet Smell of Success

The movie was on tv this morning at 8.30 in the a.m which gave me just enough time to watch it before opening the shop and I'd forgotten just what a heartstoppingly brilliantly cool and vicious film it was. Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster were never better and New York never looked so damned noir. As Time Out says 'the dark streets gleam with the sweat of fear'. And the writing is right out of the top drawer

'That syrup you're spilling is for pancakes, Sidney, NOT J.J.Hunsecker...'

Rent, buy, whatever. Genius.

The Book Business by Jason Epstein

We've been talking a lot about the coming revolution - digitisation and Print on Demand. But we're just a couple of chancers too used to speaking our minds to be employed by anybody else - as various established trade figures have suggested recently - what do we know? (And why don't they shut up!)

Jason Epstein founded Anchor Books, cofounded the New York Review of Books and created the Library of America (beautiful HB US classics imprint).

He knows what he's talking about and whaddayouknow - he agrees with us!

"It is less clear how new technologies will transform retail bookselling as the chains in their oversaturated marketplace face competition from Internet booksellers and the prospect of limitless virtual inventories available on demand in electronic or printed form at random locations. These factors have already discouraged investment in the retail chains, whose share prices have stagnated at low levels. Nonetheless, a civilisation without retail booksellers is unimaginable. Like shrines and other sacred meeting places, bookstores are essential artifacts of human nature. The feel of a book taken from the shelf and held in the hand is a magical experience, linking writer to reader. But to compete with the World Wide Web, bookstores of the future will be different from the mass-oriented superstores that now dominate the retail marketplace. Tomorrow's stores will have to be what the Web cannot be: tangible, intimate, and local; communal shrines, perhaps with coffee bars offering pleasure and wisdom in the company of others who share one's interests, where the book one wants can always be found and surprises and temptations spring from every shelf."

I say again - if you're out there with the technology we'd love to help develop and test it in a retail setting...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Jesus: I Am Your Father

Was just doing a web search for an audio version of the Bible for one of our cutomers, and guess what: you can get the Bible read by James Earl Jones - the voice of Darth Vader! How brilliant is that? I don't know if he does the helmet-breathing ("In the beginning - wheeze wheeze - there was the Word") but either way those booming tones are really going to add to the drama of the story. I am ridiculously excited about this. Sign me up, God!

A mesage from Fifi...(who puts the "she" in coffee)

Lower Marsh has a reputation.

These are the opening lines of Simon Winchester's excellent Surgeon of Crowthorne.

"In Victorian London, even in a place as louche and notoriously crime-ridden as the Lambeth Marsh, the sound of a gun-shot was a rare event indeed."

But everything changes and these days Lower Marsh is a bit of a cultural hotspot - no really!

Apart from C & P there are three other bookshops, a flute shop, two retro clothing places and a kind of rubber fetish place...

...and then there's Scooterworks!

Scooterworks keeps me alive - and I don't have a Vespa or scooter of any sort. They do coffee you see and I'm in there at least twice a day for my fix.

But because this is Lower Marsh they don't just fix scooters and make coffee, they have poetry nights as well.

Details of their latest event are here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The future's lookin' good

Bryan Appleyard has written a piece on the future of publishing and bookshops. We've been having very similar thoughts here for a while now. Our basement is the perfect size for a print on demand machine which would mean stock holding wouldn't be a problem. Every book ever published would effectively be In Print and available at Crockatt & Powell. Exciting, huh?

I disagree with Appleyard in one area. There will still be a demand for beautifully produced editions and art books amongst others that conveniently our shop is the perfect size and style to sell. And there will still be a demand for some casual browsing of carefully chosen titles. Again, i think we've got that area covered too.

I do wonder how the 20,000 sq ft book retailers are going to fare but here at C&P we can't wait.

Fahrenheit 666

Thanks to Raf for drawing my attention to this. How can this not be a spoof? How? There is so much to love / hate / crawl whimpering into an underground bunker about this piece, but may I draw your particular attention to:

"It's just all kinds of filth," said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read "Fahrenheit 451."


He looked through the book and found the following things wrong with the book: discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, "dirty talk," references to the Bible and using God's name in vain.


Alton Verm's request to ban "Fahrenheit 451" came during the 25th annual Banned Books Week. He and Hines said the request to ban "Fahrenheit 451," a book about book burning, during Banned Books Weeks is a coincidence.

and... But no, I've been persuaded. Sorry, must go. I have to burn down half the shop now. After all, "If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I like it when other people think the same way we do

Seth Godin is a marketer and author and entrepeneur.

This is a recent post on his blog:


I just got an angry note from Anna in the Midwest. She read one of my books, got the coupon for unlimited free consulting by email and decided to cash it in. She sent me a note asking me to persuade her bosses that the best way to grow their resort was to lower prices.
When I responded that perhaps she ought to consider raising prices and using the extra money to create a remarkable experience, she got really angry with me. Of course, I refunded her consulting fee. Actually gave her three times back what she paid...
Here's what I think: Cheaper is the last refuge of the person who's not a very good marketer. Cheaper is easy and cheaper is fast and cheaper is linear and cheaper is easy to do properly, at least at first. But cheaper doesn't spread the word (unless you are much cheaper, but to be much cheaper, you need to be organized from the ground up, like Walmart or JetBlue, to be cheaper). They are, you're not.
Cheaper is a short term hit, not a long term advantage. Cheaper doesn't create loyalty, because the other guy can always figure out how to be cheaper still, at least in the short run.
Even free isn't cheap enough to win in the long run. Not if other people can figure out how to match what you've got.
So, if you can't be cheaper, be better.

I think I'm going to frame this and stick it above the desk in the office here at C&P towers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Well we've decked the halls with boughs of holly, there's fake snow all over the shop and adam has his santa hat on...

...IT'S CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, no...not exactly.

But the season of bad taste and chronic digestive difficulties is fast approaching. The trade is buzzing. Who will top the charts? Will it be Billie or Jamie or that heathan Dawkins? What will be the book bursting stockings all round the country this year? Will it have sh*t in the title? Will it be about wasps or penguins or bad spelling?

At C & P we hate christmas with a passion.

Er, no we don't. Not really.

But surely Christmas doesn't have to be all about celebrities and their boring little lives.

At C & P we will be filling stockings, but with the kind of books you might in fact want to read or receive as gifts.

What are they? OOOOOHHH NOOOOO those are trade secrets too important to tell. Come down the loo and have a look.

Or wait for our catalogue. With luck we will have it sorted in time!

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Digested Booker Digested

We had that John Crace in the back of our shop last night. A funnier and more cynical man I am yet to meet. He didn't so much digest the Booker list for us as chew it up and spit it out zingingly into a silver spittoon. It was quite brilliant. If you want to read his regurgitated Booker you can find it here but if I were you I'd wait til next Thursday at 3pm and listen to it on Resonance FM 104.4, where you will have the benefit not only of John's deadpan tones reading the short-shortlist, but also of the question and answer session at the end where certain members of the audience got rowdy and started answering the questions instead of the journalist. You also get to hear me laughing like a drain which I fear will be amplified many times as I was wearing a microphone. It's good stuff...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Going Psychic (or just settling in?)

Something strange happens to me. I think to myself, walking through Southwark into Lambeth for work in the morning, of a person; someone I've spoken to in the shop several times before. I won't have seen them for a while. I experience an agonised moment - have I somehow offended so - and - so - will they ever come back?

And then they come into the shop. We chat. They buy some books.

Heil Football!

All the great footballing national sides, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Hungary, have all at some point in their history been a Fascist military dictatorship. Even Croatia punching above it's weight favoured the Nazi's. There must be something about surrendering the individual to the mass that lends these teams their cohesive strength.

This makes me feel much better about England being shit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Starve a cold, feed a fever

Well, no solids passed these lips last night. However, a few solids may exit in the course of the day... if you know what I mean.

Who won again?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's a miracle

I'm not a religious man but extraordinarily my near life-threatening illness has cleared up enough for me to blag my way into the Booker parties tonight.

Praise the Lord!

No.1 in an occasional series on the disadvantages of running your own shop

No sick days.

In times gone by a night full of attempts to unblock ears, nose and throat, failing miserably each time followed by attempts to stem the flow from ears, nose and throat, failing equally miserably each time would have ended in a swift phone call to my place of employment begging impending death as the reason for not turning up and resulted in a day involving the sofa, a blanket and lots of television.


It's a small price to pay...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Everything Happens Very Quickly

A week of events and parties...

Tuesday sees a night of poetry at Crockatt & Powell.

Hylda Sims and Nancy Mattson will be reading (and Hylda singing) poems from their new books Sayling the Babel (Hearing Eye) and Writing with Mercury (Flambard)

All are welcome - admission is £3.

The Booker Prize Winner will also be announced at 10pm on Tuesday. We will be rushing across the bridge to SOHO where we (Adam, I and our "HOT" author Ms Phillips) hope to crash a number of Booker parties where we will "wreck it up" in true C & P style...

By Thursday we hope to have recovered enough to host an event with John Crace author of the Digested Read column in the Guardian. He is launching his new book (The Digested Read Vol 2) but on the night will be digesting the Booker shortlist - lots of literary laughs to be had I'm sure.

So there we go - a lot happening at C & P as usual.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

We're becoming telepathic.

Matthew and I are writing about the same thing at the same time and posting within minutes of each other. (See below) I think we need to spend more time apart...

Oh.My.God. Pt 2

This from the Guardian today on one of our competitors:

'All the talk is of a new, lighter look for its shops, currently being trialled in Manchester's Arndale Centre. There are colourful fittings and modish photographic signs with slogans such as "talk to us" and "happy to help". The traditional gold fascia has been ditched in favour of black, lower-case lettering on a white shopfront. Categories have been rearranged into "shopping zones" such as "home and lifestyle" and "arts and entertainment". Meanwhile, **********'* is experimenting with a supermarket-style loyalty card scheme, and shop staff will have to wear uniforms from next year.'

Uniforms, huh? Matthew and I are really going to have up our sartorial game then aren't we? I'm thinking of matching corduroy and leather patches. No, too musty. Baseball caps and dungarees? Too fast food. Straw Boaters and stripy trousers? Too Henley. Erm, Bow ties and bespoke suits? Getting there. Jeans and t-shirt? Too much like that already. Oh bloody hell, we're doomed.

And speaking of Shopping Zones and Lifestyle I see Sainsbury's are shifting Jamie Oliver's new book for £12.99. Cover price, £26. We can't even buy it from Penguin for £12.99. Oh well, I guess that one won't make our christmas catalogue.

Do you care what people wear?

There is a book that all who are following the debate over Muslim dress might be interested to read - Minaret by Leila Aboulela. I am a great believer in fiction and think reading a novel can be an extremely good way of understanding the internal lives of other people. This novel is narrated by a muslim woman who chooses to wear the veil and lives in London. I will comment no further - just urge people to read it if this is an issue that interests/concerns them.

On a related note I would like to announce that Crockatt & Powell, in line with our policy of keeping a close eye on the actions of our competitors, will be introducing a staff uniform in the near future.

Matthew will continue to wear his "lucky bookselling shoes" as, apart from having to amputate his feet to take them off (he fears the sky may fall and crush the bookshop if he is parted from them) they are in fact rather smart. His uniform will also consist of a shirt on most occasions, with baby sick an optional accessory. The practice of wearing odd socks will also continue as it has been deemed impossible for him to get his morning routine organised to the point where two socks of a similar appearance might be found in his sock draw at any one time. A sweater with T-shirt might also be seen on days when shirts are all "in the wash".

Adam will be allowed to wear what he likes at all times as to attempt to get him to do anything he does not want to do are likely to be met with a series of four letter words followed by "off".

As for Marie, she is a woman - I'm sure we are all aware of the dangers of men telling women what they should wear by now, so she too can do what she likes. (The idea that we have ever had any influence over Ms "famous" Phillips is a laugh - have you met her?)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oh. My. God.

I think I need to go and lie down. In a cave. Somewhere away from the coming apocalypse.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's Cold!


I love it when it's cold.

In the summer I find the least movement leaves me sweaty and exhausted. I turn into a kind of sloth.

Autumn, Winter - I love it.

The chill in the air over the last few days has led to my annual transformation. Suddenly I feel full of energy. I'm walking everywhere very fast again.

Hooray for Cold! You can keep your beaches and sun loungers. Give me a blast of windy rain in the face over a week of sunshine any time...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Radio Crockatt & Powell

Next Thursday at 3pm sees the start of our new weekly series on London cultural radio station Resonance FM. You can find it at 104.4 FM or listen online by following the link in this post or on our sidebar. We'll be broadcasting weekly for about 3 months (not inculding October 12th, when we take a break to allow transmission of the Frieze Art Fair). The first episode is last week's excellent live event with Benjamin Markovits, and future guests include Louise Welsh, Tom McCarthy, Mary Contini and Zadie Smith. If you fancy taking part, either as an audience member or as an author, see our website www.crockattpowell.com.