Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas (Or - You Keep Your Musak to Yourself! Would You Like A Chocoloate?)

So another year ends...

Darn, I had a great "the year at C & P" thing written but the dog went and ate it. I don't have a dog you say! Well how do you know? Ok, the dog from next door ate it. Alright then, I thought about it for a few secs then decided it was a lame idea. Or I just couldn't remember all the cool things that have happened this year. Or the X-Mas port drinking is taking a toll. Or something...

A bonkers year screeches to a Christmas frenzied end. (Adam is already safe in a Muslim country where Christmas isn't celebrated and I'm desperate to close but last minute shoppers are keeping me busy so I can't.)

All that remains to say is Merry Christmas and thanks to all the brilliant people who visited C & P this year. We love you all.

Next year we open a new shop. Or C & P implodes. Watch this space. Whatever happens, it won't be dull...

PS If you fancy a job and want to help us create what we hope will be one of the most dynamic and exciting bookshops in London - come and sing us a song in January.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

On my hols

What can I tell you about Milan airport?

All the women I saw in Milan airport this afternoon were having a really, really, REALLY good hair day. And I mean all of them.

What can I tell you about Doha International airport?

Yes, there's lots of 'crazy' muslim women in head to toe black, except these muslim chicks have their Abiyas fringed with a Burberry check and a gold brocade that barely covers their Manohlos ringed with slincky anckle bracelets. They meet your look with the most thinly veiled contempt I have hitherto encountered - ever - and they are all wearing enough eyeliner to tarmac a small B road across the yorkshire moors.

All in all, one prejudice confirmed and one prejudice firmly rebuked. Result.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thanks again Marie...

Not content with crediting Adam and I with quotes that were in fact penned by Marie (the TLS - see below) we are now credited with publishing her book!

According to the Time Gods Behaving Badly was published by Crockatt & Powell. (Scroll right down.)

We wish! I was probably the first person to offer to publish Gods but, luckily for her, Marie rejected the offer and went with an internationally renowned publisher instead...

Friday, December 21, 2007

The C&P Christmas party c.1890

With thanks to Michael Cimino and surely the most underrated movie of all time. I haven't decided if it's me or Matthew on violin or more likely Charlie down the road. (Thanks for the beautiful pic Charlie)

All I know is, I'm the one with Isabelle Huppert and if Jeff Bridges is in it, it must be brilliant.



Thank you customers of 2007. See you in the new year and keep on rollin'...

Blog In TLS

Hmmm small. But I think if you click on it might help...Of course we are credited with a line that was penned by C & P SUPERAUTHOR Marie Phillips!

Matthew Spots Celeb Shocker!

Alan Rickman was in shopping this morning (with his dog).

I recognised him even though he was sporting the most extraordinary moustache I have ever seen...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The landlord and the agent

Just came to check us out. I think we passed. Mk 2 is full steam ahead.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Italian feed...

...just crashed. Hmm.

League Cup quarter final

Just watching the Arsenal, Blackburn Carling cup quarter final through an internet feed. The commentary is in Italian. Why would the Italians suddenly be interested in a crappy second rate english competition? And what if it goes to penalties?? Stoopidohhhhhhhhhhh!

ps 'TOP SECRET' FAO: Don Fabio - Robbi Savaggio es multo bene!

Plenty more fish in the sea

So, the Dostoevsky reading, folky guitar strumming former supermodel has hooked up with Nicholas Sarkozy. Damn, if only I'd known she was single. I like Dostoevsky, folky guitar and supermodels, I'm sure we'd get along like a house on fire.

Unfortunately, I'm two years her junior and judging by her former lovers Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Donald Trump and now her new beau I'd say she has some 'daddy' issues. So, I guess it wouldn't work out. Would have been fun while it lasted though.

fzzztrkkkptzzkksstrkkprsssstt...

Is that the distant sound of frazzled booksellers I hear...

Roll on monday. But in the mean time, will sodding dhl get their arse into gear and deliver the two remaining boxes we should have had today, you know, the ones with all the customer orders in you tossers. It's not like christmas is a surprise to anyone, is it?

'Hey, it's christmas time. Do you think we need to lay on more vans?'

'Nah, she'll be fine mate.'

Monday, December 17, 2007

Proof I Was Not Hallucinating...


That's my right eye (the red one with glasses). That's also Toby and his new mate Jimmy Bullard - for all you non-footie types can you guess which one is the footballer?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's A Long Story...




But after losing a rubbish football match to a last miute penalty we
somehow managed to bump into Jimmy Bullard, Mark Pembridge and Alan
Brazil (!) in a pub in Putney...

Happy Birthday Toby!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

YES!! They get it! They really get it!

Two american tourists come to the till to make a purchase:

'Really lovely bookstore you have here.'

'Thank you.'

'It's like a Waterstone's where you've taken out all the rubbish.'

(Dances a little jig inside)

'That was the idea!'

Friday, December 14, 2007

The C&P recruiting policy for shop two

WE WAN' BITCHES WID GONS! BIG, BIG GONS!!

This just cracked me up

Steve Bell on Murdoch's son James taking over...


(If there are any copyright issues, leave a comment and I'll remove the post - even though it's pretty good advertising if you ask me. Find Steve Bell in The Guardian newspaper. Get your copy TODAY)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

To blog or not to blog

This blog, for me, is like an invisible friend. Somebody I can talk to when nobody is listening or watching and often as juvenile as the 5 year old me with my REAL invisible friend (and 'explains' the through-the-night ramblings that occasionally appear) and as such is unbelievably unprofessional.

Which makes it very shocking when someone comes into the shop and mentions something they've read here. 'I'm sorry, that's between me and ******. Who the hell are you?'

But from next year we're steppin' up. I don't think, from experience, our new chelsea customers will appreciate obvious drunkenness, rudeness, swearingness and stoopidity. So what to do? We've got 12 days before we close for 2 weeks. C&P fire up again from the 7th of january. Expect a new, mature style that will deal with serious business issues as befits serious business men (that's us, by the way). Expect a bookselling version of the Economist. Expect dry-arsed analysis of e-book market trends and the future of digitisation in the publishing industry. Expect C&P to be the first port of call for comment on the ground-breaking trends in the field of modernist literature...

...but until christmas we'll try and slip in as many knob jokes as is humanly possible. Then it's hasta la vista 'blog-as-we-know-it' and bienvenue! brave new world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Crockatt & Powell Go Posh

Well, we were posh from the start really...Sure Waterloo will catch up with us eventually.

As soon as the news broke Pan was closing Adam and I (who both used to work there) got busy. We were looking at premises two days later and made an offer by the end of the week. Now the offer has been accepted and we go to the legals. Since both parties are keen to do a deal I don't anticipate too many problems.

It will be a massive step up - Division two to Premiership in a single leap - and it remains to be seen if we can cope with staff...(The only person we've tried so far ended up a bestselling author!)

But C & P one was a mental risk and just about everyone said we would fail, yet two years on we're not only still here but profitable too. We are 100% sure we can make a go of it on the Fulham Road. But talk is so cheap - it's time for some action...

What have we gone and done now?!

We've agreed the heads of terms and the lawyers are doing their thing. Mid-february next year, fingers-crossed, C&P Mk 2. A small but perfectly formed shop in SW10 not too far away from the soon to close Pan Bookshop. (Over the road actually)

Crockatt & Powell go posh. You have been warned...

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's official

I am now too old to stay up all night. Baaaad idea.

At least Christmas has arrived in the shop.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

And it was thus

Still, worth staying up to see a display of boxing brilliance from Mayweather. Best pound for pound fighter? Definitely.

round whatever

Floyd's a better boxer by some distance. Game over. Sorry Ricky.

round 5

I think Ricky has to knock him out to win. No more posts until sun-up.

round 4

Mayweather's good.

round 3

It's grubby and it's brutal but it's bloody brilliant.

round 2

wow

Round 1

Ridiculously exciting.

C'lebs

Wesley Snipes, Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Brad & Angelina, Denzel... DAVID BECKHAM!!!!!!!! BECKHAM, BECKHAM, BECKHAM!!!!!!!!!.

Chinese sense of celebdom...

Not yet....

But I am enjoying trying to tune into something (a language) completely unintelligible due to my own complacency and general ignorance...

This bastard fight won't be starting before five atleast. I could have gone to bed early and woke up... Oops, as I write, here it is!

And we're on!

It's all Chinese to me

No English commentary. No matter. I've had a crash course in Chinese over the last two hours and I'm stone cold ready for the big fight.

Tick tock

Well, I can barely think of a dozen reasons why not to stay up until four in the morning.

I want some blood...

Shouldn't I be mentioning books some more? Being a bookseller blog an' that.

It's christmas! Buy more books!

Blimey, it's getting late

Much like tonights boxers I'm having to mine reserves of energy hitherto untapped. But it's all good, I've put in the training and my body is in peak physical condition for finishing off this wine box and then hitting the single malt. It's like the alcohol Olympics and I'm a fucking gold medallist in all but name only.

But the Chinese dudes sound very reasonable. I guess it's midday on the other side of the world. Who'd of thunk that Las Vegas and Beijing would have entered into such a synergistic relationship?

Round two

My Chinese friends are distinctly unimpressed by the second bout and I can't blame them. These fighters may be hitting each other but they have the punching power of an overgrown kindergartner.

And it is reminding me, obliquely, of the new gym I've joined. I go for the lovely swimming pool but the changing room is full of 'rippled' narcissists who's physique may resemble that of the championship fighters on display tonight but the only 'sparring' these weirdos entertain is with their own reflection in the numerous mirrors that saturate the place.

First Bout over

Couple of kids barely out of school. Unfortunately one of them has a glass chin. Game over. My inscrutable Chinese chums didn't even change their tone. No excitement. But it looked like it hurt...

It works!

It's only half two but the feed is working. We're on the underbill. Trouble is, it's in Chinese... Hopefully closer to kick off I can pick up some english channels. Christ I love the internet.

However, these Chinese dudes sound like they know what they're talkin' 'bout.

Quarter of the way through the Clough book... Recommended.

In my excitement...

...at waiting for the prospect of some seriously controlled violence, I'd forgotten I'd written a blog post for The Bookseller magazine. Here it is. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense but it was written quickly and without much thought.

In other words, the PERFECT blog post.

What am I doing?

It's almost one in the morning on a saturday night. I'm home alone and it's only 3 hours to go before the Hatton/Mayweather fight. I've got no telly but I've found a website showing it for free and Yes, I am going to stay up all night.

I've got a tube of minstrels, a box of wine, bbc radio listen again and a book on Brian Clough (William Hill Sports Book of the Year). What could go wrong...

...my free website crashing. I just know it's a 50/50 call. But it's worth it. Nothing like watching two athletes at the peak of their physical abilities trying to beat the shit out of each other.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cry-baby

Scott Pack from our near neighbours The Friday Project has an occasional piece on his blog of Songs That Make Me Cry.

Here's my nomination...



'Have mercy, Lord my god,
Let Thou my tears persuade Thee.
Look on me, how my heart doth
Weep for thee bitterly.'

I am not a religious man but you cannot deny the sublime beauty of art inspired by religious devotion. Luckily, there's no one in the shop just now...

Here's Jonathan Miller on this piece:

"There are many pieces that surprise and jump me and I never know what will get me, except one that always gets me, even if I prepare myself to it, or at least trying to resist it, to hide myself, not to ashamed myself of sobbing, and that's the 'Erbarme dich'. I don't know why it always gets me. Every time I even think about it tears start in my eyes, even now, and I don 't know what it is… It is about what it expresses. This moment of knowing, that you have forgotten that somebody said something about what you are going to do, that he will betray you. You have gone through all this dark horrible night, as was predicted. You did it, it is all done, and you only ask for some forgiveness. But the music in which it is expressed, that violin… And it does not matter if you are atheist or a Jew, by being an educated member of the eastern European culture. This is the most famous story. It is in your blood in a way that no other story is. It happens to be the most intense story of them all. You can read it again and again and again and it is never fails as a piece of drama. A priest might say that it has everlasting truth, and that this truth is religious, and you accede to it despite the resisting to the religious belief within you. It is not like that at all. It is something that is permanently there, whether you believe it or not, and that is that we are here to suffer and our designation is to die."

Yup.

God's holy trousers

Look away if easily shocked. It's a cruel, cruel world.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

That German Bookshop

I am still trying to come to terms with the extraordinary difference between bookshops in Munich and London that I witnessed at the weekend and mentioned in the post below. What is it? Why is it that there should be so many more people in one than the other?

To start to answer the question one important yet stark difference between the two should be mentioned. In Munich, no offers. None. No three for two. No half price. No buy one get one half price. No £8 off. No £4 off. No displays in the front of house with This Months's Book of the Month. Everything is Cover Price.

So why, when the chains are convincing everyone that all these spectacular offers bring customers into the shop and have driven sales for the last ten years, do we get a bookshop in Munich with three times the custom a Hatchards or Borders would get but with no offers? Does this mean that if High street stores here stopped discounting there would be no customers?

Matthew and I were discussing this and we decided it was a question of value. I know it's going to sound elitist and I know there's going to be publishers and chain sellers exclaiming just how much they all love books. I'm sure there are lots who genuinely do. But I don't think you can escape the fact that publishers and booksellers have devalued books in the last ten years in this country. By their endless discounting and offers they have put the book in the same catagory as tins of beans and fish fingers in the mind of the public. Books are now things to be bought on the cheap and the great tragedy is that the process cannot be reversed. They have lost their aura, as Walter Benjamin would call it and have just become another boring bit of consumer tat.

Books are precious and bookselling should be regarded seriously and preciously. Another interesting fact about German bookselling is that you have to train for 4 years to become one, much like a librarian. It's a proper career to be taken seriously and compared to Waterstone's recent decision to change their employment structure that now makes it increasingly difficult to move out of the lowest wage scale is incredibly telling about the state bookselling has been allowed to descend to in this country.

That's odd


The new Manchester University Press catalogue came in the post today. It has wonderful books in it like Eleventh-Century German, The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class, British Civilian Internees in Germany and Democratising Coservative Leadership Selection. All fine and worthy topics.

But I do wonder why they chose a picture of a lingerie-clad woman with her tits nearly falling out for their cover? Odd. I know that on page 27 of the catalogue is a book on the french director Francois Ozon and that the picture is a still from his film 5x2 but the pic isn't on the cover of that book. So why does it grace the cover of the catalogue? Like I say, odd.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Knew One Way Or The Other Somehow I'd Wind Up Seeing Her That Night



Turn up the volume - pop it to full screeen - sit back and BOOOOOOGGGGEEEEEEEE

Monday, November 26, 2007

Munchen

Gezundheit! Just back from a weekend in Munich. Beer, meat, dumplings, cabbage. MMMMMMmmmMMmMMmmmmmm. And levels of public drunkenness not partaken of by me for quite some time but they did keep coming over with them bloody steins and the oompah band was too much fun to even consider going back to the flat. Loads of great people getting really drunk in a very friendly way - brilliant.

And yet... Munich is definitely one of the calmest, most attractive and just plain agreeable cities I've ever been. Clean, modern and old in wonderful harmony and with just the right amount of space between buildings to make it a very human-scale place. Of course the trains work and are smooth and there seems to be a place for everything and everything in its place and it's all just really, really NICE.

And a bookshop like none I have ever seen. Five stories and more people browsing and buying books than any other bookshop I've been to, ever. Seriously, think Top Shop on the day of Kate Moss' new clothing line - that busy. Dozens of tills and HUNDREDS of people buying. Just dazzling and amazing, I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. (Hopefully some photos to come)

I reckon that if you sat down with a piece of paper and designed a proper city from scratch for the western disposition you'd pretty much come up with Munich. And they all speak english. Recommended.

Did I mention the beer?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Scores on the Doors

Lambeth council are showing their usual high levels of idiocy.

This morning we received a letter informing us that "Scores on the doors is a pilot scheme supported by the food standards agency to show how well food businesses are complying with hygiene law. You will shortly be receiving a letter telling you what the score for your business is."

Well I look forward to that letter. All this time I thought people were reading the books.

Now it turns out they were eating them.

I wonder what Amazon's Kindle tastes like? That's the last nail in the coffin for that idea. E-readers - useless - just too crunchy...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Back to the Boooooooooooks

Is this article interesting or just weird?

I can't make my mind up. I suppose as soon as you choose a list you can start to pick holes in it.

Are readers of arabic really so cut off? How many books are translated in the other direction? Is this a noble project or more cultural imperialism? I'm too tired to work it out...

David Healy




I salute you!

Ever the optimist I wonder if Fulham will turn out to be the club where his career takes off...

Croatia 3, England 2

The dye was set a long time ago...

The only revenge we can take is to buy up half of Croatia as a second home, drive up local prices, destroy communities and laugh heartily that if they'd only thrown in the towel in THAT game, we wouldn't flood their lovely country with middle-aged, equity-rich bores. Long live Anglo-Saxon Capitalism.

Anyway, Ha Ha, you might be in a meaningless competition, a la Eurovision, next year but we DON'T CARE. WE DON'T. REALLY. HONEST. FUCK YOU. NOBODY'S INTERESTED. SEE THE ADVERTISERS RUN, RUN, RUN. THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CHAMPION WILL BE MUCH BIGGER NEWS THAN BLOODY ANOTHER GREECE WINNING A SHIT SUMMER COMPETITION. YEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

I ain't damaged...............

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No title

Truly, the most insane person I have ever met has just been in the shop. What do you say to an old lady who thinks the government have been reading her thoughts through her hair for 60 years, whose father was Hitler's accountant, who is Stephen Hawkings sister, who wonders where all the real white men have gone, who thinks she has a black cross on her forehead leading down to each eye, who is convinced that Moorfields eye hospital dyed her eyes a particular shade of green so they could see into her mind and didn't I know they've been doing it for years and much, much more. My head is spinning...

Because it's worth it

Went for a swim this morning. Had the pool to myself. Say no more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Because I'm worth it

London can be a real beast. You get close to it at your peril always remembering not to take it for granted and always on the look out. Yesterday was one of those days the beast snapped. Moving house, everything the city could throw at me it did. At every turn a new obstacle was put in my way and I had to wriggle free only to face a new and more crushing block. By the end of the day I felt very small, alone and damaged.

But today, what a difference. A whole new set of possibilities presented themselves that with the stars being in alignment may result in, at the least, an interesting few weeks.

And capped off this evening by my first visit to my new gym. I've never joined a gym before. I'm not really into running or cycling on the spot or lifting weights. But this place has a 25m pool on the top floor in a big room with palm trees and a jacuzzi and a sauna and a steam room and the hottest, strongest showers known to man and it's only around the corner. By the time I'd finished swimming, sitting in bubbles, steaming and being pelted by jets of water I felt not only completely decadent but utterly and completely relaxed. (It's odd to me to look at the faces of the other members who all seem to be taking the whole thing just a bit too seriously. Do they not see the hedonistic pleasures of the modern day Roman bath house?)

Anyway, the beast was calm again, welcoming me back into it's comforting paws.

'There, there now. All better now aren't you. Aren't you?'

(And now I'm going to sit and continue reading Robert Hughes memoir, slowly becuase I don't have to consume as many books as possible voraciously on my little machine that stores words)

Battle Lines

I always suspected it was true and now here's the proof.

AMAZON HATES BOOKS


"Why are books the last bastion of analogue?" Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos asked at an unveiling of the gadget in a New York hotel, referring to the recent revolution in digital entertainment that increasingly has us downloading the music we listen to and even the films and videos we watch.

The assumption at Amazon, however, and at competitors such as Sony and Epson, is that it is the book itself that will become extinct. "The question is, can you improve upon something as highly evolved and well-suited to its task as the book? And if so, how?" Mr Bezos asked. " It has to disappear."

I'd say it was a pretty clear choice. Using Amazon contributes to the Death of the Book as we know it. If you love books; the way they smell, feel, look on the shelf - then shop for them at bookshops.

Otherwise pretty soon we will all be leading "virtual" lives. Think about it. You prefer the real thing...(Even though it might be more difficult and more expensive!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Belgium - Bonkers

Had a very funny lunch before catching the train back to Blighty.

We arrived and sat at a table for four - the only table available. We placed our orders. A few minutes passed and the beers arrived. Mary was facing into the restaurant and I was looking out the window. She described an "incident" where the waitress put a plate of food in front of a man at one table. He started to eat. There was a "conversation" at the bar then she rushed over, grabbed the plate he was eating from, sauntered over to a table at the other side of the restaurant and gave the food to someone else!

We were in Fawlty Towers land...

Next we were asked to move to a table for two that had become available. That was fine, no problem. We shifted and now I was the one with the view of the restaurant action. It was brilliant. The food would arrive from the kitchen and the waitress would look at it as though she had never seen food ever before in her life. What is this? What do you want me to do with it? Eh? Eh? Oh, it's food for a punter. But who? Oh look, it tells me on the computer it is for table five.

We had moved tables. I saw trouble ahead. Sure enough our food came out from the kitchen. "Huit!" came the call. The waitress looked at table 8 - where we were no longer sitting. She looked at the food. There was a loud argument. The people who had taken our places had not yet ordered anything. (Poor folk - by the time we left they had a beer each but that was all!) I tried desperately to catch her eye and managed it in the end. We had our food. But not all of it. A plate of frites was missing. A minute or two later the call came again. "Huit" I watched as our chips were given to the waitress. She put them on the counter. Another waitress arrived for work - maybe to help the muppets they had in already. She began to eat the chips.

I told Mary what was going on. "They must have three second memories" she said.

As each member of staff passed the plate of chips they would eat a couple. Meanwhile another table finished their meal. There was a hushed altercation and two of the group left. The others stood about and looked moody.

We had a train to catch. Some minutes passed and then the two people who had left returned and the group left. We tried to pay. "We don't take cards" said the waitress. "Then why do you have all those card signs on your window?" asked the ever logical Mary. Again the waitress looked amazed. "The machine dose not work" she said. "What's wrong with it?" asked Mary.

It turned out that the paper needed changing. (!!!) We managed to pay, left and even caught the train. I realised that the pissed off looking folk had been forced to send their friends to find a cash machine (that's another story - where are the cash machines in Belgium? There are none in Brussels)

Weirdly that crazy lunch was one of the highlights of the trip...

Belgium - Brilliant

Had a great time in Belgium this weekend. We took the Eurostar from the funked up St Pancras. Everything about St Pancras is great apart from the fact it is in Kings Cross. Can't believe people think Waterloo is edgy. Kings Cross is loud, mechanical and everyone there seems to be crazy. Must be terrifying for the Belgians arriving in London. By contrast we were able to walk from the station to our hotel in the centre in about 15 mins. Was also a little irritated by all the John Betjeman reverence. Am I missing something or do his poems really suck? The statue reminded me of Paddington Bear, but that's the wrong station...The other, kissing, statue was ok. But the effect was ruined by a drunk couple who kissed noisily (ie you could hear there tongues slurping from ten paces) on the 45 from Kings Cross to Elephant in a similar pose.

Will be brief.

Beer - great - so tasty - so strong.

Bars - great - but people smoke in them - a lot - looks weird now they've banned it here and have not woken up smelling of fags for a while - not good.

Food - awesome - Fifi and Adam both said we should go to *** **** ****** and it was as good as we were led to believe. Huge steaks. Deadly choc pudding. Also ate the best omelet I've ever had.

Shops - too many selling chocolate but loads of bookshops. None of them were chains. Not a penny discount. A civilised country?

Books - beautiful. I bought a great French book on Hokusai - I literally could not resist buying it. The paper was so beautiful. The illustrations are divine. It cost 25 Euros and WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED SO WELL IN THE UK.

Flea market - best I've ever been to.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel 2, Russia 1

You lucky bastards. You lucky, lucky bastards.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thought for the day

'I think it's better to be overly ambitious and fail than to be underambitious and succeed in a mundane way' - Francis Ford Coppola in today's Independent.

No. 74 in an occasional series:


Seemingly profound yet totally meaningless statements made by documentary makers when they know that their initially promising series is rapidly deteriorating:

'It was the photographic equivalent of the Great American Novel.' (The Genius of Photography, BBC4, last night)

What? Care to qualify that?

It's interesting that this series has mirrored the arc of photography. It started well, as did photography in the 19th century, full of excitement, wonder and potential. Yet as the series moves on and tries to add weight to a mostly weightless topic it has become less and less interesting or relevant. Last nights was terrible with talking head after talking head uttering totally spurious and unsubstantiated nonsense.

The only thing good about it was the appearance of one of the truly great photographers and truly grumpy men, William Eggleston. The photographer Rankin made the only interesting comment although it was virtually ignored by the program and I suspect he didn't even realise what he was saying. Looking at an Eggleston picture he said, 'It's like a painting'. EXACTLY, Eggleston is a great photographer because he is one of the closest things photography has to a painter. He doesn't take photographs, he makes them. And that puts him head and shoulders above the others. He doesn't just react to whats in front of him you can see him actually imagining the picture before he takes it.

Anyway, the only way for the series to redeem itself is to have the final picture discussed; Britney Spears getting out of a limo sans underwear because really, that's all photography is good for these days. Oh, and taking pictures on your mobile of your mates when pissed.

Stilll, C&P will be selling the magnificent William Eggleston's Guide this christmas, a wonderful present.

I Had Another Brilliant Idea This Morning...

...but I'm not going to tell you what it was!

We will inflict it on the world and then sit back and watch everyone copy it.

My previous brilliant idea involved one of those LED displays...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Zombie Alert!





You all know how hard it is running an independent bookshop these days, that they are all dead and if not dead then probably dying?

Well reports are coming in that Crockatt & Powell in Waterloo are managing just fine thanks. This is "impossible" and so we must conclude that the people running it, the people shopping in it, the people coming to events in it are all dead too and that the Zombie shop has become a meeting place for fellow Zombies.

Some of them even (whisper it!) even claim to love books and reading...

Obscure Slovak Fiction? Yes please...

"A tremendous novel: powered by an uncompromising ferocious energy and exhibiting a brutally dark sense of humour that is both ruthless and exhilarating. An amazing find." says William Boyd.

What is he on about? Rivers of Babylon by Peter Pist'anek. In HB at just £12.99, lovingly translated by Peter Petro. 1989 - "Socialism" crumbles and "rubber baron" capitalism is born. If you, like me, find history books dull then this is a novel that claims to give a powerful insight into the extraordinary changes that took place through most of East and Central Europe in the late 80's early 90's.

Well now I know what I'll be reading this weekend, thanks Garnett Press.

Dr Rick and I were right! DJ ROCKS

HOOORAY FOR SERIOUS FICTION!!!

HOORAY FOR THE GREAT USA WHERE THEY VALUE GOOD BOOKS!!!

Hot on the heels of Cormac McCarthy winning a Pulitzer prize for his awesome novel The Road (My fave novel of last year) comes a MASSIVE WIN for Denis Johnson and Tree Of Smoke (My fave novel this year).
To cap it all the bloke didn't even turn up to receive the award.

He was on assignment in Iraq...

Where are the British writers of fiction to compete with the masters of the craft stateside? Anyone enlighten me?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

2 out of 3 ain't bad

They say that the three most stressful things that can happen in your life are the death of someone close, moving house and getting a divorce. As I'm not married and by a process of elimination, I can tell you that 2 of those events have happened within six weeks of each other. Compounded by me having to move this weekend. That wouldn't be so bad except Matthew is in Brussels meaning I have to look after the shop friday and saturday then move sunday, monday. Phew.

Today was particularly stressful as we also heard that one of our former bookshops, a very prominent indie, will be closing in January that will inevitably prompt loads of guff in the papers about doom and gloom in the independent book trade. (I'm not breaking any confidences there as the news is already up on the Bookseller website - but the reasons for closing are far from people not buying books but more to do with those idiots at Macmillan and naked greed).

Anyway, moan moan moan but before you break out the kleenex and violins for poor old me my spirits have been instantly lifted by stopping and listening to a rasta playing Gershwin's 'Summertime' on a plastic saxophone outside woolies on Denmark Hill. Oh sweet joys!

And atleast I get to go to Munich next weekend to stay with my ex-girlfriend and her new husband. What could go wrong there!

Monday, November 12, 2007

I don't remember that conversation.

Strange to start first thing monday morning and find yourself quoted in the New Statesman. (Follow the link at the bottom)

More importantly though, the Bike Won! My weekly guilty pleasure, Top Gear, had a race last night across London from Kew bridge to City Airport between a bike, a boat, a car and public transport. The look on Clarkson's face was priceless. Cyclists of the world unite!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Guerilla Gardening

Last year I was on the way home after (yet another) bookshop party when I saw a bunch of hairy people on a roundabout (St George's Circus) digging. Weird time for the council to work I thought. And none of them are wearing council gear. It must be an alcohol induced hallucination, that's ok then...

But the plants were still there when I walked past the next day.

Then I saw a thing in the papers about Guerrilla Gardening and the penny dropped.

And now the Guerrillas have joined our merry band of PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS THAT WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN IF CONVENTIONAL WISDOM WAS THE LAW and named us as the exclusive stockists for their hand-harvested lavender pillows.

They really stink! But of lavender, so that's ok!

EX-Worker now turned bestselling novelist Marie can speak guerrilla - if there is a high enough demand I might try to arrange a reading from Gods Behaving Badly at our shop Christmas party - in Guerrilla lingo.

The pillows are £10 - all proceeds towards future gardening projects. We make NIL ZILCH NOTHING but love...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Wooden Zebra Loses A Leg...(The first in an occasional series about the destructive effect of children on their toys)




Once upon a time in a land far far away there lived a wooden zebra called Ken. Ken had been carefully carved from a small chunk of wood that was used to prop open the door of a shed by a little man called Ken who worked for a mechanic under some railway arches in South London.

Ken made Ken in the spare moments when the garage wasn't busy. He would peel back some wire fencing and go and sit in the allotment that ran alongside the garage. As he carved wood he liked to smoke and ruminate on how he would kill his boss. By the time he had chipped a few slivers of wood off the block and made a Zebra he felt much better. He could face going back to the garage and smiling in a slightly forced way at the man he had wanted to kill just a few minutes before.

So Ken's manufacture involved the transformation of Violence into Love.

One day Ken died. So it goes.

When the council came to clear all the stuff from his flat they found it was full of tiny carved animals. They were carved from wood and some of them were painted with crude, tar-like paint. Ken had no family or friends so the council chucked all the animals into a tin and sent them to the dump.

There are loads of folk that scavenge a living from council tips. One of these was a lady who prided herself on her brilliant eye for a potential bargain. She spotted the tin of animals and took them home to clean. A week later they were on her brickabrack stall down the market.

It was a cold and steel-grey Saturday afternoon. The lady was on the point of packing up when a scruffy bloke stopped, a pasty half in his mouth. Something had caught his eye...

"How much is this" he said, holding a small wooden zebra towards her.

"50p love"

He handed over a coin and walked off with Ken.

It so happened that this man was rather sentimental. He had always been fond of small objects and there was something about Ken that had grabbed his attention. He would take it home and give it to his small son Finn.

Finn loved the zebra. It came with him on trips in his buggy. Pretty soon it began to rival the plastic dinosaur as a method of entertaining Finn on the bus. (Finn and dad hated the bus and only used it as a last resort. It was far better walking about.)

Then one day they were on a 68 and it was packed. There were roadworks on the blinking Woolworth Road and everyone on the bus was wishing they were somewhere else, particularly Finn. He started to yell and yell. Nothing would calm him down. Dad gave him Ken, the zebra, as a last resort but Finn was angry and hurled the little zebra onto the floor so hard his leg snapped off.

"Oh..." said Finn.

Dad was gutted. He loved that zebra and was hoping Finn was going to love him too but now he was broken.

What dad didn't notice was that now Finn was calm and quiet. Ken had taken the Violence and turned it into Love.

So it goes...

Our accountant informs us...

...that we can have a staff christmas party and claim it as expenses. Cool. So we've decided to splash out and go to a swanky London eatery. Trouble is, which one? A booksellers salary, even a bookshop owner's salary isn't exactly consonant with swanky London eateries so our experience of same is somewhat limited.

You can help. The limit is £150 a head. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Adam...

Channel Four phoned up wanting to play a "trick" on you that involved secret cameras and hiding mobile phones around the shop.

They were going to pay us One Hundred Whole quid...

...but I said NO.

Hope you'll do the same for me one day mate.

Oh! What a beautiful...

I walked quietly for a good distance on this road, thinking my own thoughts with the front part of my brain and at the same time taking pleasure with the back part in the great and widespread finery of the morning. The air was keen, clear, abundant and intoxicating. Its powerful presence could be discerned everywhere, shaking up the green things jauntily, conferring greater dignity and definition on the stones and boulders, forever arranging and re-arranging the clouds and breathing life into the world. The sun had climbed steeply out of his hiding and was now standing benignly in the lower sky pouring down floods of enchanting light and preliminary tinglings of heat.

A lovely morning and those are some lovely words from Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Help! Help! My trousers are collapsing...

Like the tombliboos after a drum-roll I am in danger of losing my trousers...

My sister has so far failed to buy me a pair of jeans for my birthday (was in September) and now two of the belt loops have broken on my LAST PAIR OF FUNCTIONING TROUSERS. I have to wear a belt with these as they grip below the belly where I am quite skinny. (I try not to think about the belly. It grows and shrinks depending on the number of football matches I have attended recently)

My shoes have holes in the soles.

Gadzooks - good thing we're not in this for the money!

Still, life is sweet and there's always In The Night Garden to watch when the going gets tough.

Enjoy...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's in English!

Happy now

I've got Arsenal v Man Utd teed up and ready to roll on the laptop. Thank you Internet.

(Although the commentery is in Thai but hey who cares when you've got free footie)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

And as if by Magik...





A new edition of War and Peace arrives translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

So who wants to buy me that for Christmas then?

Webshite

Our website has been untouched for too long due to my computers continued resistance to working. However, in the post today from Fawzia - PCRescue magazine with a free disc, The ULTIMATE BOOT CD. Fingers crossed.

Not the best way to start the day

A truck delivering 'food' to Iceland 2 doors down has just pulled up outside the shop. A giant photograph on the side of the truck of a greasy cheeseburger with limp lettuce is filling our front window.

Not good.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

As Winter Draws In...




...I find myself returning to the Russians.

There's a brilliant book Canongate have just rescued from out of printness.

The Last Station by Jay Parini imagines the last year of Tolstoy's life. The count (though by now he has renounced his title) is living his last days surrounded by his family and a circle of adoring acolytes. The great works War and Peace and Anna Karenina have made Tolstoy the most famous author alive in Russia and everywhere he goes he is mobbed by people of all classes. But writing novels now seems secondary to Tolstoy's great project of examining Life and trying to live it in the best possible way.

He says people should abstain from sexual relations and devote themselves to higher things and yet, as his wife Sofya is quick to point out, spent much of his youth whoring and fifty years of marriage failing to abstain himself.

He says all people are equal and that the huge divide between rich and poor in Russian society should be abhorred - but he lives surrounded by luxury in a house in the country.

The picture Parini creates of a great author losing the ability to tell the difference between the real importance of his work and the importance other people attach to it is spot on. Tolstoy was a great writer. But he was also as deluded about himself as anybody and prone to paying too much attention to flattering voices. At the same time his struggle to think clearly and with depth about Life and how it is to be lived is beautifully conveyed. Tolstoy is torn by so many conflicting urges and loyalties that the great man becomes the proof of his own teachings, showing himself to be as ordinary/complex as any human being.

I have read Anna Karenina and The Devil but never managed War and Peace. (Twice I made a brave attempt but was defeated by the multiple names of the multiple characters.) This book convinced me that it's War and Peace for Christmas this year...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Pitch

Noticing that Gordan Ramsey's production company are just down the road from us behind the Cut I've got a brilliant plan for C&P global expansion:

'CROCKATT & POWELL'S BOOKSHOP NIGHTMARES
With a combination of raw talent, ability, confidence and sheer bloody hubris, Crockatt & Powell the hugely experienced and three star Nibbied* booksellers travel the country offering advice and solace to poor deluded amateurs attempting to fulfill their life's dream. Here are some samples from the pilot show:
"A SHOP F***ING CAT. ARE YOU F***ING JOKING ME. THAT'S AGAINST THE F***ING LAW THAT IS. YOU SHOULDN'T EVEN HAVE A F***ING JOB. YOU'RE A F***ING JOKE YOU BUNCH OF C****.
3 FOR F***ING 2. ARE YOU TRYING TO F*** ME IN THE A***. THAT'S SO F***ING NINETIES YOU MISERABLE T****
F***ING REMAINDERS (SORRY, BIN ENDS). THAT MIGHT BE ALRIGHT FOR LITTLE F***ING HAMPTON-ON-THE-F***ING-MARSH BUT PLAY TO YOUR F***ING STRENGTHS YOU C****. LOCAL F***ING PRODUCE, SOURCED LOCALLY. NOTHING F***ING BETTER.

WHOLESALER CHRISTMAS CATALOGUES? F*** ME WHAT A WASTE OF F***ING TIME. YOU F***ING AMATEURS. GROW A F***ING BRAIN AND DO SOME F***ING WORK YOU A***HOLES.

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT IN YOUR F***ING WINDOW! IF WE WEREN'T WORLD- RENOWNED(**) BOOKSELLERS WE'D THROW A BOOK THROUGH THROUGH THE C****.
THIRD F***ING PARTIES TRYING TO SAVE YOU MONEY BY OFFERING THE BEST DISCOUNTS? F*** OFF. THEY'RE C****. F*** 'EM. GO STRAIGHT TO THE HORSES F***ING MOUTH.
ARE YOU F***ING TRYING TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO?!
And on and on and on and on.
So! What do ya reckon? It's a sure fire banker if you ask us...'
*Waste of space, non-prize.
** TM


It's Back!


Yes, the Magna Farta itself, Roger's Profanisaurus, the World's Sweariest Dictionary has returned. Now with over 10,000 rude words and phrases. A brief and random selection follow. Please do not read on if easily offended by blokeish juvenilia.

asbopolis n. - A claimant-rich conurbation such as Liverpool or Manchester, which boasts a vibrant youthful culture of non-conformist behaviour.

budgie smugglers n. - Extremely tight gentleman's bathing trunks. Noodle benders.

Choreplay n. - Tiresome pre-sex ritual required by selfish women. Frigmarole.

Dowsing Rod n. - A piece of wood that involuntarily twitches when approaching an area of great wetness.

Full Nelson n. - When wrestling oneself, a hold involving one hand, one eye and a funny shaped hat.

gash mark six n. - A state of arousal in ladies. 'A ladies hairy oven must be heated to gash mark six before the gentleman slams in his lamb.' (from Bedroom Management by Mrs. Beaton)

high speed rinse n. - An act of self pollution committed in the shower. Flinging in the rain.

Indian rope trick n. - An impressive erection attained under seemingly impossible circumstances, eg. after twelve pints and/or six wanks.

J-t tomorrow. (Maybe)

(Words in italics are for cross-referencing but you'll have to buy the book for that - £8.99 - Bargain of the Century)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Floggin's to good for 'em

People who spit out chewing gum onto the pavement which then ends up on the soles of our customers feet and ultimately onto our nice carpet deserve to be executed. Simple as that.

What?

I open the box from Tiptree expecting some goodies only to be confronted with Crystal by the esteemable and pneumatic Katie Price and The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein: 'A heart-wrenching memoir... brilliantly illuminates a family struggling valiantly to beat impossible odds' according to the New York Times.

What the...?

Jordan and misery memoirs? Who ordered this?

Matthew! Have you started smoking crack now? Have the squatters next door grasped you to the bosom of their anti-social insanity? Is this the end of our partnership?

Oh. The invoice is to Eric Morton of Didsbury, Greater Manchester. Sorry Matthew, an honest mistake.

Mr Morton, we have your books.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ooops I did it again...

LAst week we had a pop-up book arrive of the classic Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business.

There was a tab to pull that should have meant poo dropped from the bottom of a cow. I pulled the tab and nothing happened. I pulled harder and ripped the tab off.

I do this kind of stupid thing all the time and have broken loads of stuff at C & P since we opened.

Adam, sorry mate, I've done it again.

You know the little spotlight in the hallway? The bulb has gone so I thought I would change it. But I seem to have broken it instead...

Maybe you can fix it? I don't want to touch it again in case I do more damage...

Dr Rick just called...

...to say the first review of Tree Of Smoke has appeared in a UK paper.

Remember campers, if you like your Truths cold, hard and crisply detailed as a mathematical formula then this ain't for you.

But if you think Truth lies somewhere South of Confusion you're in for the ride of yer life...

(BTW If you do emabrk on this awesome fictional odyssey and find yourself lost then there's always Dr Rick's map to guide you. Give us an e-mail or a call and I'll put you in touch with the Doc who might just be able to sort you out a copy!)

Break on Through Sergeant Storm!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Competition

So, you're a bookshop in one of the most prominent positions tourist-wise in the capital just by the big wheely thing on the river. What do you put in your windows? What sort of books do you think might entice passing visitors to pop in for a lovely momento of their stay? What do you think would be eye-catching, jump out and scream, 'Shop Here!'?

Answer: A 3 for 2 promotion of re-jacketed, retro, paperback Penguins in one of your huge windows. A 3 for 2 promotion of 'reading around the world' paperbacks in another of your big windows. And a big pile of the Lauren Child illustrated Pippi Longstocking in the third of your big windows. (And 1 copy of The London Eye Mystery)

Now, the re-jacketed Penguins are very handsome and the reading the world promotion is very interesting and the Pippi Longstocking is gonna be huge this christmas BUT, In The Windows! By The Big Wheely Thing! Are You Mad! C'mon People, This Ain't Rocket Science!

'Do you have any victorian literature?'

'Er, yes. It's over here in our victorian literature section. The books are arranged chronologically.'

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Polish Booksellers

If they look anything like the young woman asking for a job today while buying South of the Border, West of the Sun then all I can say is - Welcome to our Eastern European chums. Me Casa Es Tu Casa. Come on in, the water's lovely. Bienvenue unt Wilkommen. Ola! Would you like a cup of tea?

(Apologies for the language mistakes and misogyny)

Monday, October 22, 2007

DANGER! DO NOT READ THIS POST

Reading further could lead to financial ruin.

Reading further could lead to laughter-induced hernia.

Reading further could lead to divorce or relationship difficulties.


Still here?

Ok...

There's a series of books. Agatha Raisin? By M.C.Beaton.

If you like McCall-Smith and Boris Akunin then there is a fighting chance you will LOVE these.

But you will want to read them all. The list of addicts registered at C & P is growing.

"It's a cliche and all but that's just the way it happened. A friend introduced me to Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. It made me laugh and feel all warm inside. One more can't hurt I thought and bought myself Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet. Now my husband has left me, my children don't recognise me and I live in a box outside Waterloo Station. JUST SAY NO to Raisins."

Name and address supplied.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

This is What Print on Demand is all about...

A good customer of ours comes into the shop, buys a book and then flourishes another at us.

"This is brilliant! Why don't you have it in stock?"

We take these moments very seriously. We see Crockatt & Powell as a joint effort between us and our customers - if you've read a great book then tell us all about it. We try, but we can't read everything.

In fact Adam was aware of the book in question and had already ordered a copy - from the States. It is out of print here. In fact it gets worse. Not only is it out of print here the book is part of a quintet and only the first volume is available from the US.

The book in question was Cities of Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif. As you can see from the Wiki entry this is a man whose work is of direct interest to anyone with even a passing interest in the state of the Middle East - ie just about anyone that thinks about anything...

And they are out of print.

A Load of Bolano



Someone sent me a link to this article in the New Yorker about Roberto Bolano.

The Savage Detectives is one of the best books I have read so far this year...

Two comments by Mr Bolano particularly caught my attention:

"BolaƱo’s fury toward the literary mainstream—deeply felt and bordering on puerile" - remind you of anyone?

And he called Isabel Allende a “scribbler” whose “attempts at literature range from kitsch to the pathetic.”

When you're in a hole...

...stop digging.

Oh what a beautiful morning

Damn, if I wasn't so hungover from my middle-class binge-drinking or indeed too obese from a toddler like inability to walk past a branch of Greggs without scoffing 14 chicken pies due to the pressures of everyday life and therefore too wheezy to have the energy too, I really, really would break into song.

A cracker in the capital today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's half past six...

Minutes to go: 30

Number of Booker related enquiries: 1

Number of Booker related purchases: 0

Money through the till: A number beginning with 8

A good day: You betcha

Booker prize: No thanks

No...

...we are not watching the football on Chinese TV over the internet!

If we were we would know there was a delay (judging from the time between when we heard a cheer from the pub next door and actually seeing the goal) of around five minutes.

I missed the first goal because I was selling a copy of Rupert Brooke's Letters From America at the time...

It's a quarter to three...

God in employment tribunal shock

God's spokesman on earth, Jesus H Christ, said to reporters, 'Well if they're not prepared to do the Lord's work on the Lord's day I'm afraid they just have to go'. God was not available for comment.

Click here for the story.

Quote of the day

'Never get old lads, it's a fuckin' nuisance.'

The Decline of Western Civilisation

The case for the prosecution. Articles 435 & 436:

'Obesity, the authors concluded, was an inevitable consequence of a society in which energy-dense, cheap foods, labour-saving devices, motorised transport and sedentary work were rife.
In this environment it was surprising that anyone was able to remain thin, Dr Susan Jebb of the Medical Research Council said, and so the notion of obesity simply being a product of personal over-indulgence had to be abandoned for good.
"The stress has been on the individual choosing a healthier lifestyle, but that simply isn't enough," '

Dave used to be called UKTV G2 or some such mouthful. It probably needed a rebrand but god's holy trousers what PR genius came up with the idea of calling a station 'Dave'.

We are all truly doomed.

Je ne regrette rien

Well, post-booker, a few bridges burned, a few noses out of joint, a bilious hang-over and a stark realisation that I'm not One Of Them. The relationship and interests between Bookshop Owner and Publisher are just too inherently antagonistic. The stark truth is they're trying to squeeze as much money from us and we're trying to squeeze as much money from them.

Yes, of course everybody just looooooves books and isn't it wonderful to hang out in cool soho hangouts but my freeloadin' and schmoozin' days are now officially over. Conflict of interests m'lud. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. And I'll always remember Stanley Kubrick's library - the greatest book launch in the history of book launches.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Into the belly of the beast

Apparently there's some book related event tonight so let me be your intrepid front-line reporter as I attempt to crash the publisher's parties over in deepest darkest Soho and quaff as much free wine as possible before wobbling home and scoffing the inevitable kebab.

However, should my mouth get away from me and blurt the wrong thing at a most innapropriate and delicate moment while standing next to Ian McYawn, when the kidnap videos turn up on YouTube try looking under the basement of the Groucho club first... You've read the Cement Garden haven't you? Or will it be more like The Innocent? (Gulp!)

Who's nominated again?

Waterstone's Get Off My Cloud! And take that awkward apostrophe with you!

How long do you have to NOT be an employee of Waterstone's before people stop calling you "former Waterstone's booksellers"?

I left those bastards years ago. Adam and I both worked for the Pan Bookshop far more recently than Waterstone's.

Radio Whore

Media slag Crockatt struck again yesterday afternoon with a virtuoso performance on Radio Four.

Never one to decline an invitation to predict the future our valiant hero let rip.

Those of you brave enough to listen to a program about IT all the way through will hear Crockatt articulate Jason Epstein's vision of the book trade somewhere near the end. They went on to speak with a man from the Booksellers Association who did a good job of not calling me a twat on air. Suffice to say I was right and he was wrong.

(You can listen to the program on the net - it was called click on and it was at 4:30pm - go to radio four listen again and do so if you are so inclined)

Art Joke

Did you hear that sculptor Anthony Gormley has decided to move into film? Same old Gormless though, he's cast himself in the lead role.

(Courtesy of Philip 'Campag' Greenwood)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Freud said about the Irish is: They're the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis

I'm half Irish. I wonder which half. The good one or the bad one?

(Para. Matt Damon in The Departed. Currently showing on Sky Movies)

ps It's true.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Live streaming from China

I'd assumed I could watch the England game on the BBC website. Wrong. So a google search later and a quick bit of downloading and I'm watching some Chinese broadcaster through my laptop. Unfortunately the commentary is in Chinese (naturally) and although I can play the 5live coverage alongside the video the footage is a minute and a half behind. Oh well.

Yes **** ******, we do stock your books

Reasonably well known author in the shop first thing heads straight for the fiction section to see if his books are there and very quickly slopes off looking a bit dejected because they aren't.

They're in the crime section instead. But he didn't see them. Oops.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Who needs sleep anyway

For one reason or another I have found myself staying up into the small hours watching tv. Wednesday in particular was quite a late one but I had the company of two films until my eventual turning in time of 04.25. The first was an acclaimed British film that I had intended to see when it came out. London to Brighton is a about a prostitute and a young girl on the run from a psychopathic gangster and a nasty pimp. It started promisingly but finished as just another grubby exploitation flic. To be avoided.

Straight after was Blue Collar one of the best films of the 70's and consequently one of the best film's ever. A mighty, angry and funny look at working class life in America with Richard Pryor turning in a stand out performance. They really don't make films like that any more.

My thoughts turn to movies as we've agreed to start a Crockatt & Powell Film Night once a month from next february. One of our regulars teaches film locally and has a huge library of movies so we're going to have a programme of adaptations of books or book related films with a small introduction by him followed by a viewing. Cool, huh? Gives me an excuse to buy a video projector... (Absolutely NOT to play games on or anything)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jimmy Hill


Plunged into depression on Sunday after losing to Portsmouth. Only started to pull out when I received a call, followed by an e-mail with this photo attached...

Yes, that is Fulham and Match of the Day legend Jimmy Hill dancing on the pitch at half time with a copy of The Fulham Review - as published by Crockatt & Powell - under his arm. At the end of MOTD 2 they have a funny section called Two Good Two Bad. So there he was on national telly, dancing around with our book!

We got this spectacular still shot from a bloke called Jon Hall. More excellent football related photos can be found here.

We were selling copies outside the ground when Richard spotted Jimmy and gave him a complimentary copy. He obviously liked it as he has a good firm grip on it.

How about that then eh? First book published and the cover is shown on national TV to an audience of millions.

The Fulham Review was written by Richard Allen and Martin Kane. Support our cottage industry and buy a copy here today...

Monday, October 08, 2007

jokes

My dad keeps sending me stupid jokes by e-mail. Most of the time this is annoying but occasionally some gems come through. This is a collection of Tommy Cooper's but I can equally imagine the drawl of Steven Wright saying the same lines.

Two aerials meet on a roof, fall in love, get married. The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant.

Man goes to the doctors with a Strawberry growing out of his head. Doctor says "I'll give you some cream to put on it"

A man takes his rottweiler to the vet. "My dog's cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?" "Well" says the vet, "let's have a look at him".
So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then checks his teeth. Finally he says "I'm going to have to put him down."
"What? because he's cross-eyed?" "No, because he's really heavy"

"Doctor, I can't pronounce my F's, T's and H's." "Well, you can't say fairer than that then"

So I went to the dentist. He said "Say Aaaah." I said "Why". He said "Because my dog's died"

I got home and the phone was ringing. I picked it up and said "Who's speaking please?" and a voice answered "you are"

I rang up my local swimming baths and said "is that the local swimming baths?" He said "it depends where you're calling from"

I rang up a local building firm "I want a skip outside my house", he said "I'm not stopping you"

Apparently 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese. There are five people in my family, so it must be one of them. It's either my mum or dad, or my older brother Colin, or my younger brother Ho-Cha-Chu, but I think it's Colin.

I was in my car driving along and my boss rang up and said "You've been promoted" and I swerved. He rang a second time "You've been promoted again" and I swerved again. He rang up a third time and said "You're managing director" and I went into a tree. A policeman came up and said "what happened to you?" and I replied "I careered off the road"

So I was getting into my car and this bloke says to me "Can you give me a lift?" I said "Sure, you look great, the world's your oyster, go for it"

Two cannibals eating a clown. One says to the other "Does this taste funny to you?"

A man walked into the doctors. The doctor said "I haven't seen you in a long time" The man replied "I know, I've been ill"

A man walked into the doctors and said "I've hurt my arm in several places" The doctor said "Well don't go to those places"

I had a ploughman's lunch the other day. He wasn't very happy.

I bought some HP sauce the other day. It's costing me 6p a month for the next two years.

A man came round in hospital after a serious accident. He shouted "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs" The doctor replied "I know you can't, I've cut your arms off"

I went to a seafood disco last week and pulled a mussel.

Our ice cream man was found lying on the floor of his van covered with hundreds and thousands. Police say he topped himself.

Two fat blokes in a pub, one says to the other "Your round". The other one says "so are you, you fat b*****d"

(Who remembers watching Tommy Cooper die on stage. I can)

Sooooo comfortable...

You know when the duvet is exactly the right weight and temperature and the pillow is exactly the right fluffiness and every part of the bed is exactly the right shape for your body and you're just so damn comfortable that it feels like your floating on a warm cloud and that you could quite happily stay like that forever...

Well, Manny the veg guy must have been feeling the same way this morning 'cos he ain't here. I don't like it when he's not here. It's too quiet, even though he does have a terrible radio station blaring all morning.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I Need Help (Oh Gawd) I Want To Read A Book That's Funny, That's Going To Make Me Laugh Out Loud...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAArgh....

Funny?

What is funny?

I thought We Need To Talk About Kevin was funny.

Thomas Bernhard's The Gargoyle made me laugh out loud.

Jimmy Carr's The Naked Jape saved the day. Thanks Jimmy. It's a tough job (being funny not bookselling) but someone's got to do it...

Friday, October 05, 2007

A burning question

Matthew and I were having a disagreement about whether they burn the coffin as well as the body in a crematorium. I thought not as did Charlie from Scooterworks. Matthew thought they did. However, he was basing his opinion on the scene in a James Bond film when Sean Connery is in a coffin and jets of flame start appearing so probably not too reliable as info.

But the ever reliable Wikipedia has the answer - yes, they do. Burn the coffin too, I mean. It's the law apparently.

One Bloody Thing After Another

The end of the week is fast approaching. A good thing for many reasons. It's been the kind of week that leaves you feeling as though life is just what it says for the title of this post and we play Portsmouth on Sunday - with luck we will sell a bundle more of the Fulham Review dahn the public 'ouses 'side the banks of Old Father...

I was thinking of ways to describe living in London next door to a couple of squatters who think it's a good idea to have band practice at 4am thus waking you, yr wife and small child up after their dogs growled at yer wife in the garden last night when she was trying to take the washing in AND Radio 4 want to record you for a discussion program about POD AND I have a bookshop to run - a seething cauldron of conflicting desires was the phrase that popped into my head as I FINALLY drifted off to sleep...But seething cauldron is SO cliched...

Then I wake up and it's a beautiful day, the kind of crisp and sunny autumn morning that makes you LOVE being alive.

And then there's a flash of colour as a blue tit seems to fall out of a tree, swerve to a perfect landing on the pavement in front of you as yr walking super-fast through the wilderness of back streets behind Elephant & Castle. Everything stops for a heartbeat. We look each other in the eye. Then the tiny reminder of all things bright and beautiful is off into the bushes.

And then there was Wednesday and Dr Rick's Amazing Map for Tree Of Smoke.

This work of art needs to be seen to be believed. It made my day on Wednesday and was a vivid illustration of the joys to be found in a shared love/obsession with books...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Late and Dark

Dusk.

This is the first time this year I will have closed up in the dark.

What shall I read now? After Denis every novel I try seems weak and rubbish.

Any suggestions for a jaded bookseller fighting off a SAD attack or shall I just read essays and non-fiction for a while?

The only way is up

'Foyles. That's by the London eye, innit'

'Yeah, about 1oo yards to the east.'

'East? Depends which way your facin dunnit?'

Monday, October 01, 2007

Mr Cheng - Crockatt & Powell Booksellers

It is an offence to open mail belonging to other people. As a result I waited about six hours before opening the A4 letter addressed to Mr Cheng - Crockatt & Powell Booksellers.

It was a letter from Lambeth council informing Mr Cheng (who he?) that as of October 1st it will be "illegal for you to sell tobacco to a person who is under 18".

Lambeth Trading Standards will be ensuring compliance by carrying out random test purchases.

I look forward to the day some spotty kid comes in and tries to buy fags in what is quite obviously a bookshop.

"You're in the employ of Lambeth Council" I will cry.

"How did you know?" They will respond.

"Because only Lambeth Council are able to reach such heights of idiocy!" I will yell as I fling the poor kid across the street...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Was Montaigne the First Blogger?

Dipping into the delightful world of Michel De Montaigne at the minute. What a great bloke he was.

I love the way the essays meander about and veer way off the point into bizarre, often pointless, digressive alleys. I love the way the entire project revolves around Michel and his impressions - it's all me me me. Was he the first blogger?

Nicholas Lezard chose How To Read Montaigne a few weeks ago as his paperback choice. I am allergic to instructions (Adam could tell you about the time I broke the light fitting next door and there is a massive list Mary could entertain you with of occasions I have found myself in trouble by refusing to read or follow instructions) and so there was never any chance I would read How To Read Montaigne. In fact my extreme aversion to instructions even meant I didn't read his review of How To Read Montaigne just bought myself a copy of the Everyman's Library Complete Works and leaped in.

Now I go to link to Lezard's review of How To Read Montaigne and look - the first thing he says is:

"Not that hard, I would have thought: you get MA Screech's excellent, 1,280-page translation of the Essays, open it up pretty much anywhere you like and let Montaigne's urbane, friendly, sceptical and inquisitive mind do its thing with you. You don't have a copy? Then you must rush out now and get one."

(Seems I bought the wrong translation - but it appears a fine one to me. The real reason I bought the Everyman's Library edition is that it is a large hardback. I hate Penguin Classics when they are fat books. Just SO ugly. If you're going to own Montaigne why not have a real good solid chunk of a book?)

Then:

"I have even heard someone develop the conceit that he was the first blogger, although don't let that put you off."

Bastard. What's the point of my existence if Lezard has already thought of everything?

Rumour Has It...

...bits of our blog have been published in a book.

And I may have turned into Marie.

These rumours have yet to be confirmed.

Oh, and WATERSTONES PICADILLY IS CLOSING NEXT TUESDAY!

(That may not be true suckers!)

Slug Lord Slimes Again...

Once upon a time in a land far far away down the back end of Kings Cross there lived a large slug known as the Slug Lord. He was the biggest and slimiest slug in the whole of the veg patch. Over the years he had great success in convincing all the other slugs on his patch that he was the slimiest. Mostly his method involved covering anyone that disagreed with him in slime and sitting on them until they surrendered. But smothering others in slime, though fun for many years, eventually became boring.

So the Slug Lord decided the time had come to slither off to pastures new. Everyone in the slug world was amazed! What a shock. As the Slug Lord made his slimy way towards another veg patch, a veg patch with the tallest runner bean plants you EVER saw (some people even thought they might be the kind of beans Jack found all those years ago! They were certainly magic - phenomenal even) the smaller slugs he left behind cried and cried. But do you know what? Just minutes after his vast bulk slid off they felt a new feeling. Secretly they were relieved. Maybe being smothered and covered in slime wasn't so great after all?

But the Slug Lord new exactly what had to be done. As soon as he arrived on his new patch he set to work, sliming and smothering everyone in his path. This is a great new challenge he said to himself as the slimed away, doing pretty much what he had always done. Smother and slime until everyone thought like he did and were almost as slimy...

Friday, September 28, 2007

The critics

Over on the Guardian's CiF there was a recent post by Nicholas Lezard on Jordan outselling the whole Booker list. C'est la vie. But the bit that caught my eye was from one of the rabid commenters - that army of mudpeople who crawl around the CiF abusing anyone who dares write anything. The appropriately named Trilobite had this to say about criticism: 'there is no such thing as literary quality. There are books that you like and there are books that you dislike.'

I've always thought that the least interesting thing you can say about any book or indeed work of art is whether you like it or not. I mean really, who cares. But there is such a thing as literary quality because great books open up worlds and ideas and insights that other books don't and it is through criticism that we can discuss and articulate them. This is a great CiF piece here on the need for good, creative criticism with a quote from Oscar Wilde that answers Trilobite's vapid comment:

"Surely, criticism is itself an art ... Criticism is, in fact both creative and independent ... The antithesis between them is entirely arbitrary. Without the critical faculty, there is no artistic creation at all, worthy of the name."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Oh thank ya kindly mista for yer generous benevolence

Bloke outside front talking to companion,

'I try to buy books here because I really don't think they do all that well'

And I shall not disabuse him of such a notion should the well of his charity suddenly, dry up.

The obligatory holiday reading post

  • Rubicon - Tom Holland. Loads of fun but made all the better after having caught the Rome repeats on UKTVGoldHistory the week before.
  • The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith. Brilliant. One of the all-time great literary characters. Gets a bit bogged down in plot but Ripley's too enjoyable to begrudge it that.
  • Guns, Germs and Steel - Jared Diamond. 400-odd pages of stating the ever-so-slightly obvious. Not nearly as good as the blurbs suggest but moderately interesting in snatches. But if I have to hear one more time about the lack of domesticable plants in New Guinea, violence will take place.
  • The Night Gardener - George Pelecanos. A revelation. Outstanding genre fiction that transcends genre with brilliantly rounded characters. No such thing as good guy/bad guy, everybody has their reasons, everybody is treated with empathy and the book is at times genuinely moving. I'll be seeking his other work.
  • Money - Martin Amis. Dazzling language and very, very funny. Still alarmingly relevant (despite the Princess Di stuff) and alarmingly close to home in places. Self has a theory on page 278 that I myself had not just a few weeks ago that may be a blog post at some point never.
  • Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky - Patrick Hamilton. Why am I reading about grimy 20's London when under the Cretan sun? Because I can never get away from the place, that's why. I particularly liked the chapter in Ella's tale when Hamilton uses the term 'wage slave' approximately 28 times. Despite that, it's funny through it's depression, it's brilliantly perceptive and has an ending more quietly devastating than almost any book I've read.
  • Eroticism - George Bataille. Cheating here because I only started it on the plane back but is pleasingly bonkers enough in it's first 50 pages to carry on.

So, 5 out of 6. Not bloody bad I reckon.

Even though...

...even though yesterday morning I was sitting on a cafe terrace eating yoghurt and honey with the Mediterranean lapping at the shore, the sun shining through the trees and the Cretan mountains in the background...
...even though I've been swimming everyday in crystal clear bathwater...
...even though I've done nothing but sit, eat, read and swim for two weeks...
...even though I found blissful silence in one of the most beautiful places I've ever been...
...even though I've driven on perilous and exciting mountain roads and down gorges...
...even though I had to don full wet-weather gear to cycle to work this morning...
...even though I've listened to the raging argument between Manny and a German customer...
...even though I'm working all by myself clearing up the mess Matthew's left behind (only kidding)...
...even though I've got to go and clean the flat tonight...
...even through all this, it's still good to be back.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cobnuts - What Are They? Whaddayou Do With 'Em?

Every day for the past couple of weeks I've heard the same patter coming from Manny's veg stall outside.

"'Scuse me mate - what are these?"

"Cobnuts"


"What are they? Whaddayou do with 'em?"

"Fresh nuts, like Hazlenuts. Bang 'em with an 'ammer then eat them. I use one of me weights here. Keep me own supply."

Last week my mum bought me some. We know what they are. We used to pick them from the hedgerows in Wales. They taste delicious, really milky and sweet.

I bought a bag yesterday from Manny.

"Every day someone asks me what these are and what ya do with them."

I know Manny. I've heard the patter.

Later that day I gave a pocketful to my man Toe B.

"Do you want some of these?"

"What are they? Whaddayou do with 'em"

I'm exhausted...but the nuts are keeping me going.

Stamford Bridge Is Falling Down

It would be crass to express my delight at the events of the last few days in such a public way - so I won't...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Scooterworks

Dr Rick was in this morning. He's been reading the blog. I did the usual and changed the subject asap - why do I hate talking about blogging? I like to think no-one reads this crap - that they do is a worry and something I try not to think about...

I love Scooterworks. Adam and I stumbled in there the first time we ever went to look at the shop. Every time we came back we visited Scooterworks and much of the shop was planned in there (as well as the Hermit's Cave pub in Camberwell). Scooterworks even appeared in the latest Matt Damon Bourne film, though they changed the name to E-Net Cafe.

Dr Rick suggested I try to describe Scooterworks. So here goes...

Scooterworks is a refuge and an inspiration. The relentless London drive; the wild-eyed, quick-heeled life that makes our city at once the most exhilarating and exhausting place to be, melts away on entering Scooterworks. The shouts of the market traders on Lower Marsh fade to be replaced with the gentle crooning of a French chanteuse or maybe some jaunty plastic euro-pop cover of a Beetles song, or a beautiful Bach violin concerto, or some reggae or a little jazz - the music at Scooterworks is always good, never predictable.

Before selling coffee and Scooters the premises sold records. Indeed there are two framed spaces on the wall where you can see layers of posters showing the top 10 from the 1930s and 40s. These were uncovered when the present owners started to decorate. I spoke with a customer who remembered buying punk and new wave records there in his youth and I have spoken to several people who claim to have visited illegal raves on the premises in the early 1990's - Scooterworks are certainly known to host floor-bouncing parties periodically. (My sister ended up at one by chance after wandering home to Kennington Lane in the middle of the night. Her description of this great place on Lower Marsh where an Italian guy was DJing in a pair of old WW1 flying goggles was instantly recognisable.)

On an early visit I remember being struck by the bloke behind the counter. He had straggly hair and wore an old fashioned shirt and trousers with braces. Had he just stepped out of the 1930's. Was this some sort of time warp? I tried to pay and he waved his hand at me - "Later". I thought he was a bit rude - a bit full of himself. But now I know he's Charlie and a super-cool-wonder-boy who now haunts our cellar. (Don't ask)

Indeed the staff are a constant source of wonder. There's Craig in his overalls, Fifi and her Italian charm, always mid-project Charlie, Natalie and her kookie dress sense, Claire the ceramicist who lives in the same block as Finn's child-minder. All unconventional, all miraculously surviving in one of the fiercest cities in the world doing - what? Exactly...

Scooterworks subtly subverts and refuses classification. Is it a coffee shop? Then why are there folk who come in asking for number plates or to sort out an MOT? Is it a place that fixes Scooters? Then why the tables and coffee?

Scooterworks asks to be taken as it is found.

It is the perfect antidote to the world made mass. Starbucks would never do it this way.

Scooterworks is to coffee shops what I hope C & P might become for bookshops.

Unique. Individual. Interesting. Stimulating. Fun.

There, Dr Rick, I've had a go...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Christopher Wormell Signs at C & P


We had huge success with signed copies of Christopher Wormell's beautifully illustrated books last Christmas.

He has kindly returned and signed copies of his new book Wings, Horns & Claws.

It's all about Dinosaurs this time.

Today Is Quiet...

...and I could have managed a little reading. If only I hadn't left my book in the bottom of Finn's buggy...Will have to do boring account stuff instead.

The wheels fell of Finn's buggy. This is the second buggy that has failed to withstand the levels of walking required of a Crockatt buggy.

They are clearly designed for people who walk to the shops or park - not through miles of South London every day!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Weirdos

Some proper nutters in the shop today (don't you love these transference posts?)

First off a lady asking about books on breakdancing. For some reason(maybe to do with her not-young-ness or the fact she was not skinny/gangly like a breakdancer at all if you know what I mean) I assumed the book would be for a son or nephew or something.

"No, it's for me. I've always wanted to learn how to do it. That head-spinning - just wonderful."

I kid you not. My head was certainly spinning by the time she left.

Then there was the bloke who wanted me to order an out of print book off the Internet for him. I quoted a price.

"Hmmm. I've seen it cheaper on the net."

"Well why don't you buy it yourself then?"

"Well I don't have regular access. I could tell you the site where I saw it and you could order it from there?"

HELLO! ARE YOU REALLY REALLY DUMB! DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO THAN THAT?

"Er, that's not how it works really. We have to add something on top to make it worth our while."

"Oh."

Indeed.

(I didn't tell him about the special wooden knitting needles I ordered off the net for one of our bestest but computerless customers. That's the way it works in the non-corporate world though. She's a good customer so I'll do almost anything for her.)

And finally there was the man who wanted me to search for books on some boxer I'd never heard of. There weren't any books. He got angry.

"Why don't you got any books on 'im?"

"Er, nobody's written any...maybe you could do some research and write one?"

"Me, I can't even read! That's a joke man."

Amazingly he left without smashing my face in...I just hope none of his mates can read either. If they come across this I'm dead!

(PS There is no shame in not being able to read. But boxing is a stupid activity and makes you more and more stupid as time goes by.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Denis Won't Let Me Sleep...

I was late opening today 'cos I was up half the night reading Tree Of Smoke.

This novel should cause the equivalent of the Northern-Rock-engulfing financial crisis in literary circles when it hits these shores.

90% of people writing novels should hang up their pens, throw the Word Processor out the window and take up shovelling poo after reading this - it just blows most of contemporary literature out of the way, like so much fluff...

(Those of you that know me will be able to take that last sentence with the required pinches of salt - don't want to be responsible for mass author death! Just excited...)

Take this:

"We're on the cutting edge of reality itself. Right where it turns into a dream." (This from a CIA man - sound familiar?)

Then this:

One might hypothesize a step beyond the final one. Consider the possibility that a coterie or insulated group might elect to create fictions independent of the leadership's intuition of its own needs. And might serve these fictions to the enemy in order to influence choices. (During a CIA discussion of the problems of intelligence being polluted by political influence)

Then this:

Above them paddies terraced the hillside. They moved along the dikes and trudged generally upward.
From nowhere came the racket of gunfire, bullets jerking the small shoots and chirping in the water.
They raced without speaking over the dikes and flopped on the dry side and crawled along until they found a gully and dropped into it and scrambled away from whoever was trying to kill them.
"You don't understand," Nash said. "I'm not ready for this at all. I only been here three days!"
"I just took a second tour," James said. "I don't know which one of us is the stupider shit."
They passed burning hooches and empty hamlets and never saw any people. By their complete absence they seemed to suggest themselves vividly. But there was activity ahead. They heard shooting. At one point they heard a voice crying in a foreign language. They came on a hamlet whose dwellers had just cleared out minutes ago. They'd even left an animal picketed in a garden, a goat with his neck stuck out as if offering it to the axe, but he was only shitting. Right in the middle of a war.
The three soldiers climbed on toward the peak.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Delusional Behaviour, Psy Ops, Great Literature etc

Ok, you gotta help me out here. I'm in the shop alone, day after day. There's no Adam to bounce things off...

On the way in this morning I think I observed two examples of delusional behaviour. See what you think.

EG 1:

A woman walking a scrawny piece of mongrel junk is hailed by a friend from across the road.

"Is that your dog?"

The woman with the dog crosses over the road.

"Yeah, I got him from Battersea Dogs Home."

"Oh, he's lovely."

"Stop that Bernie!" (The dog is trying to shag her friend's leg)

How is that lovely? Was the woman not clearly deluded? Since when has shagging the legs of total strangers been lovely?

EG 2:


Crocs.

Am I missing something? Are they not simply a crime against humanity? A fashion error even the most illiterate fashionistas (I look like a crumpled mess of corduroy and babysicksplattered shirts mostly - I also like wearing my football shirt in the garden) can spot.

I saw someone wearing them on my way in and asked myself the question I always ask when I see these awful shoes - what the F8ck do you think you're doing!

So whaddayareckon? Is it me or is reading the new Denis Johnson pushing me close to the edge?

I find great literature pushes me close to the edge of sanity. Dostoevsky does it to me every time. Denis too. Tree of Smoke is a masterpiece. A great novel. (I think these books unbalance me because I see what writing is all about, how good it can be. Simultaneously I understand that I will never achieve such literary heights and somethng in me gets mad!) Yes, it's official, Dr Rick and I agree - Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke is the novel he was born to write. From the paranoia and mayhem of the Vietnam jungle, where CIA Psy Ops are trying to turn the VC tunnel system into "a region of hell" Johnson extracts truths about the American psyche that are surely also relevant to our own view of the world?

Awesome stuff. What every novel should be. I think...or is Dr Rick (he's not my shrink - he's into skin diseases) right and DJ is destined to remain a niche man, a writer's writer (yuk) for all time?