Friday, August 31, 2007
We're going to have to go home light some candles and crack open the red wine and the haagen das.
We're feeling very vulnerable right now...
My powers were becoming so awesome that even Adam was starting to believe in them. (Imagine the last person on Earth to be convinced of the reality of the psychic realm - that's Adam) Just yesterday I saw a certain regular customer of ours who just happens to be pretty bloody famous walk past the shop. That prompted me to mention a story the certain person told me about himself and his meeting with a certain author. Moments later the certain famous person came in and asked about a book. After he left Adam turned around:
"Wow - did you know he was going to come in!"
Of course I said I'd seen him walk by moments before but the point is Adam thought it was a psychic moment...
But the nature of such phenomena is that they are unreliable. I mean poor old Uri has been trying to prove his powers exist for a long while but whaddayouknow - soon as you try to test them under scientific conditions the powers let you down.
What I'm trying to say is that my psychic plea for a Denis Johnson proof failed. No book in the post. Damn. So I tried a more traditional method and phoned Camilla at Picador who said she was sure she could find a copy, despite the fact a lesser minion had claimed there were none left. Hah!
As soon as I finish the very excellent Beautiful Children by Charles Bock (out next year) I can start on Denis (out sooner!). Oh! If only you could feel the rushes of pleasurable anticipation now coursing through my veins...
Thursday, August 30, 2007
But even with a semblance of stopping capability it is still a perilously dangerous thing to ride in heavy traffic - I love it. Heartily recommended.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Part a) Back to the roots.
Part b) Enter Hollywood
Part c) El-Eye-Vee Ee-Ar-Pee double-0-El Liverpool FC
Parts d-g) The Murderers
Part j) Redemption (My mothers favourite and one of mine - All hail the King)
Walk on, walk on. With hope in our heart...
'ooh, you have a wonderful choice'
'Anthing beautifully illustrated you would recommend for a 4 year old'
'Yes, how about this, or this'
He has a bit of a browse, I happen to notice he's using plastic supermarket bags to carry his un-supermarket-like items, hmm... And wearing some nylon trousers with white trainers... hmmm... And no wedding ring... Most dads at this time of the evening buying stuff for their kids are in their suits on the way to the station to take the train back to Godalming... hmmmm... And a really ugly 80's polo shirt... hmmmmmmmmmm... Why's he buying lovely books for a 4 year old??? He's to old to have a 4 year old... And not old enough to be a grandad... hmmmmmmmmmmmm... OH MY GOD HE'S A PAEDO!
God I hate the Daily Mail and it's pernicious, curtain-twitching, paranoid, bigotry. It gets every bloody where. I'm a liberal, imagine what this kind of paranoid junk does to people of a more inherently nervous and suspicious nature.
Is there a cure for dailymailitis?
Probably a strong dose of Newyorkreviewofbooksozac
More quotes here.
I went for Bock.
All of you, yes, even you, will be reading this book when it comes out in Feb next year. With luck they will be signed copies that you bought at C & P after I persuaded Mr Bock to come down to Lambeth and sign a few. Suffice to say I have a feeling about this one. Half way through and it has all the marks of a Great American Novel - will let you if I still think that at the end...
There are a large number of angry teens in it and they do a good bit of parent-bashing too. But if I could I'd tell them - wait until you have kids. Then you'll feel bad. Very bad. And spoilt. And very full of regret - 'cos I'm sure they weren't that bad. In fact, they loved you and now you've grown up a bit and realise that isn't the case for the majority of people in the world, that's worth hanging on to.
But dads are never cool are they? No. Boney M, you were wrong. On Hols in France my dad told us tales of his youth, how he used to go on United Nations work camps to "build a spirit of international relations and solidarity". Hmmm. Dad, all that hard work was thrown away when you tried to demonstrate "the Penguin" (a "disco" dance he invented) to those French girls at that 50th birthday party. The French will hate us a while longer methinks.
Then they go and surprise you. His mobile phone is ancient. He lent it to my brother who dropped it (probably on purpose) and the aerial broke off. Most paid up members of our glorious consumer society would have hurled it in the nearest bin and bought another - with a camera and internet access and TV and a kitchen sink - but not my dad, no. He found a rusty screw, screwed it into the phone at the rough place the aerial used to protrude - and it worked. The rusty screw was rusty so he replaced it with a shiny black screw and now it's just perfect.
Dads, hmmm, maybe cool after all?
Saturday, August 25, 2007
(Picador or Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
If I had a proof or manuscript or whatever of Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke I would read it and blog it to the MAX.
It's worth a go...
I read the Inferno a long time ago in an awful 1960's translation that put me off the Italian super-bard for ten years. I would never have returned to The Divine Comedy if I hadn't met Peter Dale in the shop one evening. This charming man was so passionate about the art of translation, so funny and also generous and kind (he gave me a slim volume of his own poetry because he liked the shop) that I felt I had to read his version of Dante.
Faithful to Dante's own rhyme scheme he has also managed to make the Italian epic flow and make sense to the modern reader in English.
Re-reading Milton's Paradise Lost last year I found my imagination burning with intense images and this version of Dante has the same effect. I even dreamed of being chased by Devils the other night! (I would put myself in the same ring as Virgil - with the virtuous pagans. Although several of the other, more nasty rings, contain sinners guilty of crimes I'm sure I have committed at one time or another - hence the guity dream?)
In the last two years I have turned 30, had a son and opened a bookshop. In other words I've had quite a lot on my mind! Or rather my mind has been turned upside down and inside out...
I felt I needed to re-orient my brain and this book was a great way to do just that.
This is not a book of the Very Short Introduction or Beginner's Guide type. Kolakowski takes a few central ideas from 23 "Great Philosophers", many of which are in the form of questions. He then explains these central ideas clearly and asks further questions at the end of each section. In other words if you are looking for answers then this is NOT the book for you...(There's bound to be a knock at the door bringing a Jehovah's Witness soon though - they have all the answers, or so they say...)
But if you want confirmation that you do actually believe something in this mixed up world and enjoy mental gymnastics then you, like me, will probably love it.
I am increasingly of the opinion that Africa is leading the way in world literature.
Not only is there the recent explosive success of Chimananda Ngozi Adichie (Orange Prize winner with Half of a Yellow Sun - also huge success with Richard and Judy) there are other youngsters such as Segun Afolabi (read at C & P last year) Ahmadou Kourouma (Allah is not Obliged), Dinaw Mengestu (Children of the Revolution - Guardian first book shortlisted) and C & P favourite Sade Adeniran (Imagine This).
Then how about Ngugi Wa Thiong'o whose recent Wizard of the Crow is by all accounts excellent and extremely funny?
I should now confess to feeling almost completely ignorant when it comes to Sub-Saharan Africa in general and the literature of the region in particular. I read The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski and found it an excellent introduction though also (he was Polish) the view of an outsider.
Achebe's Things Fall Apart seemed like a good fictional starting point and it was...
In many ways it tells a story that is probably not unique to Africa. Okonowo is the best wrestler of his generation. He looks set to become a great leader and one of the key members of his clan. But gradually foreign influences arrive and begin to disrupt the ancient ways of his people. As things fall apart Okonowo's world disappears.
I found many of my (ignorant) ideas about Africa were torn to pieces by Achebe's brilliant story. Excellent stuff! I'm going to read the Wizard of the Crow next...
I forget which party it was...but it was a good one and the shop was packed with people. I was selling books to someone and they were telling me what a great bookshop we have created when they thrust a card in my general direction and announced they worked for a certain publisher. This is the kind of thing that happens on a regular basis and my immediate response is always to ask what's HOT from the publisher concerned at the minute. (You would be amazed how many times I'm met with a blank face in response to this question. But obviously publishers are always a step ahead of booksellers and while we might be thinking about Christmas now they are probably already planning way into the next year. Working out what books are new in the shops right now usually requires a bit of brain work...)
Anyway the person worked for John Murray and one of the books she suggested was Mister Pip (now Booker Longlisted)
I sped through Mister Pip as I sped through France on a TGV.
What can I say? It is close to the perfect Summer Read. Lloyd, pretty much unknown in this country, is well regarded in his native New Zealand and it's easy to see why. The novel is set on an isolated but resource-rich island in the South Pacific. War has recently broken out as various shadowy factions struggle to gain control of the lucrative mining industry. Details of the conflict are left to the imagination of the reader. All you really need to know is that there are foreign soldiers fighting indigenous guerrillas. As both sides become increasingly brutalised the civilian population are drawn into the violence.
There is only one white man living on the island. He has always been a figure of fun and ridicule but now steps forward to take centre stage. He offers to re-open the school and teach the local children. His method primarily involves reading Great Expectations by Dickens out loud. This has a huge effect on the children and their internal lives. In fact some of the parents are so disturbed by the entry of Mister Pip into the lives of their children that they begin to contribute to the classes as well, telling traditional tales that pass on the wisdom of their ancestors. As the book progresses contemporary reality on the island and the fictional world of 19th century England interact in a variety of unpredictable ways.
This book achieves that rare blend of being thought provoking and yet also impossible to put down. It must be a strong contender for the Booker...
Friday, August 24, 2007
(Mr Crow in Crystal Palace has recently had similar, blessed relief)
The first game of the new Premiership season was always going to be a crap experience. I support Fulham FC (as I never tire of telling all and sundry) and our first game was away at Arsenal's space-age Emirates stadium. I visited the new stadium last season and we lost 3 - 1 after briefly taking the lead. There's nothing quite so gutting as singing your heart out at the Emirates while North London's prawn sarnie brigade text their mates, yawn and gaze at all the lovely advertising while waiting for the team they "support" with such a total lack of passion to wake up, assert their superior talent and put your own band of gritty battlers to the sword.
Well, I suppose it's a little bit like what happened to us on the first day of last season when we played Man Utd (the original prawn sarnie bunch) away. We found ourselves 3 - 0 down just fifteen minutes into the season and eventually lost 5 -1 following a truly awful display.
So all in all I was pretty sure to have a crap time. To make matters worse I was on holiday in France with no guarantee of being able to watch the match at all. The great day arrived and we went to the nearest small town in search of a bar with Canal + Sport. The previous day we had attempted to watch Sunderland VS Spurs with my Tottenham supporting brother-in-law. We found a bar, it had a telly, it had Canal + but not Canal + Sport. Poor old Will had to make do with hanging out on the beach with his Spurs gear on waiting for text updates. I was diving off a bunch of oil drums that served as a diving platform when I noticed Will collapse onto the sand. Spurs had lost 1 - 0 with the last kick of the game...
I think you'll agree that the omens were all pointing in one direction.
The first bar we tried was full of French bikers (middle-aged, office managers clad in pristine leather jackets) who noted our arrival, bad French and the mention of the word football with a comical array of sneers and thinly veiled insults. Luckily they were all French insults so they kind of lost their power. But the answer from the bar man was clear enough - "Non - Pas de Canal +" He went on to say that we would be lucky to find anywhere in town showing the football on a Sunday.
We strolled over the road to another bar. They had a telly. They had Canal +. They turned it on and we sat down. Kick off time came and went. Adverts. No footie. A round of "No, you go. No, you go." ensued over who should use their dodgy French to find out if they had Canal + Sport. By the time we worked out that they did have the correct channel Fulham had done the impossible and scored. Naturally we had missed the goal and it later turned out to have been a bizarre Jens Lehmann error that led to an easy first Fulham goal for David Healy. But we were in front...
The beers were in and the nail-biting began.
A series of brilliant saves from our second-choice keeper Tony Warner followed. They should have had a penalty, we should have had a penalty and both sides had further chances. At half-time we were still a goad up. Canal + showed a top ten Premiership goals sequence. At number 2, above superb goals from Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelroy, was a strike from Collins John (a bit-part player at Fulham for the last few seasons)
The omens were looking a lot better!
I went to find the bog. This turned out to be no easy matter. Eventually I opened the door to what I was sure was a cupboard and found a urinal inside. I relieved myself and wondered what I could write about now if, as I now allowed myself the folly of believing, this was not set to be a crap experience after all but a really rather good one. I should have known better.
Having wasted two clear chances to go 2 - 0 up and survived a series of Van Persie free kicks from the edge of the area we conceded a penalty on 85 mins that the Dutch brat scored with some style.
Our players immediately got involved in some schoolboy antics over who could run back to the centre circle with the ball that led to a lot of pushing and shoving and several yellow cards. On 89 mins some truly awful defending from the now clearly knackered Fulham lads let Hleb through to score a cool winner.
There - it was crap after all.
A text from my mate Toby who was at the match put it very well.
As he trudged along the Holloway Road with a crowd of Arsenal fans loudly congratulating themselves on how great they are for supporting such a great club I found myself drinking home made cider of superb strength and quality at a Breton country fair. As men and women dressed in bizarre outfits danced and sang and played bagpipes I drifted into a sunshine/moonshine induced haze and began to think of how I now had the perfect crap holiday experience to write about again...
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
'There's a charge for paying by credit card, 1.5%, which we pass on to the customer'
'My customers pay by credit card, there's a percentage charge but WE don't pass it on. Nobody does'
'Well, Gardners have always done it'
'Well, Gardners have just lost a customer'
They must have been charging us the whole time we've had the account and I've only just noticed. To say I'm a bit angry would probably understate the situation - un petit peu. Gardners have just gone from the potential for 6 figure business from us to 3 figures. Nice work. Well done.
When will they ever learn. It's the customers, stupid.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Message number 342 had an invitation to view a new book trailer. I may have mentioned in the past my dislike for these forms of viral marketing so I viewed this new one with interest.
Someone, please, MAKE IT STOP.
Friday, August 17, 2007
We've signed up to Google checkout and added a little button on the website so you can buy superstar author and ex-C&P girl Marie Phillips' best-selling debut novel Gods Behaving Badly. Go here to splash the cash.
(And before the comments come, yes I know I put an apostrophe in 'Gods' but I'm tired and it's friday and I don't know how to change it)
Thursday, August 16, 2007
(Don't you think that's quite a discrepancy? At today's exchange rate you'll pay £11.13 more for the UK edition. Something not quite right there).
I need Matthew back, not because there's too much work for one but I need someone to talk football with. We heart football.
A new title from Yale University Press has just landed in store - a £45, 1600 page, new english translation of 'The most comprehensive account of Mozart's life and works in any language' first published in german over 80 years ago.
Do you know what? I'm tempted. Reminds me of that enormous biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro the first 200 pages of which are among the finest descriptive writing I've ever read. I'm quite attracted to enormous amounts of exhaustive research that's well written. Off on holiday in september for 2 weeks. Hmm. Trouble is the book on it's own would exceed my baggage allowance but I mean, really, who needs a change of clothes?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Oddly, for a chain, Borders were one of Smoke's best customers. He'd go into a branch, do a quick stock check and replace what had sold. Virtually no work for Borders whatsoever and considering they would sell hundreds of copies probably about 600 quids worth of business (after discount) for every issue - easy money, n'est ce pas?
Well that didn't stop the bean counters who wrote to Matt a few months ago saying they were not dealing with small, individual suppliers any more and if he wanted to carry on supplying to Borders he'd have to get a distributor to whom they would do business.
Because Borders can't be bothered to process maybe a dozen invoices a year it's costing Matt 15% of his income from the magazine - about £300 a year just from them. Is Borders saving that much - I doubt it. A dozen invoices a year can't possibly add up to more than a couple of hours work - £30, tops. But because he's signed up with the new supplier he's also losing 15% from people like us who are happy to deal direct.
The other lunacy is he only lives half a mile away from us. Now he has to deliver to a warehouse in Hackney who then parcel up and send out a box back across town - about a 12 mile round trip.
The only upside to this idiocy is that maybe, and that's a big maybe, he'll get Smoke into the London Waterstone's and double his sales. Fingers crossed but they should have been dealing with him direct already. It is as they say a no-friggin'-brainer.
I should say as well that no one has asked me to write this and I am probably breaking a confidence by doing so but it's just too infuriating for it to go unknown just how these big companies are squeezing the life out of people who are really producing work as a labour of love. It makes me very, very cross.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Rumble Fish is on Film4 tonight, a film that made quite an impact on me as a teenager. I could go on about Coppola, Waits, Mickey Rourke, the enigmatic black and white photography. I could talk about the brilliant S E Hinton. But I'd be lying. There's only one reason to watch that film.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Monday morning, 10am. Hello, How can I help. Oh, I'm sorry one of our systems just suspended the account for no reason.
(That was the precis version. Both phone calls took upwards of 20 minutes each)
Saturday Afternoon, 3.30pm. I phone one of our wholesalers. Hello, I'm expecting a delivery, was it despatched yesterday when I phoned the order through. No, that one will go out monday. To get saturday delivery you need to order £150 worth. Oh, it would have been nice if someone told me that when I PHONED THROUGH THE ORDER ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON. Sorry.
I swear, how do these companies get so big? If we were as shit as them we'd be out of business by year's end
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
And this is just brilliant country and western women-done-wrong-by-cheatin'-men genius. Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson, what a pair of pair of lungs!
You don't think I'd leave you with just one Kelly and Reba outing do ya?
I really must get out more.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
'Powell's - Quality Bookselling for Quality Clientele'.
Has a nice ring to it.
Maybe I should put that order in for the Bentley. I hear there's a waiting list.
Well, every night on channel 4 there is such a kid. Slightly geeky and awkward, under-educated rather than un-intelligent (he does actually have a keen intelligence) and apparently without malice or side, Brian seems to me a completely unique appearance in British media - a black male in his 20's who isn't some sort of victim or outcast and who is probably going to win the show because he's a lovely bloke. I would say 'well done C4' but you can't help thinking it's more luck than judgement on their part that it's turned out so well. But well done anyway.
And as for the BB detractors, yes I know they are attention seekers but surprise surprise there are people around who like being the centre of attention, in fact they're everywhere. Yet when they do start to forget there are cameras there they just hang about like the rest of us and really, who isn't interested in watching people. Just watching and watching. People, no matter who they are, are endlessly fascinating - not necessarily to talk too but just to watch - and in real life you'd get arrested for just watching and watching (stalking?). So again, well done channel 4. I only tune in for 30 minutes or so every other day but I really like it. It's like sitting in a cafe watching the day go by only with the same people walking past. But also, to all those who dismiss it without watching are they not making the same kind of dismissive assumptions that condemn young black men to a rigid set of personality ghettos?
I don't think it's only the Met that have to take a close look at their casual yet institutional bigotry and racism.
Ok, soapbox down now.
Residents of Haringey have started a petition to try and persuade Waterstone's not to close down the Wood Green branch. Sign here if you're so inclined.
However, the key point in the petition for me is that the Waterstone's is apparently re-opening as an H&M. How much do you think they offered the golden W for the lease in a bit of prime retail real estate? What of the odds of them changing their minds? Not one to bet the house on...
Not content with being number one at C & P she went on to becomes Foyles hardback bestseller and after one week of sales is 29 in the official Nielson charts.
At the time of writing she's 149 on Amazon but has been seen as high as 78.
Go Go Go Go Girl!
We have signed first editions in stock now and you know there's only one place you want to be buying those from...
What a book. We sold hundreds with a "trust me - this is excellent" drive and put it in the window not once but twice. So far I have not heard a bad word from anyone. It is rare for a book to have such wide appeal and What Was Lost is a rare book indeed.
We even had a letter from someone who had visited us by chance on a trip up from the Isle Of Wight:
"I'm just dropping a line to say how very much I enjoyed your recommended book What Was Lost...What Was Lost was a great joy: well-written, with enough plot to keep one's interest and, equally, enough good writing to keep one engaged. I loved the delineation of the characters - realistic but not stereotypes - and the way the various elements of the plot were carefully brought out one by one until the whole thing became satisfyingly complete without unnecessary coincidence or obvious plot twists."
So come on Booker judges - stuff McYawn and go for a book that a large section of the reading public are going to LOVE if you choose it for your prize.
I know, I can hear you groaning but there's more...
As I never tire of telling people I support by far the greatest team the world has ever seen - Fulham FC. As usual the pundits have marked us for the drop. It happens every year. They look at the club and think to themselves something that goes a little bit like this:
There's an actual cottage in the corner of the ground.
This is a team with hardly any fans.
The fans that there are are all posh twits that only started watching football because they were conned into it during a massive shopping spree in Harrods.
They can't be a Premiership team can they?
Premiership teams are all hard and their fans break stuff and kill each other if they aren't divided by police on horses.
Needless to say they are wrong. (I could go off on one about all the reasons why FFC are so great but then you would see that life is too short)
Let's just say I am confident we'll be in the Premiership next season. I'll also point out that after beating Chelsea for the first time in a very very long time there was a pitch invasion. Posh twits don't invade pitches. And the Thames - we're by the Thames...I'm drifting aren't I...
But football is important and literary and linked to the occult.
It goes a little something like this:
David Peace publishes a book about Brian Clough's disasterous reign at Leeds Utd titled The Damned Utd.
Leeds Utd are relegated from the Championship to league 1.
David Peace releases an awesome new book Tokyo Year Zero and on the same day Leeds Utd are penalised with a 15 point deduction meaning they start this season at the bottom of the table on minus 15 points.
Now do you understand why it's so important to come and eat Sushi with David Peace on Wed 5th September at 1pm.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
'When I watch you eat. When I see you asleep. When I look at you lately, I just want to smash your face in.'
Normally I'm very calm, honest. Please don't let that put you off visiting C&P...
Thursday, August 02, 2007
"I'm a bit pissed. Out all night...no sleep yet..."
I watched him as he staggered into the other room but he did seem to be browsing. Shoplifters are always easy to spot because they can't browse. They go from section to section with no logical connection between them. This bloke was looking at the fiction section. He was browsing. I left him to it and a few minutes later he came over with a copy of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot and Richard Yate's Revolutionary Road. A man of great taste! He paid and I helped him choose a card for his ex - then we had a great chat.
We discussed Revolutionary Road and the way the reader is drawn into the book, how impossible it is to avoid being completely snared by the writing. Disaster is there, right from the opening moments, but you just have to read on. We moved on to Yate's troubled life and the fact he used to write speeches for Robert Kennedy. (I avoided talking about his alcoholism given the circumstances) Another customer bought Suite Francaise and my new mate tried to sell her John McGahern's Amongst Women. Somehow his sales pitch of "This'll be the best thing you buy all year" failed to convince her and, after I explained he wasn't on commission she left - probably a little shaken by the early morning booze stink on his breath.
We chatted on and it turned out he used to go out with Jimmy Somerville. A discussion of fame and the effects it can have ensued. He then asked if I was gay and I said I wasn't. I showed him my ring and explained I was married.
"You could pass as gay" he said - which I took as a great compliment.
Then he left. But I felt August had got off to a good start...
The next first concerns the first party to celebrate the first book by our first lady Marie.
There was a great turnout (of course!) For some reason Marie seemed to be expecting one man and his dog but the place was heaving and the queue for signed first editions of her first novel started at 6:30 and kept Marie signing until 8:30. She was then able to mingle with her adoring public. The poor lass already had a signing related injury on her wrist - a kind of cross between a blister and a bruise - caused by a visit to the TBS warehouse.
It was just like the old days as Marie and I manned the till. In fact at one point Marie was seen selling her own book! A travesty I rushed across the room to rectify as soon as I'd finished saying hello to one of the numerous people who popped out of the woodwork and made an appearance. (Having kids kills the social life) The call to say Marie had a deal with Random House came while she was standing behind the C & P till so there was a beautiful symetry to the whole scene. Luckily we were so busy I only remembered I was going to make a speech after almost everyone (including Marie) had left. But Marie - we are thrilled for you and wish you all the best in what I'm sure will be a long career.
So it was a great day/evening and we do it all again tonight at the second launch of Marie's first novel on the second of August. Hmmm...doesn't have the same ring to it really...