Friday, August 31, 2007

'Please remove me from your mailing list'

Was it something we said? What have we done? No need to be so cruel, so heartless, so efficient in your rejection.

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...

When Psychic Powers Fail - Try The Telephone...

Psychic powers are a curse. You've all seen the films and read the books that explain exactly why this is the case and why I just can't tell you who is going to win the Booker this year...

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

Danger Level: Extreme

I found cycling in London wasn't quite scary enough so I bought myself a fixed gear bike with no brakes. However, after a short ride I decided to fit a front brake because a) My knees would be shot to hell (try braking using only the pedals some time) and b) I'd be dead within the week.

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

Tony Adams is the best football pundit ever

HE IS! HE JUST IS. Anyone who was watching ITV4 tonight must agree that Tone is a total and utter telly natural. Move over Lineker, Hansen, Lawrenson, Shearer, Dixon blah blah. Tony Adams ROCKS. Give that man a job, only he's already got one. Harry Redknapp's a great tv person too, you know.

Too good to ignore

More Elvis...

If anyone is so inclined you may find one of the best gigs ever filmed if you paste this - "Live '68 Elvis Presley Comeback Special Unedited" into youtube and watch all 12 episodes back to back. AAAAhh the genius of the internet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


A musical tribute to Liverpool Football Club making it to the group stages of the Champions league.

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...

A chronic case of Dailymailitis

A bloke in the shop in his 40's looking at the kids section,

'ooh, you have a wonderful choice'

'Thank you'

'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

Annie Hall was on tv last night

'...but it was great seeing Annie again. I... I realized what a terrific person she was, and... and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I... I, I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.'


More quotes here.

Daddy Cool...

If you did in fact read all the below and the comments and were really paying attention (what's wrong with you!) then you might remember my dilemma over what to read next - Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o or Charles Bock's Beutiful Children.

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

A Psychic Plea to Denis Johnson's Publishing Crew

Crockatt calling publishing folk! Crockatt calling publishing folk!

(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...

And more...(God, now I'm even boring myself!)

The Divine Comedy by Dante (in a terza rima translated by Peter Dale)

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?)

And there's more...

Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing by Leszek Kolakowski

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.

More holiday reading...

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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...

My Holiday Reading...

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

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

We're all going on a summer holiday

We've been waiting for the summer downturn when people are on holiday and not around to buy books. I was hoping it was going to be around the time I was in the shop by myself when Matthew was on holiday - a bit of peace and quiet. (Un)Fortunately last week was as good as many of our best and I was running round like a blue-arsed fly. This week, monday, wednesday, yesterday not so good... Today wasn't looking too hot either until at 5.27pm Mr Moneybags comes in and drops 120 quid. Never seen him before, not likely to again but thanks anyway whoever you are for sending me into a bank holiday weekend with a big ol' shit-eating grin plastered all over my face.

(Mr Crow in Crystal Palace has recently had similar, blessed relief)

The Inevitable Football Post...

Our mates at Scooterworks (Charlie & Nat) asked if I'd write about a crap experience I had while on holiday for a new magazine 'ting they are putting together. I said yes and this is it...

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

I'm Back...don't know where to start...

I could tell you about the books I read...

Or the lovely countryside...

Or the football (Healy!)...


The Jazz club I "discovered" under a church in Camberwell...

But I'm still too relaxed. Maybe later...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Customer service

We received an invoice for a small sum this morning from one of the big wholesalers. I wasn't too sure what it was for so I phoned accounts.

'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

Inbox (763)

Of course, it was obvious that when we paid the bill the old email address would still work. Why then did we not think to check it for 6 weeks?

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 had 2 websites. BT went and put up our old site without telling us. Arse. Thanks to Pierre for pointing it out. I've fixed it. It's ONLY but if you do find you're way to the old one it will point you in the right direction anyway.

The Tortoise and the Hare

Ok, so we're a little slow sometimes but we get there in the end.

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


The new Naomi Klein book The Shock Doctrine is out at the end of september at a whopping 25 quid. It's published in hardback in the states 12 days earlier for $27.50 which these days is basically free. Which one do I get for the nice customer?

(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).

Football, sorry

Just saw the back page of the newspaper and chuckled to myself at poor old Man Utd scraping a measly 2 points out of six. YES! Poor old Spurs too - nil points - a lesson in what happens when you start believing your own press. And look at boring old Chelsea. Not any more it would appear. Do you think Abramovitch has spent some of his billions on killing off the old one and building a replica Mourinho - one who believes in attacking football? And Fulham, Matthew, on his hols, will be over the moon that the Sanchez revolution is in full sway. C'mon you cottagers. Who's going down? 'Boro, Wigan and Derby. Derby, not for want of application but just lack of talent. This years Watford. Who's going to win? I think Chelsea but you might not be able to slide a fag paper between them and Liverpool in april. Arsenal could still be the surprise package.

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

The bean counters give up Smoke-ing

London readers may well be familiar with Smoke magazine. This London peculiar is 10 issues strong now and Matt the publisher distributes the mag all round London - well, to those shops that agree to stock it. Waterstone's has never taken it and some surprising indies don't bother either. Why is beyond me as it is always interesting and genuinely entertaining and we sell dozens and dozens of copies.

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.


WoW. Just what I've been waiting for. COOL BEANS!

I've always DREAMED of reading snippets of books on 2 INCH SQUARE screens!!!!!!!!!!!

Life is now COMPLETE!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Teenage Kicks

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.

Diane Lane, wherever you are, I still love you.

Shh, it's the quiet time.

We've been waiting all summer for the quiet weeks to kick in. I think it's just started. Or maybe it's just that I'm in the shop by myself scaring customers away. Or maybe it's because it's raining and cold. Are they all away on holiday? Will be lucky to break 3 figures today. Oh for god's sake it's only half ten!

Monday, August 13, 2007


Saturday morning, 11am. I open up. No internet. Unplug, plug, unplug, plug, fiddle, click, nothing. Phone BT, sorry account suspended. Why? Haven't we just paid you a very large sum? Sorry you'll have to talk to accounts. Accounts department opening hours 8-6 (ish) monday to friday. Fat lot of use on saturday.

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

India at 60

India isn't 60 years old it's thousands of years old.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Go, the Kids! - more videos

This lot look like they're having fun.

But it does sound slightly familiar. Hmmm. I reckon they're probably this lots grandkids.

Or, this sanitised but better quality version.

Random videos

Had one of my occasional YouTube marathons last night. Here are the music video highlights that I watched slightly more than once. First up was just a totally compelling bit of film coupled with a sort of 'how did they do that' wonder. It helps that I like Interpol anyway of course.

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

This time next year I'll be a millionaire.

Todays sales figure has an '8' in it. In the right place too. Not bad for the middle of the holidays. Might take the day off tomorrow. I'm my own boss don't you know. In fact I AM THE BOSS NOW! Matthew's gone orf for 2 weeks, first to deepest, darkest Brittany avec famille and then all by his lonesome in sunny Camberwell. So it's just me. No one else. Nada. Me me me. So I don't want any trouble, right. And if we keep hitting the heady heights of super sales figures like today then who knows, when he gets back he might just find himself out on his ear. Sorry mate, the business just doesn't need you any more.

'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.

Okay, so I watch big brother occasionally.

These days when you hear or read the words 'The victim was/The suspect is' on TV or in the Newspapers it is usually followed by 'a black male in his 20's/teens'. In fact outside of victims/criminals/rappers/sportsman when do you ever see a 'normal' happy go lucky black kid just being a decent, friendly guy in any form of mainstream media.

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.

Closing down

Not Us!

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...

Marie "Bestselling" Phillips

Our one and only ampersand Marie has made it onto the bestseller lists.

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 Was Lost on Booker Longlist

What Was Lost? Well I lost my mind and any sense of proportion when Catherine O'Flynn's brilliant debut passed through my eyes and into my brain earlier this year.

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.

Fever...and I told you not te MESS with the SUSHI

Just a few days to go before the sordid and gaudy carousel that is the Premiership kicks off for another season of unbeatable entertainment.

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


I'm not supposed to blog on this site any more, but I was just sneaking on to say how cool it is that 'What Was Lost', the second favourite book sold by C&P this year (favourite being mine, naturally), is on the Booker longlist. The C&P boys don't hold with literary prizes on the whole, but I am always curious about them as they are often a good opportunity to have my attention drawn to good novels which might otherwise have passed me by. The inclusion of What Was Lost this year shows that the judges have their heads screwed on, and inspires confidence that the rest of the list, most of which is entirely new to me, might be worth checking out. And don't forget What Was Lost was launched at C&P - all the best novels are, don't you know...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Pure, visceral loathing

It happens very rarely but when it does it's palpable. There are people that we (or maybe it's just 'I') meet that we take such an instant and irreparable hatred for. It's almost like a chemical reaction where the person standing in front of you is acting like some sort of catalyst for the nasty, primeval visciousness that lies buried at the base of the brain. And there's nothing you can do about it. This person was in yesterday and back in today and all I can think about when he's condescendingly droning on is Kathleen Turner in the 1989 movie, The War of the Roses:

'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...

Slouching Towards Summer

I'm partied out. But there's a week in Brittany on the horizon and I think I can make it...

Finn is coming to the shop at 2pm and we're off to the park together. I think stumbling around a playground mumbling nonsense is all I'm good for at the minute!

Thursday, August 02, 2007


The first customer of August was drunk. The way he stumbleswerved through the door brought my head up right away and he must have caught my dark glance because he came right out with it...

"I'm a bit pissed. Out all 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...