Thursday, January 31, 2008
'Adam Powell (36) and Matthew Crockatt (33)... are redefining the independent bookselling scene. Their elegant Crockatt & Powell shop in London's Waterloo combines an old-school feel with a discerning, eclectic selection of books. And it's working.'
And if that wasn't good enough, the other people on the Saga Wise List for Literature 2008 are... Doris Lessing, JK Rowling, Luke Johnson (ex channel 4 who's just bought Borders), Mark Ellingham (founder of Rough Guides and erm, that's it. Gulp. That's some company to keep. Cool.
Although tomorrow I'll actually be 37. One year closer to taking out a Saga subscription. Which I definitely will.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
"Our readers won't understand this."
"Our customers are too busy and won't get this."
"The people who come to our restaurant want red meat."
"No one is going to want something this good..."
Think about the stuff you hear on the radio or read about in mass market publications. When they attempt to cover something you really know about, they seem pretty stupid, don't they? Oversimplifying to the point of getting it completely wrong. They're busy pandering to the masses, dumbing things down for the lowest common denominator.
You're under pressure to do that with your restaurant and your spiritual advice and your stump speech and your non-profit pitch. There are gatekeepers pushing you to dumb it down for the average.
The thing is, when you dumb stuff down, you know what you get?
And (I'm generalizing here) dumb customers don't spend as much, don't talk as much, don't blog as much, don't vote as much and don't evangelize as much. In other words, they're the worst ones to end up with.
I'll take the smart customers/readers/prospects every time, please."
Or is that elitist snobbery? Hmm? No, I don't think so.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
First off Dr Rick is talking to us about it. It's translated by Michael Hofmann so (of course) Dr Rick wants a copy. Then I read about the author in the Guardian. And now the book...
...excellent so far.
Child narrator, but don't let that put you off. Peniless writer father obsessed with books. Europe, gently collapsing into WW2.
"My father came back very late, because he met a policeman on the way. He made friends with the policeman...and then the two of them went off together to have a drink. As my father couldn't pay, he had to call the poet Fiedler, who's staying in Brussels for the time being, and who doesn't have any money either. And then Herr Fiedler came along, plus a bookseller who worships my father, and he agreed to lend him seventy francs. My mother and I had fallen asleep sadly in the window when my father made his happy return."
There was a bit of a disaster last night. We broke our bed. (That's enough sniggering there at the back! Finn likes to bounce - let's just say dad was trying to bounce too and leave it at that ok. You know I have this amazing knack of breaking stuff? I broke the feet off our shop heater this week. Now I bust the bed. It's what I do. OK?)
So the bed broke. Then I broke it again. More. On this occasion the breakage had nothing at all to do with the fact last night was Burn's night. Or that a certain experimental jazz band called Dog Soup were playing in the crypt of the Church at the end of our road.
But I've been digressing from the start...
The bed was broken. We had to sleep. We fixed it. How?
USING BOOKS! REAL BOOKS! MADE OF PAPER! AND WE DIDN'T WAKE UP TILL 8am! MORE SLEEP THAN I'VE HAD FOR BLOODY AGES!
In fact I'm so chuffed with our new book-bed I may put my foot down and say we have to keep it.
Before you ask I will not be posting photos for fear of causing offence to those whose proof copies may have been used to prop us up all night. A better fate still than the books that end up being sent to HMP Altcourse where - legend has it - the crims drill holes in unwanted books...
PS At C & P we don't do returns. Why? 'Cos we're stupid and lazy. Er, I mean because we never make mistakes - all the books we buy are great!
PPS If people stop reading real books I can always go into book furniture design eh?
Friday, January 25, 2008
'There Will Be Blood, from its first scene to the last, conveys a steady stream of breathtaking cinematic invention without ever letting us determine where the movie is going'
About Paul Thomas Anderson, the director:
'Anderson is the most ambitious and accomplished director working in the English language now and he is one of the few great living directors.'
So, David Thomson, author of the fantastic Biographical Dictionary of Film and bearing the same name as my uncle David in Limavady is on message. Hooray, I love it when people agree with me.
'Yes, five pounds usually'
'Hinton's the author, S'
'E Hinton. Erm, we have them in stock actually. American imports. Here I'll show you'
'Marvelous. Rumblefish too. I've been looking everywhere for these and everybody tells me they are out of print'
'No, just this country'
'What a result! It's going to be a great weekend'
'Happy to oblige'
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
- Atonement - The book is a writerly conceit and the film is very close to the book. Just as manipulative as the most trite Hollywood schmaltz only dressed up in cut-glass vowels and fancy frocks. However, Keira Knightly does deserve some kind of award for really, really wearing that green dress.
- Michael Clayton - The one I haven't seen. Looks worthy but dull.
- No Country For Old Men - Gut wrenchingly riveting and gripping on the first viewing. Desert landscapes, silence, stolen money, cattle guns, Tommy Lee Jones, what could go wrong? Well, on a second viewing the whole thing falls apart. I just didn't buy it, especially the Chigurh character, a figure of death and destruction but one without context. Matthew and I have argued long about this but suffice to say, I'm right.
- Juno - Brilliant! Funny, intelligent, non-judgemental, unpredictable and with great performances all round. Seen this three times now and it just gets better and better.
- There Will Be Blood - I may embarrass myself here... Quite simply one of the best films I have ever seen. Paul Thomas Anderson, the director, made Boogie Nights, Magnolia and the much underrated Punch Drunk Love. He hasn't made a picture for 5 years and I think in that time he's been to the crossroads and made a deal... An allegorical and symbolic history of the twentieth century no less this extraordinary film taken in part from an Upton Sinclair novel starts with men literally pulling oil out of the ground with buckets and ends with an act of unparalleled madness and brutality. The film is apocalyptic and visionary and I have no problems comparing it to Bosch or Grunewald in its intensity and beauty. The performances are all excellent but Daniel Day-Lewis is just an elemental force of nature. I've seen this three times also and different parts of Day-Lewis's character reveal themselves on each viewing he simply is Daniel Plainview. It's a genuine delight to come across a work of art in your lifetime that you just know will be considered as one of the greats across time. This film should win everything it's up for, which means, of course, it won't.
Friday, January 18, 2008
This is from the 9 November issue:
'St Pancras Foyles arrives late
...Once the £500,000 refit is completed, the 3,500 square foot store will stock some 6,500 titles.'
Hmm. 6,500 titles in a 3,500 square foot shop. That's not much. Based on C&P's capacity which as any visitor would know isn't exactly overburdened with stock that would probably mean they would have room to stock 4 copies of every title. Which would indicate, what with todays 24 hour turnaround on ordering, that they are expecting to sell 3 copies of every book, every day. That's impressive. In fact, let's do some sums.
6500 times 4... carry the 1... times by... erm... divided by.........
Bloody hell! That's a stock turn of just over 273! Well done Foyles! Most of us are happy with 5 and a bit!
Or maybe the Bookseller magazine just got the wrong end of the stick.
Now, where's that subscription form again...
(Disclaimer: This is not a moan at Foyles! They just happen to have been mis-somethinged. Unless they really are only having 6500 titles in 3500 square feet in which case it's going to be dead roomy. Probably loads of sofas to stretch out on. Nice.)
Thursday, January 17, 2008
It's probably totally unprofessional etc (YAAAWN) but we are what we are and we do what we do.
But please go easy on us for a while. We have a lot of work to do and I was up at 4am this morning.
And my kid just got his face scratched at nursery.
So I'm emotional. And boring myself now.
So I'll go home and lie down.
Maybe I'll finish the book I'm reading? BUtterfield 8
The new shop will be geographically further Sarf than this one.
Crockatt & Powell is and always will be about books books books and people people people.
When we opened on Lower Marsh we had to put up with folk saying we should be selling second-hand or discounted books because they judged the area according to cliched/stereotypical ideas of who it was who lived/worked/shopped in Waterloo.
Now we are to open in Chelsea and the predictable accusations are flying about.
We can go two ways - stop blogging for fear of upsetting people or carry on as normal. If we carry on then you'll just have to put up with it.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - nobody forces you to read this. Don't like it don't look...
Unfortunately, I believe it will be mostly impossible to change no matter how much we want to grovel for the crumbs from the chelsea table.
Normal service shall be resumed.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Media oars Crockatt & Powell were mentioned in the Evening Standard last night. (A good customer phoned up demanding to know who our mates in the media are - but we don't have any. I don't know why they're always writing about us either!) We're opening a new shop don't you know. They didn't speak to us, just looked at the blog where Adam was wondering if he should be worrying about the new shop or surfing on youtube some more.
As you might have realised this blog causes us occasional moments of terror. People actually read this crap. What if they were to take it all seriously? (No we are opening a new shop - honest. It's so confusing!)
So for all those of you West London types wondering who these blokes from down the 'loo are - don't worry - we're not as mad as we seem.
Think of a swan. Beautiful - graceful - mostly owned by the Queen. But underwater there are bigflappyorange feet going for it...
C & P 2 is going to be brilliant.
And in the papers...
(Unless they decide our heads are too big and it's time to send us crashing down.)
Gah! All I ever wanted was a quiet life and a few good books to read. BARMAN!
Yet run from the room screaming when 'sung' by this man:
But come to think of it, how come I like that song at all? Middle-age looms large... Another birthday is approaching... My years at Napalm Death gigs are fast receding...
But continuing in a country vein, check these two out.
Doesn't that just bring a smile to your face.
Anyway this is his brilliant destruction of the new Alain Ducasse restaurant at the Dorchester. I particularly like the last few paragraphs:
"Altogether, lunch took an unconscionable two hours, but that’s by the by. The point of this gaffe is the bill. For four of us – one person only had two courses – with a bottle of £40 wine chosen by the snail-mouthed sommelier, it came to 435 of your English pounds, including £48 for service. That’s sickening. The fixed price for three courses is £75, with a £10 supplement for a snivel of black truffle. I have always said that value depends on what you start off with, but I’ve changed my mind. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, this place would deafen you with the tearing sound of being ripped off.
And I’ve got a new definition of value and worth and hospitality: if the main course costs more than the waiter who serves it makes in a shift, then I don’t want to eat it, or support the restaurant that tries to get away with it. That sort of radical divergence of society – the sort of envy and resentment that it encourages – is immoral, and bad for a city and for everyone who lives in it. And if that doesn’t spoil your appetite, then nothing short of the chef pissing in your soup will.
As I looked round, I realised that nobody in this room was actually paying for their food: it was all on expenses. And, ultimately, all expense accounts are paid for by people who use goods and services. I hope it’s scant joy for you to know that, although you will never eat, nor be able to afford to eat, at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, you are still able to pay for those who do."I do love the sound of furious and righteous anger. And talking of radical divergence, on the short cycle ride between Sloane Square and shop 2 I spotted 3 Aston Martins, 2 Bentleys, A big flash Maserati, a Mercedes Mclaren and Range Rovers, big Beemers and Mercs too numerous to mention. A far cry from the Marsh. This is our new world now, I'd better start getting used to it.
The Curious Incident of the Hedgepig in Morrisons : No 2 In An Occasional Series Illustrating The Extreme Dangers Faced By The Toys Of Small Children
Hedgepig was small and his spines were soft. To make matters worse there was a hole in his belly for fingers. From time to time he would be relaxing in the buggy when some idiot would come along, stuff a finger in his belly and wiggle him around in front of a screaming chieftain known as Finn the Merciless (by his toys). It was clear from an early stage that Hedgepig's time on earth was going to be nasty, brutal and short.
And so it proved.
On a trip to Morrisons in Peckham (take a left at the sixth ring of Hell and you are nearly there) the Hedgepig was receiving some serious Finn Love in the form of snot-wiping and general chewing etc. While mum was selecting fine premium ale for dad to drink his pigness was presumably hurled onto the floor. We must presume since there were no witnesses to the incident. It could indeed have been a desperate, suicidal even, attempt at escape.
Still the result was not in doubt. Finn spent the rest of the time in Morrisons yelling "PIIIG PIIIIG PIIIIG" and mum had to smile and shrug at various "large" people in an attempt to convince them he wasn't shouting in their direction. The Hedgepig was reported missing at customer services and a search party slouched around the ails for all of thirty seconds before abandoning hope.
Hedgepig has gone.
(Wipes away a tear)
If you're out there Hedgepig - snuffle on!
Monday, January 14, 2008
I also managed to double-lock the front door which meant the builders working on the flats above the shop couldn't get in. Oops.
Friday, January 11, 2008
'O beata solitudo - O sola beatudo! Enforced solitude, as in solitary confinement, is a terrible and disorienting punishment, but freely chosen solitude is an immense blessing. To be out of the rattle and clang of quotidian life, to be away from the garbage of other people's amusements and the overflow of their unwanted subjectivities, is the essential escape. Solitude is, beyond question, one of the world's great gifts and an indespensable aid to creativity, no matter what level that creation may be hatched at. Our culture puts enormous emphasis on "socialisation", on the supposedly supreme virtues of establishing close relations with others: the psychologically "successful" is less an individual than a citizen, linked by a hundred cords and filaments to his or her fellow-humans and discovering fulfilment in relations with others. This belief becomes coersive, and in many cases tyrannous and even morbid, in a society like the United States, with its accursed, anodyne cults of togetherness. But perhaps as the psychiatrist Anthony Storr pointed out, solitude may be a greater and more benign motor of creativity in adult life than any number of family relations, love affairs, group identifications, or friendships. We are continually beleagured by the promise of what is in fact a false life, based on unnecessary reactions to external stimuli. Inside every writer, to paraphrase the well-worn mot of Cyril Connolly, an only child is wildly signalling to be let out. "No man will ever unfold the capacities of his own intellect," wrote Thomas De Quincy, "who does not atleast checker his life with solitude."'
I wouldn't have thought Bob Hughes has a MySpace or Facebook page... and I can't help but agree with him despite the hypocrisy of me reaching out and writing this on a blog for a mercifully anonymous audience. Matthew and I being the old curmodgeonly bastards we are both can't stand facebook and don't want to have anything to do with it despite other booksellers appearing to use the cursed thing to their advantage.
We were very good all of our first year collecting e-mail addresses (over 300 at last count) and doing a monthly newsletter highlighting events and new books and 'building a community'. We even had a click to buy option on our e-mail newsletter that went through to our bookshop website (sadly no longer with us. It all seems such a long time ago and mistakes were made - big mistakes - but we are here to live and learn) So what % did you think all this brilliant marketing increased our sales by? Zero, nul, no fucking per cent at all. How much did sales increase this year with no marketing and no newsletter? I can't tell you how much for secrecy reasons but it was well into double digits.
So, the power of marketing, eh. This blog will tell you exactly what and how to market effectively and it's one of my must reads but for me and Matthew I am afraid we are lost and lonely causes doomed forever to wander the fringes of cyberspace rambling incoherently.
Hopefully the new shop will be so successful we can pay other people to run the empire and we can retreat Howard Hughes-like into our solitude and start being really creative.
"Only just!" I say, before adding with great confidence that the book we are in the process of ordering will be here on Monday. But she wants to give me her phone number "just in case something goes wrong".
Either I am giving off WORRYING vibes for someone about to open another shop or my massive wedding ring is not doing the trick...
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
And as a comparison, what I reckon is a candidate for one of the best music videos ever made (highlighted before on this blog but obviously none of you bastards could give a damn. Just you wait for my detailed and exhaustive analysis of The Wire accompanied by many many clips).
Why this post? Well, Alison Krauss is on heavy rotation at C&PFM and one thing leads to another...
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
More good news is that the builder we used to fit out mk. 1 is free at the time we want to fit-out mk.2. Result! Off to see the site again this week. Getting very excited now...
...and all our lovely customers at mk. 1 have been coming in the last two days to say hello after our slacker-induced leisure time. Very agreeable.
A good day then.
(And a number beginning with 7! In the second week of January! And no sale!)
Monday, January 07, 2008
From the LRB, 3 January 08. 'What I didn't do in 2007' by Alan Bennett (p.7)
15 September. Discover a good bookshop, Crockatt and Powell on Lower Marsh, a street opposite The Cut near the Old Vic, where I buy Henry James's 'The Lesson of the Master'.
Forgive me as I bask in a giant bathful of warm fuzzies.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
These are in no particular order but I have to mention Marie first or my life will not be worth living.
1: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
If all the folk we employ go on to reach such heights of stardom I will be annoyed but I have just about managed to accept Marie's literary brilliance. We sold more of your book than anything else this year Marie - can't wait for the paperback...
2: What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn.
I love surprises and What Was Lost tore me to bits (that's a good thing). Brilliant news that the powers that whatever have FINALLY let Catherine win something.
3: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.
Not only one of our top three selling books of the year but there are other reasons I feel Mr B deserves a mention. He came in to see us earlier in the year and wrote about it in his diary (published in the LRB) He left his phone number with me so I could ring him closer to Christmas and he could sign more copies for us - but in the end I bottled it...Just too nervous to ring the famous fella. But I'm sure we'll meet again some sunny day (maybe on the Fulham Road?)
4: Denis Johnson Tree of Smoke
One N storms back into the literary world with a National Book Award winning novel that was just too damned good for most reviewers/literary commentators this side of the pond to wrap their feeble brains around. Wake up you tw*ts - the man is a fu*king genius.
Ok, we are closed until 7th of Jan. If you see lights behind the shutters it's just us trying to sort out the accounts etc. Or having a big sexy party you're not invited to. Or something...
There's been plenty of review coverage already, all glowing, and the publisher Tindal Street Press have a good track record. (Remember Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall - Booker shortlisted a few years back? That was Tindal Street)
I started reading the book yesterday afternoon and I can't bloody put the thing down.
How many times do you read about "astonishing debuts"? Yeah, you don't have to tell me I know. Jaded is my middle name when it comes to publisher blurbs. But...
THIS IS AN ASTONISHING DEBUT.
If I were you I'd get down to Crockatt & Powell for 7pm on Monday. Not only will you get to hear Catherine read you can also get her to sign a copy for your collection (after she wins a few prizes these babies will be like gold dust) you can also buy one for yourself and if you have any friends buy copies for them too - it's one of those books.
An exciting book.
An astonishing debut...
Our bestselling book this week by a mile, even when you take out books sold at the launch event we had, is What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn.
It's a truly great read and deserves to do well all around the country.
There's a very positive review in the Guardian today and the Mail and Observer have already raved about it so it's not just us!
Come on people - let's make Catherine's book a bestseller - she's great, and so is her book.
Well, one retailer made a start months ago. Independent bookseller Crockatt and Powell is delighted by one of the longlisted novels.
"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."
SHE WON SOMETHING!!!