Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

"This tour de force, which not everyone will welcome, outclasses all other fictions and will continue to do so for some time to come."

Anita Brookner.

I'm only 240 pages in but I think she's right. Last week Dr Rick was telling me how he'd had an argument with a friend about novels of the familiar and oft spouted "but what's the point in reading novels? I want to read the truth!" variety.

We agreed this was a ridiculous argument that misses the point about good fiction (good fiction reminds the reader that Truth cannot be recorded in full - that there are gaps in our experience and understanding) and yet I was left with the lingering suspicion that it was rather a long time since I had read a book that would have met Franz Kafka's criteria. ("A book ought to be an icepick to break up the frozen sea within us")

And then The Kindly Ones arrived in the post and my frozen seas have been well and truly smashed to bits. I can't say I like the book. But I also think it's the kind of book you just can't ignore.

Something for the weekend

You gotta love the shuffle at three in the morning with a tumbler of whiskey...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


You can listen to the latest sound piece from our friend Will here.

That's a picture of one of the "instruments" (part of the heating system for Myatt’s Field estates in South London)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Best Brio Track So Far!

Have the dangers of a weekend of football, alcohol and loads of family ever been clearer?

Late on Sunday evening my lovely wife and I found we had created the dog's dangly bits of a Brio train track...

Wctah Wrhee Yuo're Ginog

Eyes. Brains. Weird.

(Thanks to Redstone Press and their beautiful Play Box for the pic)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

1 GBP = 1.48540 USD

Oh, curses to this credit crunch. Not so many lovely books from America I fear this chrimbo...

When You Wake You're Still In A Dream...

Scooterworks looks closed. I place my head against one of the glass panels in the door and peer inside. I can see a girl cleaning a table. The door begins to open as I lean against it a bit more. Inside it smells of cleaning products. I wait for the coffee and "N" tells me all about the kittens covered in red paint she was dreaming about and how she often screams in the night until someone wakes her up. It's a guilt thing. Catholicism has a lot to answer for I think. I tell her the Flannery O'Connor story, the one about the girl with a wooden leg. Half way through "K" has finished making my coffee - but it's in a china cup. "N" and I look at one another. "It's to take away!" We can hear Big Ben in the background - I'm late opening. I watch "K" pour my latte from the china cup into a cardboard one. "Ten pence off for spilling some?" I joke and instantly regret it. Next thing I know I hand over a fiver, the till opens and they frown. "N" smiles a wicked smile - "Just give him it in 20ps". I leave with a pocket FULL of change.

Am I awake or asleep? You decide.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flannery O'Connor

I read Wise Blood on the say so of a bookselling friend some years ago. This friend and I are both lovers of Dostoevsky and he said that Wise Blood had a cast of demented characters to rival the Russian master.

He was right. Hazel Motes is NUTS.

I now have a copy of the American Library edition of O'Connor's work and if I'm ever caught without a great book to read I take it off the shelf and read a short story or two.

Yesterday I read one called Good Country People. Have I ever read a funnier, darker story? Probably not. Want to know what happens when a nihilistic wooden-legged chick gets it on with a bible salesman in the hayloft?

Brilliant stuff...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Gotta get away from this day to day runnin' around"

As you can probably tell from my last post I was starting to get a little crazy. When this happens I take a day off and head for the woods.

I dropped Finn off with his child minder and caught a train from Waterloo to Dorking. To do this I had to change at Clapham Junction, probably the busiest station on earth. The assault was physical (barged by commuters) mental (nobody could tell me how to get to Boxhill and Wotsit - probably because the station is really called Boxhill and Westhumble. What can I say? My geography outside of London is crap.) - and aural (there was a constant barrage of announcements of one kind or another).

And then I listened to one of the announcements. It was a reminder that it was the 11th of November. At 11am there would be a 2 minutes silence to remember "victims of human conflict".

It was beautifully observed. Everything seemed to come to a halt. There were no announcements. Guards stopped blowing their whistles. People bowed their heads and stood still. For two minutes I was able to concentrate on something outside of the day to day running around and find some peace.

And then the delights of the Surrey Hills and their forests of Beech. I strode along on a carpet of coppery leaves with nothing but the small sounds of birds and the murmuring trees for company. At one delightful spot there was a huge beech tree, over two hundred years old according to the Timeout Book Of Country Walks, that marked the boundary between the Polesden Lacey estate and Ranmore Common. There was something wonderful about using a tree to mark a boundary, something that seemed to belong to an era now long gone, where the natural world was an important part of the fabric of human lives.

Later I realised that the air had a taste. It tasted fresh, clean and sweet. I began to draw deep draughts of it down into my chest. Again and again I breathed as deeply as I could until I realised I was becoming quite light-headed. Moments later I experienced what folk wot exercise are always banging on about - a rush of endorphins. I physically straightened, looked at the world and my face cracked into a massive dumbo grin. Wow. Life is good I remembered.

What I found in those woods was space. Head space. A place outside of clock time where I could

Isn't that what reading provides? Open a book and you are somewhere else, in a world of endless possibility.

And what a privilege just to be alive on such a lovely day. I was pleased that amid the bustle and business of a London station we had been given the opportunity to remember those that died, that continue to die, for things the day to day running around world deems worth dying for.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Too many books? (Too many bloody Parenthesis more like) (Is that the plural? Where's that copy of Eats Shoots and Leaves) (Or was it Eat's)

As a bookseller I find it hard to avoid contact with the general public. Hmm, that didn't come out quite right. What I'm trying to say is that I meet a lot of people. And when they spend money in one of our shops I want them to know that I appreciate it, that I realise that if they didn't choose to come to C & P I would not be a bookseller.

But it's hard to make every person you deal with feel a little bit special, a little bit loved. This is something I think people often overlook when faced with a moody face behind the till. To be cheerful again and again and again and mean it is hard. Frankly it's work. Hard work. (Maybe if I were American or a convert to the consumer society I would find it effortless to say "Have a Nice Day" to everyone and mean it. But, despite spending most of my time in shops, I hate shopping and avoid it at all costs.)

Luckily I am full of nuggets of useless yet cheery information or mindless banter about the weather etc. And I am full of love and affection for our customers (especially the cake-bringing kind.)

(Apologies for the lengthy and rambling nature of this post. I could blame it on my brother who just popped in with a cd that is one hour long but only consists of two - highly repetitive - tracks. I feel as though time is standing still. But there is a point approaching, look, here it comes!)

One of the pieces of useless information of a vaguely book-related nature I regurgitate when faced with a customer who says they have "far too many books already" as they pile up a stack before me is a fragment I retained from reading Paul Auster's increasingly relevant book Hand To Mouth. It's all about his experiences as a penniless writer. In it, he talks about making furniture from books and someone just sent me a link to this pic...

(If you spend long enough in a bookshop by yourself - mostly - you may take up blogging. Or even talking to yourself.)

(It's been a very rainy day.)

(God I'm glad that's finally over and bet you are too!)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Whilst reading the Onion on the US elections I came across this.

Must install a a rip in the space-time continuum in the cellar tomorrow...

En Vogue (again!)

So there we are again - in Vogue with Kate.

Weird. But kind of wonderful too. The only bookshop in London mentioned in their Secret Address Book...

Two and a half hours sleep later...

Ok, so who didn't get the memo? Where's the sunshine and rainbows?


I could write something really mushy. Suffice to say, something's changed. Call me naive but really, something's changed.

That's it

Job done...


Dimbleby redeems himself with a supreme dismissal of John Bolton, Republican wonk extraordinaire. Hoorah.

This is sweet

I have to stay up until those million folk in Chicago are spoke to.

Am now, officially, in a good mood.

More Elections

Pennsylvania goes to Obama. Looks like an earlier night than I thought.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Night Coverage - Live from C&P

Jesus, it's depressing listening to David Dimbleby going on about 'Afro-Americans', especially when talking to an African-American journalist. Where the fuck has he been the last 20 years.

Men of a certain age just do. not. listen...

Do I have to tune in to Sky News? Really?

Today's the Day...

It's been a while and I've been following the coverage from the States. In some people's eyes, possibly a little too obsessively. All I will say to that is watching Newsnight last night I realised I knew a lot more about the Elections than Jeremy Paxman did.

Fingers crossed (although I don't think it's necessary) and if you hear a whoop and a cheer coming from the general Waterloo direction about 4am tonight you'll know that history has been made.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Oh wow, I think I've started something here...

"F" has been bringing us cakes and ale for ages now.

And then there's Jane, brilliant author of gardening books, excellent bookseller and cake-maker extraordinaire who often brings slices in to the Fulham Road shop with her so we can "test" them.

Then there was the Polish "dirty dancing" pancake lady.

Now "B" has just dropped in claiming to want to order a book. But then, "Oh, would you like some cake?"

Yes. Yes I would like some cake.

Lemon cake. With icing. YUM YUM YUM YUM.

Oh, what a difference a cake makes!

A morning of Crockatts...

So I'm buzzing along on the Zip 50 when I feel my mobile vibrate in my pocket. Expecting some shop-related emergency I pull over at the side of the road and dig my trusty Nokia brick (with torch!) from somewhere beneath the layers of waterproof padded armour I am swaddled in. It's a message from my cousin Sam letting me know that the Sam Crockatt Quartet are launching their debut ablum this evening somewhere in Dalston.

The album is called Howeird and is probably a work of genius. No I mean really. I have heard Sam play several times over the years and he is just better every time.

Then who should appear as first customer of the day but my uncle Ian. He's also a creative chap. (He's a poet and has published several collections with good poetry publishers such as Peterloo Poets.) Ian lives on a croft in the far north of Scotland. He was down south for a couple of days, meeting a publisher who are dealing with his latest project - translations of Rilke no less!

There are a lot of Crockatts.