Friday, July 24, 2009
So, a lady comes in at lunch and asks me to put 2 stamps on her card - £19.98. Date of last purchase? 11 December 2007. 2007! That's 20 months between purchases.
She only works round the corner.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)by George Orwell (Author), Malcolm Bradbury (Introduction) "Mr Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes ..." (more)
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon.co.uk. Gift-wrap available.
Over the last few years the price of backlist titles has steadily increased. Classic books and interesting re-issues are now regularly priced at 10, 12 sometimes 15 pounds for a standard paperback. Selling a copy of Animal Farm for £8.99 the other day I felt guilty for charging a good customer such a ridculous price for a slim book. Of course it all make sense when you go on the internet and see how much you can buy it online for - £4.97. It becomes starkly obvious then that publishers are artificially inflating cover prices of the back list, the long tail to accommodate the book trades obsession with discounting and the appearance of a bargain. Animal Farm should always be a £4.99 paperback but we can only buy it from the publisher for that much! But also Internet sales suits publishers as they don't have distribution costs and Waterstones returning core stock every 3 months to regulate their cash flow. The publisher-Internet retailer is becoming more and more dominant for back list titles. Of course it is, it makes business sense! And with Tesco and Asda and Smiths taking care of the big 100,000+ best sellers what room for the lowly, browsable independent bookstore. We just can't afford to stock up on our bread and butter back list. Jesus, I wouldn't buy Animal Farm for £8.99...
Friday, July 17, 2009
Last night I met my brother and sister at a pub in Soho - The Old Coffee House. There are plenty of places to drink in Soho but only one pub with four Brodie's ales on tap. I had to sample them all and you've got to have a pint in a proper pub haven't you? Then I had to sample some of them again to check quality consistency and I am pleased to report all the beer I drank last night was bloody lovely. I arrived home later than expected and this morning I am feeling somewhat fragile but it was worth it for a night out with my siblings - the last such night before I leave the capital.
Things got off to a great start. My brother and I stood outside and about half a pint in an Irish beggar fired a series of jokes at us. We were in the midst of giggling when my sister arrived and having liberated all the change from our pockets we drank up and began again. We talked and drank and drank and talked and it began to rain a bit but we were protected by a low flying squadron of hanging baskets and were able to remain outside.
"It's just a shower!" I confidently proclaimed as the sky split asunder and the street was lit with lightning.
The plan was to drink all the ales of Brodie (this was my plan - the siblings were on lager - a rivalry that shall run and run) then head for Lower Marsh where I knew Nat had some luverly large bottles of French cider in. But it kept on raining harder and harder. When the hanging baskets began to drip we flung a final curse to the heavens for another rubbish attempt at summer and went inside to prop the bar up. There was sunshine inside - brilliant hoppy stuff.
To cut short a story that could get as repetitive and dull as a man who has drunk all the ales of Brodie at least once we never did get to Lower Marsh. But we did have a good time didn't we bro/sis?
This morning I stumbled into Scooterworks for coffee number two. I am going to miss Scooterworks. A lot. I am going to miss the Marsh. A lot. I suspect I shall return. A lot. The Prophet is leaving too. I always appreciated my morning chats with old Bill, a man who lives life at the speed of maximum...
Au revoir my dears, au revoir - or in the words of Arnold - "I be back..."
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Franzen was reading at the O2 that evening and I was keen to attend yet had completely failed to book a ticket. When he suggested that Glenn and I accompany him to the talk in his chauffeur driven limo we did not refuse. Oh no we did not refuse. We went in the limo. We discussed books and writing. Glenn and I suffered shock and awe. In a good way. Then we listened to Franzen talk. Zadie Smith was sitting behind us with Hari Kunzru. We were all in shock and awe. In a very long winded way what I'm trying to say is that the last time I visited the O2 centre it was a memorable experience...
I entered the O2 through Sainsbury's. After silently karate chopping my way through the throng of well-fed North London folk milling about in the orange ailes I made combat with leaflet waving types at the bottom of the escalators before rising to the upper levels. Here I discovered that Books Etc was now Waterstone's. I went inside and thought I would have a look for Philip Hoare's Samuel Johnson Prize winning book Leviathan. I couldn't find it anywhere. I was without a book and was seriously thinking about buying Leviathan so I could read it that afternoon. And this is where the fun starts.
I went over to the counter and asked the chap standing there if they had "That book about Whales, the Philip Hoare one."
"Leviathan or the whale by Philip Hoare" he responded. "Yes I think so" he said "follow me."
So we set off to look on several tables then the Natural History section and finally Gardening. But there was no sign of the book.
"Is it out in paperback?" I asked.
"Yeah, we were selling it at the weekend" he replied. "I'll check the stock room."
I hung around for a few minutes. There was a computer available for customers so that if they couldn't find the book they wanted they could order it via Waterstone's.com. The situation in a nutshell - how to compete vs the Net? Where everything is available now(ish) for less than on the High Street.
The bloke was back.
"I can't see it" he said. "We do have it in hardback but it's £18.99"
"It's ok" I said, "I'll find something else."
I was actually planning to leave but right away the bloke plucked a book from the shelf and handed it to me.
"What about this?"
Wow - I was impressed. I looked at the book. The bloke mumbled a few words about it in a manner with which I am very very familiar. He tried to compress what he felt about the book into a few sentences. It was a book he obviously loved and had read. I was infected but didn't want to admit it right away.
"That I've read?"
He pulled down a book of essays by Truman Capote. Cool.
"I'll have a look at these" I said and he was gone.
George Steiner's book looked really rather interesting.
At the counter I bought the book.
"Wasn't this a Borders or something?" I asked.
"It was Books Etc and now it's Waterstone's"
"What's the difference?" I asked.
"More books..." he paused for a beat "...and new computers."
Same staff though. Great people payed a pittance for their hard work and passion. The sort of job you do after leaving Uni for a couple of years. (In Germany you need a fu**iNg degree in bookselling!)
I spent most of the rest of the day reading Grammars of Creation. First in the pub, then on the tube, then in another pub, then by the river, then on the bus. I found it hard to understand but very engaging and extremely provocative and interesting. I would never have picked it up a million billion years but for that bookseller.
And that, dear reader, (if there are any left!) is why this post is an elegy. Booksellers are dying out. We are being snuffed by the net and by a culture that knows what it wants and wants it NOW. With our passing something will be lost. And that is sad - for the likes of us (booksellers) but also for you lot. Those with minds that search and search - who value the peculiar, the found, the forgotten.
Reader, our culture has spoken. Well done to Richard Charkin and the rest of the net book agreement destroyers.
You were right. We are NOT WORTH IT...
Friday, July 10, 2009
That's pretty cool don't ya think? Of course these reference books are available on all smartphones, sales of which were 36.4 million in the first quarter of 2009!
Oxford have also released a number of dictionaries: Oxford Dictionary of Accounting; Oxford Dictionary of Biology; Oxford Dictionary of Business & Management; Oxford Dictionary of Chemistry; Oxford Dictionary of Computing; Oxford Dictionary of Finance & Banking; Oxford Dictionary of Law; Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary; Oxford Dictionary of Music; Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy; Oxford Dictionary of Politics. All of these hefty tomes can fit on a wee device that fits snugly in your top pocket!
Can you see where I'm going with this...
Margins are tight enough in bricks and mortar shops as it is...
I type this as I sit looking at two full shelves of very thick, very heavy, very expensive dictionaries...
Book Workers Battle To Stop Job Cuts And Long Hours
NUJ members at Penguin books in London are seeking reassurances from
their bosses after the firm announced plans to cut 100 jobs
Paul O'Grady Nets GBP2 Million Book Deal
TV host and comedian Paul
O'Grady has been paid GBP2 million for
the second installment of his autobiography
Well, can YOU spot the difference??
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I turned to the relevant pages and saw the LRB had done what the LRB tends to do and stuck a poem in the middle of the review. My usual reaction to these poems is to read a few lines, yawn, shrug and then read the review. But this poem was different.
It was called Burners Go Raw and it was by someone called Anne Carson. The poem was like no poem I have read before. I read it. I read it again. I have since read it five more times and can't get away from it. I am beguiled. I even forgot to read the Bolano reviews for a few days - each time I turned to those pages I found myself reading the poem again...
On further exploration it seems some people feel Anne Carson is hardly a poet. She herself says she is more of a visual person and hesitates to describe herself as a writer. What she does with words is different. It's better. It's poetry, that's for sure. Or music? What her writing really reminds me of is hearing fragments of several different conversations whilst walking round a supermarket. Lives and situations hinted at. Glancing blows. Adverts for mental states that are best avoided. Hospital waiting rooms. Theatres after everyone has left. Carousels on the rubbish dump. Naked mannequins queuing for the No 12 bus. All the things you never quite remember to say to the people you say you love. The exhausted hiss of breath that was going to be those famous last words...
(She's one of those discoveries I feel compelled to share. Forgive me if you are there already!) Sometimes language can and sometimes it can't I suppose.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
After several hours parched on the extreme edge of the bed too scared to move in case Finn wakes up and wants to play football the cat makes his usual appearance. In other words he jumps on the bed and starts telling us it's about time he was fed. I tell Mary to hit the cat. She refuses (this happens a lot when he's out of my reach) I pick up a pillow and try to wallop the cat. I miss and knock a glass of water off the bedside table and all over Finn who wakes up and is rather pissed off and confused.
"You idiot" says Mary.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Well we've been in Vogue twice haven't we? I thought it was about time I let you into the secrets of fashion.
It's easy really. I call it the "stopped clock" theory of fashion. Pick a style, any style, then stick to it. Do not change. Most of the time you will be hopelessly off trend. You may even feel like a total dick when you're out in the trendy places. You might even find yourself being invited to parties then turning up, seeing everyone else walking in and just thinking "NOOOOOO I CAN'T DO IT!" and going home again. But these minor tribulations will be compensated for one day. Trust me.
Fashion goes in cycles. Eventually you will be ahead of the trend. You might notice people peeking at your shoes on the bus or glancing over their shoulders as you walk past them in the street. (Note: You might also get this in the complete dick phase)
Next thing you know your work colleagues are wearing similar shoes and stuff. Then you open a magazine one Sunday and LO! You see a picture of a lovely looking bloke (or lady if you're one of them) dressed just like you.
It's time to party. Get out there. Age is no barrier! Get down the clubs and tell the kids what it was like first time around. (Note: It may be worth going to the gym or some crap like that first or you may find you get yrself a hernia.) Strut your funky stuff (or whatever) get chatted up by teens (ok, maybe that was just someone asking directions) and live the fashionista dream.
Sadly, like all good things on this forsaken planet, it will not last. You will be off trend again soon. By then though, you will be fed up of setting trends and being a fashion superstar. By the time your style comes around again you will be ready - older and more enthusiastic - and less able to feel shame!
At present I would describe my style as "lumberjack pretending to be someone dull working in a bookshop". Think Hugh Grant crossed with Neil Young. I am wearing walking books and a plaid shirt combined with a thin woolen jumper and green corduroy trousers. Hair styled by my own fair hand raked through it this morning...
Monday, April 27, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
£120,000 it set them back. We don't have that kind of money. We don't have ANY money.
Still, it is the future for bookshops as we've been saying.
Come on Blackwell's - we're counting on you guys to make this work.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
(When I arrived there was a man shouting and swearing. "I 'ave an appointment right. In FIVE MINUTES! For a FU*KI*G ERNIA! AND YOU'RE TELLIN' ME ME NATIONAL INSURANCE NUMBER IS WRONG? Then security arrived. The nutcase was calmed.)
I had a letter to say I should attend Kings College Hospital on 20th April for a "meeting" with the surgeon. Twat that I clearly am I assumed this would be the day the dirty deed was done, that they would shove something into a keyhole, push my guts back into the right place and I'd be out and selling books later the same day. Oh no. When they say a "meeting" what they mean is a meeting. I met the surgeon. She began to describe what she was going to do to me. I went white and saw spots in front of my eyes.
"Are you feeling ok?" she asked.
"Er" I said "I think I need a glass of water."
I hung my head between my legs whilst this skilled and highly trained person went to find me a glass of water.
"Are you feeling better?"
"Right. So I'll make a small cut about here, push whatever it is - it might be a section of gut or perhaps just a lump of fat..."
"Erm, I'm sorry to interrupt but...I have a very active imagination - can you just tell me where to sign?"
"You don't want to know about possible side effects?"
"No no no"
"We'll have to shave..."
"Please! Just knock me spark out and do a good job ok? Where do I sign"
So now I have to wait two to three months. Two to three months to worry about that "small cut" and the "deep sleep" I am to experience. Not to mention the bruising and the shaving...
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
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Saturday, April 04, 2009
It was a small place that made springs of all shapes and sizes. At one point they offered to take me on as an apprentice - after a few years I would have been a toolmaker and earning more money than I have ever earned in my life. But I said no - I was going to write books in those days...
I learned many things from working there. I learned about fighting against President Marcos in the Philippines from Ruben. He used to ride around on a motorbike with a friend on the back shooting at soldiers. He also taught me how to break into cars. He had to leave the Philippines in the end - it was too dangerous for him to stay.
I learned that gambling is a bad idea. I learned that reading the Sun every day actually changes you into a see you next Tuesday.
I also began to appreciate machines. Machines sound great. They get into a rhythm and just keep going and going...subtle changes in the sounds from time to time. If you have a room full of machines they each have their own rhythm and tend to go in and out of phase. I used to fall asleep as I worked on a fairly regular basis. A few times I fell asleep to be woken by the sounds of a machine grinding and clunking itself to a halt. Then I would get yelled at "All you have to do is fu*k*n* sit there you daft muppet - just feed that wire in there ok?" Once I woke up because I had drilled through my thumbnail and into my thumb. Ouch. My love of extreme coffee dates from this period in my life - had to stay awake somehow.
But what I'm trying to say is I fell in love with machines...and their music.
Will Montgomery is also in love with machine music. His latest can be heard here.
It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...and other reasons why if you love books then FFC is the place to be!
The man above penned the immortal phrases "It was a dark and stormy night"; "The great unwashed"; "the penis mightier than the sword", (er I mean pen is) and where did he live? That's right Craven Cottage - that hallowed patch of grass by the Thames where Fulham Football Club are based.
The Premier league Reading Stars initiative has seen Wayne Rooney plastered over the papers with a copy of Harry Potter but the real star of Reading Stars has to be Fulham Goalkeeper Mark Schwartzer. He hasn't just promoted a book or two - he's written one!
Schwarzer: "Scarves & Sombreros is a book I've co-written and it's the second one of a five-book series. From my point of view it's a great book based on football. It's based on a lot of our experiences as kids growing up in Australia. It's about an English kid who emigrates from the UK to Australia and I think a lot of people can relate to it because it's based on football, how you fit into society, stick together, form friendships and go through the trials and tribulations of everyday life."
Brilliant stuff. I was also chuffed to see the book has Sombrero in the title as these two Mexican looking fellas were instrumental in keeping Fulham in the Premier league last season with an inspirational display at Fratton Park on the final day.
(Nah, that's not me! I don't have a 'tache...)
Then there are the stories confirming Roy Hodgson is a reader:
...the only form of stimulation Hodgson will be seeking can be found within the pages of Schultz, by J.P. Donleavy.
“I wouldn't need to celebrate,” Hodgson said. “If we were to win and stay in the league, there would be such satisfaction for me that I would quite happily go home and have a glass of water and read my book. I found Schultz in an antique shop in Brighton. I've read it about five times.”
Can there be a more cerebral footballer in the Premier League right now than Fulham's Norwegian defender?
Asked to name the last book he read, Hangeland revealed: ?I read quite a lot, the last one was a Norwegian book which you won't know. But the last English language book was Underworld by Don DeLillo.?
So not only is Hangeland a fan of 800-page Pulitzer-prize nominated literature, but he also reads books in two languages.
Two languages eh?
So there you go - the Highbury Library has gone, soon to be forgotten. If you love books you really should start supporting the right team...
Friday, April 03, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Along the way he tries to answer some of the most urgent questions we can ask about work: Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet? Characteristically lucid, witty and inventive, Alain de Botton's 'song for occupations' is a celebration and exploration of an aspect of life which is all too often ignored and yet as central to us as our love lives.
So I'm idly chatting to adam and I say "Oh, I've found another reason to hate Alain de Botton".
"Yeah?" he says.
"Yeah, he has a 2 million quid trust fund he hasn't touched." I say.
"200 million you mean..." says adam before reaching for the bucket of water we keep under the hole in our ceiling.
I wake up dripping and swear for a while. Then we both swear. Then we swear some more with added brutal fantasy elements.
The consolations of philosophy eh? Well I think 200 million quid in the background would help me to sleep. Shucks, I might even splash out on a waterbed. Think of the number of mosquito nets you could buy for 200 million quid. 40 million mosquito nets.
Monday, March 30, 2009
These e-mails prove one thing - Globalisation has made no difference - There's still one born every minute...
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Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
And I came to a ravine, a sudden space where the trees plunged and the air shimmered with reflected light. Breathing deep and slow the blood calmed until I could listen. These woods at night, creaking. I took a few steps forward, just beyond the edge, but the ground fell away steeply into the dark and there were so many grasping roots, so many branches feeling for my feet that I knew I would trip and fall within moments. Then I saw the shape of it, criss crossing the emptiness, a bridge - from one side to the other...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I went to the Camberwell Green surgery early so that I could still take Finn to nursery and get myself to work on time. I said I didn't care which Doctor I saw so long as he had the shortest queue and they said a name and told me to go up to the first floor. Up I went, found the name on the door and walked right in. A rather surprised man looked round.
"Morning mate. I think..."
"Are you a patient?"
"Er, yes. Are you a Doctor?"
"Yes, but surgery hasn't started yet."
It's a while since I visited a Doctor so I totally mangled the etiquette. Sat with a selection of the Living Dead for a few minutes reading The Ginger Man until a brisk "Mr Crockatt" summoned me back. I told him I thought I had a hernia and that I knew this because I had a friend who was a Doctor and...
The Doctor was pointing at his bed. I took off my jacket and lay down.
"Please stand up Mr Crockatt"
I stood up. I opened the top button of my jeans and pulled my boxers down a little way.
"The bulge is here"
"I'm afraid you're going to have to be a little less shy Mr Crockatt. I need to see the whole, er, architecture of the area."
And so my trousers are on the floor round my ankles and I'm letting it all hang loose. (Architecture?) It's at this point that I realise the last time I saw this man he was feeling my wife's breasts. Yup, she had a nasty case of Mastitis when Finn was tiny and the same man diagnosed it and sorted it. Mixed feelings I suppose. On the one hand I was thinking "Good - he was right last time" on the other I was thinking "Hmmm, so now you have intimate knowledge of the intimate parts of me and my wife. There are hardly any people with that knowledge."
I was going to put a picture of a Hernia here but they are all so gross I can't handle it.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Leake Street 2009 is a piss-stained showcase for "urban art" - ie middle aged white blokes in advertising spraying the most boring and reactionary style graffiti you can imagine over similar crap some other dullard painted the week before.
This morning I dropped Finn off at nursery before wandering along the sunshine soaked South Bank. Then into the darkness of the tunnel under the station that is Leake Street where I was amazed to hear the tinkling of a piano. Piped classical music. Our patch of Waterloo is pretty much in the geographical centre of London. The video above suggests Leake Street might just be the centre of the Vortex - where the myriad clashing identities of our great metropolis are sucked to before being pumped back into circulation.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Bring it on baby...
A sixth part to 2666 and everything. That's going to make my US slip-cased paperbacks even rarer and more valuable. Will probably have to put bars on the windows and install machinegun linked CCTV to keep the literary vagabonds at bay now.
Me: What is it?
Her: Erm...(Consults notebook) Venus in Furs by...
Me: We should have that in stock. (I look under M - I look under V - I find it under S)
Her: How much is it?
Me: It should say on the back there...£8.99 maybe? £7.99
Her: £7.99 Jeez that's a lot.
Her: It's £6.99 in Wastrones...
Me: Is the walk worth a quid?
Her: Yes, I think it is - goodbye. (Mutters) I was hoping for a bargain.
Me: Would you step into our dungeon where a team of vertically challanged sadists will abuse you for your pleasure?
The last bit is made up. The rest is true!
Richard Brautigan - Halloween In Denver
She didn't think that she would get any trick or treaters, so she didn't
buy anything for them. That seems simple enough, doesn't it? Well, let's
see what can happen with that. It might be interesting.
We'll start off with me reacting to her diagnosis of the situation by
saying, "Hell, get something for the kids. After all, you're living on
Telegraph Hill and there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood and some
of them are certain to stop here."
I said it in such a way that she went down to the store and came back a
few minutes later with a carton of gum. The gum was in little boxes
called Chiclets and there were a lot of them in the carton.
"Satisfied?" she said.
She's an Aires.
"Yes," I said.
I'm an Aquarius.
We also had two pumpkins: both Scorpios.
So I sat there at the kitchen table and carved a pumpkin. It was the
first pumpkin that I had carved in many years. It was kind of fun. My
pumpkin had one round eye and one triangular eye and a not-very-bright
She cooked a wonderful dinner of sweet red cabbage and sausages and had
some apples baking in the oven.
Then she carved her pumpkin while dinner was cooking beautifully away.
Her pumpkin looked very modernistic when she was through. It looked more
like an appliance than a jack-o'-lantern.
All the time that we were carving pumpkins the door bell did not ring
once. It was completely empty of trick or treaters, but I did not panic,
though there were an awful lot of Chiclets waiting anxiously in a large
We had dinner at 7:30 and it was so good. Then the meal was eaten and
there were still no trick or treaters and it was after eight and things
were starting to look bad. I was getting nervous.
I began to think that it was every day except Halloween.
She of course looked beatifically down upon the scene with an aura of
Buddhistic innocence and carefully did not mention the fact that no
trick or treaters had darkened the door.
That did not make things any better.
At nine o'clock we went in and lay down upon her bed and we were talking
about this and that and I was in a kind of outrage because we had been
forsaken by all trick or treaters, and I said something like, "Where are
those little bastards?"
I had moved the bowl of Chiclets into the bedroom, so I could get to the
trick or treaters faster when the door bell rang. The bowl sat there
despondently on a table beside the bed. It was a very lonely sight.
At 9:30 we started fucking.
About fifty-four seconds later we heard a band of kids come running up
the stairs accompanied by a cyclone of Halloween shrieking and mad door
I looked down at her and she looked up at me and our eyes met in
laughter, but it wasn't too loud because suddenly we weren't at home.
We were in Denver, holding hands at a street corner, waiting for the
light to change.
from Revenge of the Lawn 1971
Monday, March 09, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
At this point I would like to refer the reader to another 1000pager Roberto Bolano's 2666 in which the following passage can be found:
"The Bremen German literature conference was highly eventful. Pelletier, backed by Morini and Espinoza, went on the attack like Napoleon at Jena, assaulting the unsuspecting German Archimboldi scholars, and the downed flags of Pohl, Schwarz, and Borchmeyer were soon routed to the cafes and taverns of Bremen. The young German professors participating in the evnt were bewildered at first and then took the side of Pelletier and his friends, albeit cautiously. The audience, consisting mostly of university students who had travelled from Gottingen by train or in vans, was also won over by Pelletier's fiery and uncompromising interpretations, throwing caution to the winds and enthusiastically yielding to the festive, Dionysian vision of ultimate carnival (or penultimate carnival) exegesis upheld by Pelletier and Espinoza. Two days later, Schwarz and his minions counterattacked. They compared Archimboldi to Gunter Grass. They spoke of suffering. They compared Archimboldi to Friedrich Durrenmatt and spoke of humour, which seemed to Morini the height of gall. Then Liz Norton appeared, heavensent, and demolished the counterattack like a Desaix, like a Lannes, a blond Amazon who spoke excellent German, if anything too rapidly, and who expounded on Grimmelhausen and Gryphius and many others, including Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, better known as Paracelsus."
I have a strange sense of humour. Some would argue that I just don't have a sense of humour. Others might say I laugh at my own jokes a bit too much. But I found this passage very amusing...I also find critics of literature in general rather amusing - especially when they are upset. So I'm enjoying reading the critical responses to The Kindly Ones and would advise you not to take the critics too seriously.
As a reader I found that the book rewarded my efforts and was certainly worth reading. I felt I learned a thing or two and I was jolted from some comfy/lazy intellectual positions.
In a nutshell?
Read it and weep.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Fathers - you don't know what you're missing. I love reading to Finn. Last night we read Where The Wild Things Are for about the millionth time. Does it get boring? Never. The look on his face when you turn the final page and say "...and it was still hot" is worth a week of overtime.
There's a special song I invented for the Rich Man and the Shoemaker that I've noticed him singing when he's by himself. I just love the time reading gives us together - both concentrating on the same thing, sitting together...priceless.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I was thrilled to discover my cousin Sam's jazz CD Howeird was given 4/5 stars in the Guardian. I rushed down to the paper shop and showed the bloke in there and he gave me the paper for free. Then I noticed how they spelt his name. Sam Crockett. Maybe you didn't notice the frankly GLARING error. Sam Crockett? Who he? It's Crockatt people, A T T.
I phoned a mate who I'd given the CD to recently and he laughed.
"The trouble you face with your name is that American bloke got there first and he's more famous than you."
"Eh? What American bloke?"
All my life that raccoon skinning, bear shooting American folk "hero" has been a thorn in my side. I have a large family. There are a lot of Crockatts about and we travel. There are Crockatts all over the world. And we're going to breed and breed and breed and keep on producing brilliant jazz cds and brilliant bookshops and all sorts of other brilliant stuff and we're not going to stop until everyone knows how to spell the name ok...
(Maybe I've been watching too many episodes of the Wire)
Incidentally I'm still reading Roberto Bolano's 2666. I've nearly finished. But I'm taking it slow, savouring every morsel. One of the main characters is a writer who names himself Benno von Archimboldi. When he first meets the man who becomes his publisher the following exchange takes place - it's too long to quote in full but it's very funny and starts like this...
"What's your real name? Because it can't be the name you've given me, of course."
"That's my name," answered Archimboldi.
"Do you think the years I spent in England or the years in general have made me stupid? No one has a name like that. Benno von Archimboldi. To be called Benno, in the first place, is suspicious."
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
John Cowper Powys
"Jane and Charles; William and Charlotte; Lydia and George and Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam all..." that was as far as Paxman got before the awesome Trimble buzzed in and said "Pride and Prejudice".
My wife and I glanced at each other open mouthed. I'm usually ok on the book questions. The members of the Cambridge team in opposition knew what was coming and despite a brave challenge were soundly thrashed by Trimble and her mates.
The Internet does what it does best by revealing some fevered discussion over Trimble. Is she a sex God dominatrix? Or a spoddy twit? I even came across one site called The Long Hair Community where her locks were admired by fellow long hairs...(There are people out there who log sightings of impressively long haired people. Weird? Oh YES.)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
There is a kind of love called maintenance,
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes, which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living; which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in the air,
As Atlas did the sky.
Dedicated to the many people I love without whom my life would be total chaos and misery...
Friday, February 13, 2009
(I phone a woman to say her book has come in. A man answers. I give the "your book is in spiel" He says "She's just coming" Since my brain is on the floor I assume she has psychic powers and is already on her way in to collect the book. "Ok thanks" I say and hang up. Only then do I realise he meant she was on her way to the phone. I phone back.)
The new LRB arrives and there is an article titled Where Is My Mind in which a PHILOSOPHER (Sweeeet Bejaysus we are doomed) argues that his I-Phone is now a part of his mind. If this was in Wire I would scoff. But the LRB? These are folk that think. And worst of all read.
Meanwhile here are the Pixies - the first band I ever saw live...
*Please excuse the lame dog video and listen to the music*
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Tolstoy was a great writer but boy did he have some strange ideas. A while ago I read a book called The Last Station by Jay Parini. The novel was about the final year of Tolstoy's life and revolved, to a large degree, around the difficulties between Tolstoy and his wife Sofya. At that point in his life Tolstoy was venerated in Russia, treated as a saintly figure by peasants and the upper classes alike. He lived, surrounded by Tolstoyan acolytes, in some luxury with his wife and family. This life of luxury went completely against the ideas of simplicity etc that Tolstoy preached to everyone else. He was also convinced that sexual abstinence was essential to the good life. This was again too much for his long suffering wife who knew all too well about Tolstoy's debauched youth and probably a thing or two about what he was up to in later life as well...
Anyway, I've just about finished the Kreutzer Sonata now and despite Tolstoy's weirdness the story/novella is yet another reminder of why I love Russian literature SO much.
(Incidentally it looks as though the Last Station is to be made into a film with Helen Mirren as Sofya - bound to be shite of course!)
Take all of your arguments against the inevitability of e-books and substitute the word "horse" for "book" and the word "car" for "e-book." Here are a few examples to whet your appetite for the (really) inevitable debate in the discussion section at the end of this article.
"Books provide sensory/sentimental/sensual experiences that e-books can't match." True! Cars just can't match the experience of caring for and riding a horse: the smells, the textures, the sensations, the companionship with another living being.
Long article but worth the read.
I don't think it's going to come from the spindleblossom but I'm sure those dastardly geniuses at Apple are coming up with something for the itunes store...
I have to say and I know Matthew hates it, but I read more on my iphone than most anywhere else and the more I do it the more reading on a little screen doesn't bother me... AND I OWN A BOOKSHOP AND LOVE BOOKS!
Horses, horses, horses, horses
Coming in in all directions
White shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses.
So what the hell are we doing perservering with this bookshop nonsense? This anachronism? Well, it's a nice place to come to work everyday innit. Plus, as crazy as it may seem, I guess we're almost professional booksellers by now. We get to do the filtering, the sifting, the looking at all the interesting things that the punters don't have time to do. Then when we present all these lovely things in our lovely shop they can come in and say things like, "what a great selection you have" and we say "why, thank you".
And then, in the very near future, they can go to the caff down the road and download what they've seen straight to their iphone in 30 seconds.
When suddenly johnny gets the feeling hes being surrounded by
Horses, horses, horses, horses
Coming in in all directions
White shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses.
Monday, February 09, 2009
A jazz drummer is tapping, tss, ba dam! testing the limits of the known world, a blind man's stick, finding the edge, feeling the void as it opens beneath him and then quick! quick! just a quick step back, a snare snap back to balance on the edge once again.
The jazz is on the radio and the rest of the band are back. There are horns calling and a bass beneath, we're back in the womb and it's ok, though it might be raining in the street outside we're alright in here, where the coffee machine is warm and the music cool, where I can listen to Italian voices and jazz on the radio.
And I can stand, feeling the warmth of the venerable machine through my plastic armoured biker jacket, remembering Coltrane in 1961, from youtube last night, a 21st century memory of an event I never witnessed, and hear us clapping together at the end of the ten minutes or so of a man finding the edge and dancing along it with his saxophone in both hands, breathing such music into life...
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Creativity loves a problem, but it hates a lousy audience.
If everyone around you is sure the economy is tanking, that the end is near, that time is up and the company is headed for the tubes, it's almost impossible to find a creative solution.
Creativity changes the game, whatever game is being played. "We're going to run out of cash by the end of the year," is accurate unless you count creativity into the equation. Then the accurate statement is, "Under the current rules and assumptions, we're going to run out of cash..." Big difference.
Creativity demands exposure to market needs, and insulation from market fears. Give it some time to work, some support, some breathing room. That's when creativity has a chance to change the game.
So, C&P have been getting creative in these tough times and Matthew and I are happy to announce that as of monday we're going into the pornography and narcotics business. We've got basements folks and we're not afraid to use 'em...
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009
I am finding a distorted reality comes in handy a great deal at the moment.
Fulham really are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.
The credit crunch is just an illusion.
Lower Marsh is a brilliant shopping street in the winter.
Poetry will save us.
See what I mean?
Friday, January 30, 2009
And who's to blame? Well, everything's to blame. Movies are to blame, for stealing a lot of the novel's thunder. Why read a novel when in two hours you can just go passively sit and be dazzled and amazed and terrified? Television is to blame, especially because it's come into the home. It's brought the fascination of the flickering image right into the house; like turning on a faucet, you can have it whenever you want. I was a movie addict, but you could only see so many movies in the course of a week. I still had a lot of time to read, and so did other people. But I think television would take all your day if you let it. Now we have these cultural developments on the Internet, and online, and the computer offering itself as a cultural tool, as a tool of distributing not just information but arts -- and who knows what inroads will be made there into the world of the book," - John Updike.
Following a small crash (fog, ice, skid, splat - ouch) my trusty steed (Piaggio Zip 50) gave up starting in the mornings. Naturally I tried to fix it myself. Using my vast experience in mechanical engineering I decided the battery was flat and proceeded to try to charge it from a large boat battery my dad brought round in a shopping bag. When this failed I swore at the bike a bit. Then I unscrewed some screws and took off a plastic cover. Now I could see the engine and the spark plugs. I looked and looked. I stared really hard. I tried to fix the bike with my legendary psychic powers. This didn't work either.
So, eventually - after swearing some more and throwing stuff about - I phoned Craig at Scooterworks.
He came, he collected, he fixed the bike. My diagnosis of a flat battery was wrong. (Surprise surprise) The air filter was clogged with oil, probably from when the bike fell on its side.
So repeat after me - If your scooter won't work take it to Scooterworks.