Friday, 16 October 2009

Hanging, smoking, etc

The poster for the new Terry Gilliam film is classified 12A: ‘contains infrequent strong language, scenes of threat, hanging and smoking’. My italics (I kill, or am killed by, a pack a day). I sold a copy of Nicky Singer’s Knight Crew this week to a woman for her 14-year-old son and, because this book is a very different book from Nicky’s Feather Boy, felt a need – why? – to mention that, hmm, people get knifed in this book, and people make love, and . . . The woman: ‘Oh, he knows all about that. [infinitesimal pause] He reads a lot.’ He’s currently reading Thomas Hardy.

Don’t, please, print recommended age bands on children’s books. Not just because it’s bossy, not just because this scheme is designed chiefly to help booksellers rather than readers (if booksellers don’t know what they’re selling, they’re in the wrong job), but mainly because any such banding is anti-book. Literature – reading – is freedom. Any attempt to enclose or partition it is ignorant and doomed.

Do, please, fix the gents toilet in Borders in Charing X Road.

Other thing: go to John Self’s Asylum for a review of In Sarah’s House, W’s translation of stories by Stefan Grabinski, and a puff for CBe in general (‘thank heavens for CB Editions and their like: perhaps these are the places where everything worthwhile, however long forgotten, is preserved and recorded’). This attention is nice. But as for translating that into actual sales of books, I’ve a feeling I’m missing something, some magic phrase I should be intoning every morning as soon as I wake up, a phrase that they whisper to you on a sales-&-marketing course, but only after you’ve signed up to the rest of the mumbo-jumbo, and that’s the catch.

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