Friday 29 August 2008

Back; and a hero

I’m back, straggling behind the Olympic lot, having managed to see not a single tape being breasted, shot being put, though I did manage a game or two of chess and table football and I learned a lot about artesian wells, and now I’m dazed, culture-shocked, by re-entry into the civilisation of deadlines and pay-&-display.

Two of the October CBe books will go to the printer next week. One is being written. But the other two, surprisingly, are done – printed, bound, in boxes. Despite the printer man being side-swiped by a forklift truck, and being told at the hospital he had a collapsed lung and how lucky it wasn’t two inches to the left otherwise that would have been his spine and he wouldn’t have walked again, and being kept in for three days and then discharged with a prescription for heavy painkillers and instructions to take ten days’ bed-rest – the queue at the pharmacy was an hour-and-a-half long so he came home, killed the pain with whisky, went straight back to work. True Brit grit. Give the man a medal.

Monday 11 August 2008

Faciendi plures libros . . .

. . . nullus est finis; frequensque meditatio, carnis afflictio est.

Ecclesiastes speaking, and the man has a point: Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Ecclesiastes it was who also said there’s a time for this and a time for that (‘A time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together’). It’s time for the other: I’m off to the Middle of Nowhere for a couple of weeks. Among others, the printer will be house-sitting and feeding the cats, all part of the service.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Saying no

‘He had the look on his face – inspiration.
There was no arguing with it –
the look he had when he signed the contract
for the cookbook that sold a million.

‘It was also the look that had turned down
Cards of Identity and Go Tell It on the Mountain.’

I talked briefly the other week with one of the publisher’s editors who turned down, a year ago, Jennie’s book. We didn’t mention it. I remembered the lines above, from a Louis Simpson poem. But really there was no cause for any social trickiness, because neither of us had done anything to feel awkward about. Editors edit, and choose, by their own lights; and they should go on doing so, rather than feeling there’s an accountant, or a policeman of literary taste, watching their every move. Any decent book being turned down means neither that the book is bad nor that the editor is an idiot. All it shows is that, in the dating game the placing of books resembles, the chemistry wasn’t right.

I turn down books myself, these days. Some of them good ones. But not my type.

Louis Simpson has several poems about publishing. ‘Sitting at a desk with my feet up / on the bottom drawer, reading manuscripts . . .’ No wonder that, according to the most recent Bookseller survey of people working in publishing, when asked how they got into their jobs nearly 40% of respondents said they had just drifted there. Despite the word with which Simpson closes the first section of his poem: ‘underpaid’.

Monday 4 August 2008

Supply & demand

Abebooks, bless them, are listing a signed CBe edition of 24 for 3 on sale from a Shropshire bookseller for £110. Jennie can recall signing no more than two or three copies of the CBe edition, so it is indeed, as the bookseller describes it, 'quite scarce'. As are the unsold and unsigned CBe editions: I have just two on my selves, and could get hold of perhaps a couple more. In the interests of creating havoc in the rare book market, and helping towards funding the printing of the October books, Jennie will sign and send these remaining copies to anyone who sends a cheque to CB editions for exactly half the price the Shropshire bookseller is charging.

Happy birthday, Mr Thornton.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Off to the country

Today in the Sunday Times there is a photo of the-man-who-sold-Jennie’s-book-to-Mick-Jagger in a precarious position. (It’s true that to work in John Sandoe’s you need to have trained as a sardine-canner, but you can usually reach the book you want without quite such a daring leap.) His own novel, Dreaming Iris, is officially published tomorrow. It’s good, and deserves to sell in shedloads.

On Tuesday Jennie goes to a bookshop in Woodstock that is next door, she’s told, to a shop called Silken Dalliance. If there’s a decent wine shop in the same street she may be away for a couple of months. Feeling it’s time they had some attention too, the other CBe authors probably won’t miss her too badly.

(By the way, chasing 307 to win, Sri Lanka were 24 for 3 at lunch today, the fourth day of the Test against India.)