Friday 26 September 2008

Decorative swirls of granite

33 days, 10 hours, 19 minutes to go until the opening of the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, and the site is swarming with construction workers like a Cecil B DeMille film about building the Pyramids and I know how they feel but I’ve beaten them: the new CBe books are all printed, I took boxes and boxes of them earlier this week to the lovely old warehouse building in East London that is Central Books, and today the website was updated with pay buttons so you can now BUY THE BOOKS.

Yesterday and today I went round some local independent bookshops to gently harass a few folk who stocked last year’s books. One person had moved to another shop, another was out at lunch, another was on holiday, and one of the shops was closed for the afternoon. I browsed. I asked for a book someone told me about, Death in Danzig, and was told not just that it wasn’t in stock but it wasn’t available from the supplier; and it was published only two years ago. Still, I found other books I coveted, and (perhaps because the persons I’d come to chat to were not there) the brightness and, yes, visual attractiveness of their covers worried me. Adjectives that could be applied to the CBe covers include wholesome, puritan, old-fashioned. And brown. One of the CBe authors has been pleading with me to move away from brown, to lighten up.

The Westfield shopping centre will have, its website tells me, ‘16-metre-wide malls fashioned from marble with decorative swirls of granite and an exclusive, boutique-style enclave devoted to luxury brands’. Granite swirls. Maybe.

Friday 12 September 2008

The Arabic for hat-trick

You want to get to the cash machine. But there’s someone standing in the way. He’s perfectly polite, but this is his job, it’s what he’s paid for.

Waterstones cannot order the new CBe books because they are not on the System. They are on the central book data thing, they are in boxes around me, they exist, but in Waterstones’ eyes they don’t. Yet. Today I discover the reason: the book data place, although they were told that that the distributor of the books is Central Books, did not enter this in their own System. So sorted now, almost.

Some of the poems in the Ponge book couldn’t be included, said the French publisher, because people in America had English-language rights in them. But these are different translations, completely new, not the same as the Americans printed. Gallic shrug. Of course you can print the new translations, said the Americans. Oh no you can’t, said the French. (This too was sorted, eventually. They’re in.)

Yeserday afternoon I had a hankering to see highlights of the England game, and Walcott’s goals. But because there was someone standing in the way – he was mumbling about rights deals – they’d been taken off YouTube and pretty well everywhere else, except for sites that showed them with Arabic commentary. The Arabic for hat-trick appears to be hat-trick.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Exit Zamyatin

He was there on Monday – Harry saw him – but yesterday morning, around lunchtime, he was gone. In place of the blurb for We some vandal had scrawled: ‘Off-peak travel cards start at 9.30.’

Perhaps because I’d taken my camera with me. Cameras, I find, get in the way of what you’re looking at and can make things vanish.

While on public notices, I saw today in Waterstones a new (to me) shelving category, sited between Celebrities and True Crime: ‘Painful Lives’. No one, happily, was browsing.

Friday 5 September 2008

Slight delays on the Circle Line

A maligned institution, London Underground, but here’s spot of a low-cost innovation. Today, Friday 5th September, on the Service Information board at Kings Cross / St Pancras there is (and I wish I’d had my camera, because not everyone will believe me here) a blurb for We by Zamyatin: ‘. . . an epic and disjointed poem written by the “number” D-503. He contracts a soul in the perfect world of Onestate and D-503 must choose whether to cure this sickness or choose freedom over happiness, love over control.’

Written casually with a felt-tip but perfectly legible. Freedom or happiness? – this is serious stuff. Normal service, I assume, on all other Lines.

More, please. Public information . . . Switch on the weather forecast and get a plot summary of Women in Love. In the slot for the FTSE index at the end of the news, a Lydia Davies short story. A bibliography of Isak Dinesen's works on the departures board at Heathrow. It begins here.