Monday 4 November 2019

Some boxes and books

The days are shorter and more crowded, but here are four things I want to mention.

1. The opening this Thursday, 7 November, of the annual themed show curated by Natalia Zagorska-Thomas at her Expurgamento studio in Camden, London: this year, boxes, interpreted by artists as they will. Joseph Cornell gets in there – obliquely; boxes are not always straight lines and right angles – and some CBe writers/artists too (writers are rarely just writers). This is the 8th annual show curated by N Z-T, who has also showed individual artists. Does her decision to run the gallery in a way that bypasses certain common assumptions about money affect the art itself? Go and see. 132D Camden St, NW1 0HY; open weekends 11 to 6 until 8 December, weekdays by appointment (07799 495549).

2. Julian Stannard (published by CBe) has a new book, or catalogue, or something of both, because the poems come with art by Roma Tearne. Published by Green Bottle, Average is the New Fantastico will be on the CBe table at the Small Publishers Fair. Launch at the Poetry Society on 21 November. It’s a lovely thing, the result of artist, writer, publisher and typesetter working together, without stepping on one another’s toes.

3. Black Lives 1900 – a book of ever larger format and containing even more images, based on the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, published by Redstone Press. Visually and emotionally stunning. Max Porter: ‘Good lord this book is incredible … a civil rights and graphic design landmark.’

4 That Small Publishers Fair I’ve mentioned: here. All the publishers will be under 5ft 8 ins. Friday/Saturday, 15/16 November, 11am to 7pm both days at the Conway Hall, London; free to come in and browse and talk and pick up books and put them down and maybe even put down some cash, too.

5. Bookselling context: Foyles is now owned by Waterstones, which has already eaten Dillons and Books Etc and Hatchards and Hodges Figgis in Ireland and which itself is owned by a hedge fund which has also bought Barnes & Noble in the US, and all of these places are being headed up by James Daunt, who himself still owns Daunts and said earlier this year that he’d pay the Waterstones booksellers a living wage if he could but he can’t, and the systems are creaking. The given and accepted line is that Daunt is a saviour of the book trade, and that this ‘consolidation’ is necessary to counteract Amazon.

6. I can’t count. I can count, actually. Last month, October, CBe sold 146 books out of the distributor’s warehouse, giving £762 sales income, from which 13% plus VAT will be deducted. I paid more than that for printing the new book, Paul Bailey’s Inheritance, a book by an author who has been publishing for over 50 years, twice Booker-shortlisted, etc.

Almost certainly two of the three books mentioned here, and possibly all three, will not be on the shelves of Waterstones. All of them, however, will be at the Small Publishers Fair.

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