Monday 25 September 2023


A CBe event at the Barbican scheduled for Wednesday this week, the 27th, has been postponed (to 31 January next year) because of poor ticket sales. How many tickets were sold? As many as a tree-surgeon friend could count on his right hand, after having lost two fingers on that hand to one of those chopping machines into which fallen branches are fed.

Ouch. It’s dose of realism. Event organisers who schedule Ian McEwan or Zadie Smith or Marie Kondo or Michael Palin can stroll into the box office, quids in; event organisers who schedule small-press writers have to run ten times faster for often, as here, zero result.

The Barbican event was ticketed. They pay the writers. Many book events don’t. This is tricky: earlier this month I heard a librarian speak about her unease at having to charge £3 for an author event when for many of the people she wanted to come that was a barrier. The regular charge for book events in London is £10, which equals 2.5 Costa coffees and the food budget for a week for many. We want open access; we want writers to be valued; and it’s depressing how often money gets in the way rather than helping.

Once, a friend and I were the only people to turn up to a stage adaptation of Kafka in a pub theatre and they put on the show just for us.

On the plus side: for publishers whose authors cannot fill stadia, every reader matters. There are no pictures on the CBe site of authors hand-signing (or rubber-stamping) massed ziggurats of new books. For record, the books we were going to talk about on Wednesday evening are: Caroline Clark, Sovetica and Own Sweet Time; Julian George, Bebe; Charles Boyle, 99 Interruptions. Available from the website now, and on the CBe table (with other books) at the Small Publishers Fair in London on 27th and 28th October. Free entry.

Friday 8 September 2023

Ducks in a row

Things are happening. Here are some of them, in no particular order:

The autumn books, all delivered: Philip Hancock, House on the A34; Caroline Thonger and Vivian Thonger, Take Two; Julian George, Bebe; Ann Pearson and Charles Boyle, The Simplon Road. There’ll be a launch party for three of these at 49 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3HZ, on 9 October – email if you’d like to come.

CBe now has an Instagram account. This will be run by Vik Shirley, who is helping in other ways too and who is also working with Shearsman and Sublunary Editions. Both I and Vik Shirley will be at the Small Publishers Book Fair on 27 and 28 October at the Conway Hall in London – do come.

This month the Redstone Press publishes Seeing Things, subtitled ‘the small wonders of the world according to writers, artists and others’ and with a foreword by Cornelia Parker: an anthology of images posted on Instagram by David Byrne, Roz Chast, Amit Chaudhuri, Jarvis Cocker, William Dalrymple, Elizabeth Day, Peter Doig, Neil Gaiman, Marc Quinn, Jon Ronson, Elif Shafak, Nina Stibbe, Rachel Whiteread and others. Interspersed with texts (‘droll’, says the TLS) by Charles Boyle. Available from bookshops and the Redstone Press online shop.

An exhibition of objects from The Camden Town Hoard, curated by Natalia Zagorska-Thomas, opens this week at the Bower Ashton Library in Bristol and continues to the end of October. Full details here. The book is available here: Camden Town Hoard.

A brief history of CB editions, written in instalments over the past decade – Farthings: CB editions in 113 bites – is now available exclusively from the website (it’s not an official publication, doesn't have an ISBN and won’t be in bookshops) at the exorbitant price of £10. But if you click a button for one of the Season Tickets on the Home page – 6 books of your own choice for £40, or 12 for £75, post free in the UK – I’ll add in a copy of Farthings for free.

I may have to re-think that ‘post free’. Something you don’t want to hear, and nor do I, is that the cost of posting 2nd-class a slim book of poems or prose, which last increased in April this year, will be going up again next month by more than 50p. But to date, all UK orders from the website are post free.