I, and I’m sure many of you, will have noticed the tendency among publishers to go for larger font sizes in new books, thus making books much fatter than they need to be. Earlier today I was browsing in a local book shop and noticed John Le Carre’s novel Absolute Friends, looking a bit bigger than I recalled. This edition runs to 438 pages and costs £8:99. I’ve compared with my paperback edition from 2004 which was 383 pages and cost £6:99. So that’s a 14% increase in size. Using the Bank of England inflation calculated the cost then is equivalent to £10:22 today, and adding in the 14% increase in size today’s price should be £11:65 (I realise this is a crude equivalence, but this is a blogpost, not a management report). I’m mystified by firstly the increase in the size of books generally, when we’re in an age where we’re supposed to be conserving resources and secondly by the lower prices. No doubt printing technology has improved in the intervening years, but my feeling is that this is so unnecessary.
Sad to hear that writer Philip Kerr has passed away at the relatively young age of 62. I know from previous threads that I’m not the only fan here of his Bernie Gunther books; best described to the uninitiated as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe dropped into Nazi Germany then dangled into various scenes of noir into the 1950s. They’re up there with the best crime novels of recent decades. Apparently we’ve got one more to look forward to – Greeks Bearing Gifts – set for publication next month. But after that no more of one of my annual reading treats. I suppose this is the point where I reread all of them.
Anyone read the winner or any of the rest of the shortlist? Anyone care?
I used to religiously read the shortlist and discovered many fantastic writers and novels (and some duds) as a result. But the balance of good v bad seemed to shift in more recent years and I lost interest. Picked up the thread again last year and read five of the six, but ye gods….
This year’s list hasn’t interested me in the least to date, with the one exception, as it happens, of the winner, Lincoln in the Bardo which I read a review of when it first came out and thought it sounded interesting. Will give that a go at some point but not sure about the rest of them. And meantime I cannot imagine that any of them are better than Sebastian Barry’s unbelievably great ‘Days Without End’ which unaccountably didn’t even make the list.
Thoughts from the Afterword’s literary critics?
Spent some time this morning mooching around the new Library/Cinema/Theatre complex in Chester. Whilst browsing around the large (and busy) cafe/non-fiction area*, I realised the music playing was familiar – ‘Working Class Hero’, complete with f-word. I looked around but no one else seemed to notice (peasants!) but I did think Paperback Writer might have been more appropriate. * Yes it is confusing.
Waking up at about 4am the other morning and unable to get back to sleep, I went onto the radio iPlayer and scrolled through that day’s programmes and came across “Too Many Books”.
Anyway, listening to Too Many Books is a half hour worth spending. It has gentle humour, some pathos and a man that buys books (including a Smash Hits annual and one about Tim and Jeff Buckley) at car boots.
What’s not to like about that?
I’ve spent the last couple of days decorating the living room, which means that I have had to move all the piles of CDs, DVDs and books for which there is no longer room on the shelves and, for the moment, pile them in the spare room ready for selling or charity shop disposal. It hurts getting rid of this stuff, doesn’t? I’ve done it before and honestly not regretted losing my precious possessions, or re-bought them, but I still hate to see them go.
Yesterday I went out for a walk after being cooped up in my flat for so long and came across this heart-breaking sight. I asked the couple in the house before having a rummage and it turns out they are moving somewhere smaller but none of the local charities could take such a large donation (about 2000 books, they thought). I rescued some of course, including firsts of Graham Greene and Raymond Chandler. No great financial value, but I couldn’t let a copy of The Quiet American that someone had cherished so much that they had stored a 1967 newspaper clipping about a screening of the film inside go to landfill.
I read a lot, I can’t put it down – Nick Lowe
Sometimes it’s easier to retreat into yourself, to shut up shop, “shut out that stealing moon” – as Thomas Hardy described it – and simply exist in a penumbra of your life. When I sense I’m becoming maudlin and self-absorbed or over-burdened with worries, both real and imagined, I read. Reading gets me out of the shadows and helps me re-engage with the world. I have always at least 2 or 3 books on the go but when I get into one of my prolonged dark moods I seek out an extra level of compensation from the written word. Years of reading has helped me to help myself when it comes to choosing a book or an author to revive a part of me that feels undernourished, overlooked or sadly lacking in vitality.
For example I’ve been reading classic Westerns by writers like Zane Grey, Larry McMurtry and Louis L’Amour. Their books help me escape from an insistent gut feeling that I’m chronically (as well as chronologically) out of step with the modern world and should simply accept it rather than fight it. There’s something liberating about » Continue Reading.
His autobiography is 99p on Kindle today only