Friday 25 May 2007

Thoroughly Modern Simon

Lynne, over at dovegreyreader, has thrown down the gauntlet. She has a way of doing this. And it all dates back rather a long way. Sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Back in the days when 'blogging' was merely a misprint, Lynne, Elaine (Random Jottings) and I belonged to an online list, now known as They've had a few mentions on here before, and are still flourishing. Though an extremely amiable group, it was not underheard of for Lynne to cajole Elaine and myself into Modern Books, nor for us to dig our heels in. My reading is often sequestered firmly in the period 1900-1950, and anything after this makes me feel slightly dizzy.

Well, Elaine has been brave and noble (or, wait for it, Barnes and Noble) and succombed to the charm of the 21st century, alongside healthy doses of Victorian literature and early-2oth century, of course. A challenge, if you will. Where Elaine has bravely gone, there must I also go. Now that my learnin' at Oxfor
d is officially over (for the time being, at least) I shall be venturing, oh-so-tentatively, into the sphere of Modern Literature, as prescribed by Nurse Dovegreyreader.

So, off I went yesterday, £5 book token clutched in hand, to those shelves of shiny, reflective, non-olde-worlde-smelling books, determined to find something to appease Lynne, and to make myself feel Thoroughly Modern. But... for someone who has bought about 10 new novels ever, it all felt rather wrong. I am at home in secondhand bookshops, or, or even ebay.
These coffee table items, all sparkling clean and with 'Half Price!' , 'Buy One Get One Free!', '20% Off If You Stand On One Leg When Paying!' stickers... it's all a little terrifying. And do you know what, I feel guilty buying new books. Guilty! I managed to quash book-buying-guilt by the time I was eight. But it all feels a little too... how should I put it... commercial. I can see the Big Businesses behind new books - in secondhand bookshops the benefitting parties are seated behind the desk, wearing brown cardigans and smoking pipes.

But I pushed all this aside. And came out with Maggie O'Farrell's book, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. And came away with change from my book token.

I'll report back soon. Wish me luck.


  1. I used to work in a (new) bookstore (several years ago, they have since closed) for a long time. It was unheard of that I would go to a used bookstore. Used? Now that's only if you can't find a new one, right? Well, I have actually gone over to the other side (quite happily)these days. I do still buy new books (I like to spread my book dollars around a bit), but I really enjoy stopping in regularly at my favorite used bookstore. I have found so many great books (mostly Viragos--sorry, no Persephones to be had over here). One of the nice things about my used bookstore--the owners are nice-they remember me, where I work, and are very knowledgeable about books. I hate to say that as often as I go into my local new bookstore that never happens. Surely they remember me--I recognize their faces. Maybe they're shy? Anyway, to make a short comment long, I can see why you like these sorts of books and bookstores. And though I have not read this particular one, I have read and enjoyed Maggie O'Farrell. 21st century lit can be fun, too! Really.

  2. I had a similar heeby jeeby moment yesterday in a Waterstones. Pre your blog days, I blogged about the fact that Canterbury was closing all its independent bookshops (the last closed at Christmas). While that's fine for me usually (I am a firm believer in secondhand bookshops and there are plenty here), yesterday I was looking for a specific children's book requested by a friend for their child, so I needed new. We have two Waterstones here and neither had the book, and while I enjoy browsing, I suddenly had a guilty moment surrounded by all those special offers! Needless to say, I left emptyhanded.

  3. I've just WRITTEN a book. AND I would like to get it published. AND printed. AND marketed. AND bought ... with money ... by people ... who might actually read it BEFORE putting it in a second-hand book shop.
    There's another side to every argument.

  4. Like Danielle, I too like to spread my book dollars around. Having said that, I especially enjoy the sort of thrill I get from shopping used, and never knowing what I'll home with with. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on the O'Farrell - I just ordered it last night from bookcloseouts.

  5. Oh good grief!!!!!!No pressure then!!!
    I'm a bit worried that you went off on a book shopping frolic of your own there Simon, we should all have been alongside to guide you, it could all yet go horribly wrong..again!
    You'd better start a Book of Books and keep note around the blogs of recommends so that next time you can look all assertive and in control at the 3-4-2 table.This is going to become your new home and it's easy to get confused.Next visit check out The Observations by Jane Harris (I haven't finished it yet but I'll go out on a limb and vouch)perhaps The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney.
    Feeling suddenly nervous here:-)

  6. Equiano, good piece in today's Guardian about all the writers that have emerged from behind the tills at Waterstones in Canterbury.David Mitchell for a Cloud Atlas for you yet Simon, we must get you walking first!

  7. Well there`s me....
    oh and that proposals book.. when you`ve finished with it, lend it here... I am a publisher too you know and always looking for OP books that should be brought back in P.
    As I can`t be bothered to re-sign up for a Blogger whch refuses to recognise my old sign-up, I sign myself, beneath anonymous as


  8. Goodness how remiss of me,The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill, The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill, The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill,Strange Meeting by Susan Hill...
    and not forgetting
    The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan published by Susan Hill:-)


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