Monday, 30 March 2009


Last Thursday, March 26th, we were as proud and delighted as any relatively new parents to host the first birthday party for The Capuchin Classics.  Among the authors, agents, booksellers and members of other associated literary tribes attending were Anne Atkins, Michele Roberts, Tim Bates (grandson of HE), Roger Morgan (son  of Charles Morgan) and Valentine Cunningham.  Our picture shows (from left to right) Emma Howard, the ch√Ętelaine of Capuchin Classics, Alessandro Gallenzi of Oneworld Classics (see Alessandro's Blog for his own unique description of the event) and Tim Bates.

In a thought-provoking speech, Capuchin Editor Christopher Ind surveyed the world of classics reprints and challenged the position assumed by Faber with their 'Faber Finds' project, which allows readers to order print-on-demand copies of particular titles without involving the publisher in any print run and therefore in having the books on bookshops' shelves.  Furthermore, in acquiring rights across the estates of dead authors still in copyright, Faber Finds is preventing other publishers from making those books properly available to the trade for a period of several years. Many works by authors as significant as HG Wells, Joyce Cary and Angus Wilson are thus kicked out of touch.  Christopher said:

"We see this as contrary to the interests of literature. Sure, it keeps the book theoretically available, but in the narrowest sense of the term. Faber Finds simply put out print-on-demand.  While there is a concession for living authors in the form of a release clause should a rival publisher put in an offer, there is no such concession for dead authors.

Our book-buyer had to know that Lucky Jim existed in the first place. After all, the fundamental truth remains that you cannot ask for what you do not already know exists. It is not, then, truly 'making public'. 

“Foul play,” I hear you cry – and you’d be right. For this surely marks a step away from what it is to publish, and what it means to keep books alive. To the agents and executors among you I would urge caution before conceding such dog-in-the-manger rights to an author’s works to what is admittedly a prestigious name in publishing, but one that is arguably undermining what it means, properly, to publish."

This view has been endorsed by Alessandro, who co-founded the splendid Oneworld Classics, imprint.

We would very much welcome your reactions.

In the meantime, having recovered from the bacchanalian delirium of last Thursday, we will continue to put beautifully produced copies of great books back onto the bookshelves, where they belong.

Quotation of the day:
"Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty."  Norman Douglas, author of South Wind, the wild and exuberant novel set in Capri and published by Capuchin Classics.


Thursday, 26 March 2009


At the risk of sounding like another sort of blogger altogether, I am compelled to confess that last night I consummated an exhilarating new relationship.  When I add that the other party was not human, please don't switch off, as it, or they, were infact my new running shoes, which kindly took me for their maiden jog yesterday.

The feeling of freedom and lightness (not easily achieved by someone with a chronic fondness for empty calories) engendered by my brand new Saucony Jazz footwear reminded me of a story by a writer on whom I cut my reading teeth, namely, respectively, The Sound of Summer Running, by Ray Bradbury.  The story, available in The Bradbury Stories, describes the desire of a young boy for a new pair of tennis shoes and is typical of the author's brilliant poetic style and his ability to evoke the mysterious and sometimes dark wonder of childhood.

Sport has of course been the inspiration for much fine writing, viz Hemingway with various manly pursuits, Alan Sillitoe and cross country running, Richard Ford, etc.  In May Capuchin is publishing a very worthy member of this group, namely Cashel Byron's Profession, in which after pole-axing his mathematics master with a perefect right, the eponymous hero, the unloved son of a successful actress, runs away to Australia, returning to become the most famous fighter of the age, only to be floored by the lovely and impossible Lydia Carew.

I can't wait for our second date.


Quotation of the day:
"My writing is nothing, my boxing is everything." Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


It's odd, this being a relatively new blog (and blogger), to be quite unsure of how many people are reading these words. I suppose it could be seen as the digital equivalent of launching a message in a bottle. Anyway, to those of you kind souls who have uncorked this particular communication, my apologies for the blog hiatus. Since returning from holiday in Toulouse - where I failed to read any of my targetted holiday books - things have been a tad hectic, but I hope to be back to more frequent posting now.

I've been visiting quite a few bookshops recently, fixing innocent staff with my glittering eye and espousing the virtues of the Capuchin Classics but not, I fear with the style or eloquence of Coleridge. The most pleasant of these calls was to Robert Topping's bookshop in Ely. This emporium, which has a counterpart in Bath, exemplifies all the good qualities of bookselling, especially in its careful and passionate book selection and not least in the wonderful coffee which is offered to its customers as they browse the thousands of books in all the major genres, including many authors and publishers of which the chains will be entirely innocent. Robert and his staff also offer up a rich diet of literary events with some of the best names in writing. I've known Robert since his days at the late Pan Bookshop, and it is always a pleasure to catch up with him and enjoy his insights into the book world.

Of the new Capuchins to emerge recently, I am most looking forward to reading South Wind, as it is set in Capri, a trip to which island formed one of the best parts of a holiday undertaken by my wife and I a few years ago. We had both been reading the eccentric and partly fictitious 'autobiography' by Axel Munthe at the time, called The Story of San Michele, and found this greatly enhanced the pleasure of our visit, being able as we were to visit the eponymous dwelling and re-enact the book jacket. Munthe's story has become notorious for its fabrications and omissions, but is still a powerful and magical piece of writing that transcends all genres. Go read it now, and then visit Capri. Via Ely, of course.

Quotation of the day:
""It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
And freezing."
"It is?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "We haven't had an earthquake latel
y."  AA Milne, author of Two People, recently published by Capuchin Classics.