Sunday, 26 April 2009


Last week saw the annual British trade jamboree that is the London Book Fair take place at Earl's Court from Monday to Wednesday.

It's a vital three days for any publisher, and especially the smaller variety, affording the opportunity to meet with people from all areas of the trade, be they old friends and acquaintances or new contacts.  The Capuchin presence was relatively humble, comprising a section of a shared stand, whereas the publishing behemoths such as Harper Collins and Macmillan install huge custom-made edifices, each staffed by what seems like the population of a small town.  The conrast reminds me of those cities where shabby hovels squat in close proximity to gleaming skyscrapers, although I've yet to see any representatives from publishers such as our squatting in the aisles holding signs asking for spare authors or manuscripts.

The Fair is a wonderful place around which to wander in between meetings, and this year I happened across 2 new publishers who in particular caught my interest.

Roastbooks  has produced a series of beautiful, small, quirky books that can be easily read during a train journey or lunch hour.  These include The Profit, a parable set in the corporate world and inspired by Kahil Gibran's The Prophet, and Little Roasts, a collection of short stories with international settings.

The Peirene Press are publishing short contemporary European novels in translation, beginning with Portrait of a Mother as a Young Woman by Christian Delius and  Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal, from respectively the German and the Catalan originals.  The literature of other countries has increasingly attracted the attention of the British reading public recently, and this publisher promises to make a valuable and exciting contribution to this process.

It was very heartening to come across exciting and brave projects like this, and the efforts of both publishers are a testimony to the passion and enthusiasm for writing which drives them.


Poodlefaker.  A man who deliberately courts the company and friendship of women, sometimes for purposes of material gain or social advancement.

Use with pleasure.


Friday, 17 April 2009


Yesterday at Capuchin Classics we had the great pleasure of being joined for lunch by Jeremy Paxman, Julie Myerson and Kirsty Gunn.  What, I hear you shrewdly enquiring, links this trio, apart from their talent, intelligence and charm.  The answer is that each of them has contributed a foreword to one or more of our books, namely and respectively Gulliver's Travels, Shirley's Guild and (two for Ms Gunn) The Green Hat and Potiki.

As has always been the case with these gatherings, the conversation covered a wide spectrum of subjects, from the shared histories of houses to the state of publishing today.  A particularly fertile topic was language and how it changes: what, if anything, do we lose, for example, when a word radically changes meaning (e.g. how do we, or do we at all, describe people or situations which once would have been called 'gay').  This led Jeremy to suggest that the Capuchin blog should run a 'word of the day' feature, in order to disseminate the joy and utility of lesser known words and to encourage and provoke their use.  Without, therefore, further ado, let me introduce the first...


Epicaricacy.  This is a word which Jeremy revealed as the nearest one-word English equivalent to the German term Schadenfreude (which, as any fule kno, means the taking of pleasure in other's misfortunes).  Your mission now is to casually insert this word into everyday conversation and watch it blossom and flourish through the language.

Good luck.


Wednesday, 8 April 2009


The Conclave is that rare thing, a contemporary historical novel. With immense psychological and stylistic delicacy, Bracewell traced the interior contours of the Thatcher boom of the 1980s. 

Thus spake The Guardian in their feature on 'How did we miss these' in September 2007.  Who are we to disagree with this fine judgement.  The Capuchin Classics edition will be released around 20th April this year, and we are greatly excited to be reintroducing this wonderful novel to the reading world.

As well as enjoying Michael Bracewell's wonderful prose and evocation of place and character, the book is particularly interesting for me as the chief protagonist and I were born a year apart, and certain passages describing the youthful years of the former resonate very strongly - and sometimes in an unsettling manner - with my own experiences, especially where the intensities of youthful friendship and romance are concerned.

Being concerned with the 1980's boom and bust cycle, the novel has obvious relevance to the troubled economic waters through which we're navigating, and offers a fascinating perspective on the origins of the aspirational lifestyles and values which are now in various degrees of retreat.  As the author says, 'The book does not judge these people, or satirise them; it simply hopes to describe their young adult lives.'

Enjoy the book.