Wednesday, 13 April 2011


The always stimulating Desperate Reader blogger has posted a thoughtful review of The Unbearable Bassington, by 'Saki'. For her perspicacity and taste, we may eventually forgive her for having read the out of print Penguin version rather than our edition. Although it is not an index of quality generally recognised by the world of culture, this book belongs to the relatively small pantheon of those enjoyed equally by my wife and me. As I wrote in an earlier, blog, the contrast between the cynically sparkling tone of the bulk of the book and the very powerful ending, is hugely powerful and affecting.


Thursday, 7 April 2011


Continuing the theme of puffing pet authors, I've been reminded recently - listening to the fervid debates about workers in the financial sector and their considerable rewards - of a gloriously silly Mervyn Peake poem about same.


The men in bowler hats are sweet
And dance through April showers,
So innocent! Oh it's a treat
To watch their tiny little feet
Leap nimbly through the arduous wheat
Among the lambs and flowers.

Many and many is the time
When I have watched them play
A broker drenched in glimmering rime,
A banker, innocent of crime,
With lots of bears and bulls, in time
To share the holiday.

The grass is lush - the moss is plush
The trees are hands at prayer.
The banker and the broker flush
To see a white rose in a bush,
And gasp with joy, and with a blush,
They hug each bull and bear.

The men in bowler hats are sweet
Beneath their bowler hats.
It's not their fault, if in the heat
Of their transactions, I repeat
It's not their fault if vampires meet
And gurgle in their spats.

This is from the at least partially mis-titled A Book of Nonsense.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011


I know, I know. Why don't I just change the name of this platform to the Leonard Cohen blog and have done with it. This post is really, however, about the very serious problem of book addiction. Despite a chronic lack of domestic shelf space, and the fact that the tome depicted to the east of this text (a new compilation of poems and song lyrics) contains very little that is not already burdening said shelves in other forms, can you blame me for crumbling before the sheer desirability of the format and design.

Besides, I felt the need to participate, via a commercial transaction, in the enshrinement of The Grocer of Despair into the canon of Everyman Pocket Classics. Can sainthood be far behind?


Monday, 4 April 2011


It's interesting to ponder the vocabulary and style of language employed by the transport companies to whom we daily entrust our bodies. I have not yet become accustomed to having been converted from a 'passenger' to a 'customer', for example, nor am I any the wiser for my local overground train company having renamed itself (doubtless at tremendous expense and having furnished several teams of designers with lavish penthouse lifestyles for life,) First Capital Connect. Do we have other capitals? The company used to be called WAGN, which at least afforded the opportunity for its victims (I beg your pardon, customers), while stuck outside Welwyn Garden City for half an hour because a 'unit' had developed 'motion issues' (ok I invented that one) to construct amusingly critical variations using those letters.

Recently at King's Cross we started being told that the 'access' to particular lines had 'restricted access'. The idea of access to access is one which, if not swiftly pruned, leads to a nightmarish vortex of regression and self reference. I hope that the access to the access of the access doesn't also become restricted, then where would we be. The absolute corker, is of course, the bland reassurance that
There is a good service on all London Underground lines.
What was that Plato said about any lie being credible if it were big enough.


Friday, 1 April 2011


From The Bookseller's estimable e-news bulletin. Another onerous administrative burden for overworked booksellers.

Government set to curb foreign authors

Bookshops are facing quotas on the number of foreign authors they can stock as the government plans to launch a "British Books for British Readers" campaign.

The Bookseller has learned Prime Minister David Cameron is set to give a speech today outlining his latest iteration of the "Big Society". A DCMS spokesman said: "The publishing industry needs protecting from the Browns, Larssons and Meyers of this world. We think British literature should be celebrated, not swamped. Crime novels set in gloomy Scandinavian forests have an unfair advantage over our cosy domestic settings, so we have to level the playing field to protect this vital domestic industry."

Under the plans, bookshops will only be able to hold 10% of stock from overseas authors. Using rules originally framed for international football, authors with British grandparents could qualify as British. The government is also examining the special case of Irish writers. While Northern Irish writers could controversially be classed as British, Irish authors such as James Joyce and Cecelia Ahern would fall foul of the proposed rules.

Authors such as Kipling and Orwell, both born in India to British parents, or J G Ballard, born in China, would remain eligible. The status of British authors who move overseas or adopt "foreign" writing styles, like Lee Child, remains a grey area.

Foreign publishers reacted quickly to the news. "We don’t have to take any more Alexander McCall Smith or Jeffrey Archer you know," said Danish editor Uwe Binhad of Loof Lirpa Associates.