What Gatz and Fifty Shades of Grey have in common

Greetings from my holiday in Holland where it is raining relentlessly. I’m used to spending my holidays in Holland in the rain but this year there is the vague consolation that I would be equally as wet and cold in London. As indeed I was on Friday when I went to see Gatz with my friend Julia. Gatz lasts about eight hours and is the entire text of The Great Gatsby read aloud with no deletions or additions. The set up is that an office worker can’t work his computer so starts reading a book instead and gradually his co-workers join in. There are four intervals and during every single one I overheard a snippet of Fifty Shades of Grey conversation. Old, young, male, female, black and white were all talking about a book in an interval at the theatre. Continue reading

Will Bring up the Bodies win the Booker?

I’ve always loved historical fiction. I discovered Jean Plaidy in Snaith library when I was about twelve and binge read my way through Henry VIII and all those wives in large print plastic-wrapped hardbacks. The thing that is handy about historical fiction is that it is learning on the sly. I’ve never studied History but would bet a fiver that I know more about Catherine de Medici than pretty much any English person who doesn’t have a degree in French History. Possibly for that reason, I am a bit of a purist in that I like the sort of books that have real people reimagined but that don’t veer too far from the source material. Okay by me to make up emotions, but not to invent facts. Continue reading

Come to my book shop in the sky

From 2.30 – 6.30am this morning I was comforting and cleaning up after my dear, brave little boy as he repeatedly threw up. I was also, during the brief times when we both lay down in his bed and tried to go to sleep, cheering myself up by having imaginary conversations with imaginary customers in my imaginary book shop. It is a hell of a heavenly place, my bookshop in the sky, it is staffed with all my favourite colleagues from over the years including people I’ve never worked with but have always admired and shopped in by all my favourite customers. And, because it is in my imagination, it faces none of the very real difficulties encountered by bookshops today. Continue reading

What to read RIGHT NOW

The thing I most miss about working in a book shop is talking to strangers about books and the query I particularly loved, often from a regular, was the excitingly simple, ‘So, what’s good, right now?’ I miss the physicality of walking around a shop learning about how someone likes to read, about how they like to think, and gathering a pile of books so that you send them away with a tailored slice of the current week’s publishing. The cream of the crop, chosen and packed up with thought and care.

So, can you indulge me? Can you be the perfect customer, wandering in with a bit of time and money to spare? Continue reading

Seriously bad love…the only kind that really works

It is a truth not particularly universally acknowledged that simple, plain, uncomplicated and stress free love doesn’t really work in fiction. Almost all romantic fiction stops at the point when the amusing misunderstandings have been cleared up and the happy couple walk off into the distance together to enjoy three years tops of uncritical staring into each others’ eyes before they make compromises, have children or get divorced at which point they may (just) become fictionally interesting again. During the loved up phase they are of absolutely no interest to any reader of novels. So much is this the case that I offer you a challenge. I have a theory that if you meet a happily married couple at the beginning of a novel then one of them is about to get run over by a bus or will turn out to be perpetrating some terrible undercover activity, like being a Russian spy or a serial killer. Seriously, happy love has no fictional purpose other than to be destroyed. Continue reading