Two featured women with 'David Bowie eyes'. Two featured the music of Paul Simon, and two featured squirrel being caught, cooked and eaten. And one of them didn't feature any of those things at all.
I am reliably informed by our friends at Vintage towers that today, 23rd April 2015 marks the 50th anniversary since the first publication of the marvelous Stoner, by John Williams. To celebrate this auspicious occasion they have given us six copies to give away absolutely free of charge to any poor, but lucky soul who may not yet have read it.
If Stoner is still the greatest novel you have never read don't be shy, answer this one simple question in the comments below, or by tweeting @booksellercrow, and a copy could be yours.
WHAT AM I THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW?
He says, excuse me, but do you have an agenda?
Certainly, I say, we do.
I, for instance, I say, I have an ambition to sell as many books as possible, thereby making the world a slightly more magical place. I would like also for Mayor Boris and his slippery cohort Coe to stuff their plans for Crystal Palace park high up where the sun don't shine, and also, I like to think, that by owning two season tickets to Selhurst Park I might in some small way be contributing to CPFC's further abiding in the Premier League.
The man looks at me.
I think, he says, that in this country it is also called a diary?
Anyway, I don't think I want you to order it for me, she says. I know the author, I've played bridge against her many times and she gave me an invite to her last book launch, but I had tickets for centre court at Wimbledon. But I read it anyway, and then, in my usual way I told her what I thought, which was that it thought it was pornographic, which it was, and which she denied. Anyway, that caused a bit of a cooling in our relations, but there you are.
Picks up a calendar she is purchasing, the Japanese paint such beautiful cats, don't you think?
It's been a while I know, since an actual blog post.
Anyway, before the weekend, here's a tip for any self-published authors out there.
If you approach the counter dressed as a pirate waving copies of your limited oeuvre in your sweaty maw, and address Justine (@swimble) thusly, IS THE BOSS IN?
The shrift that you will get
A man says, Thanks very much for the books that you went to the trouble of getting for me, by the way.
No problem, I tell him.
One of them was very useful, he says.
Jolly good, I tell him, and narrow my eyes.
Laminating sheets, he says.
I'm sorry, I say, but we don't sell laminating sheets.
Plastic film? he says.
We don't sell plastic film, I say.
We sell books, I tell him.
Books, he repeats.
He looks at me suspiciously and backs away from the counter, and then turns his attention to the shelves, slowly walking the corners of the shop, peering into every bay, considering each shelf in turn, before shaking his head and walking quickly out.
He fairly sings my name.
Long time no see, he says. I moved away from the area so I don't get to come in any more.
This is strange I think, as I pass him every Sunday on my way to the shop.
Is buisiness booming?! he asks.
Are you slaying the might of amaz*n?! he says.
In a manner of speaking, I say.
This is very odd, I think, for although he was once a regular customer, it must be ten years since I sold him a book.
Booming, slaying, I think, and then I realise; he is with a WOMAN.
But how much is The Luminaries, the Booker Prize Winner in paperback?
Nine-ninety-nine, I tell him.
Right you are, he says.
Just have to win it first, he says, and steps over the road to the betting shop.
Theo is ten years old and lives in a mansion on Long Island that may once have been the house that inspired The Great Gatsby. In an attic he finds a cache of photographs including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Rat Pack around the pool when it was still working. But the pool is no longer working and there is no food in the house save for some tins of Fray Bentos pies that get fed to the dogs. Theo misses his dad who is English and a rock star off touring the world. Currently he is in Australia. Theo lives with his grandfather and with Colin who is charged with looking after the two of them, which isn’t easy for Colin because Colin is generally, in the manner of an early 80s rock star-hanger-on, ‘out of it’. More hangers-on roam the house. Theo approaches the pantry looking for food, only to hear ‘sex sounds’ coming from the other side of the door. His glamorous, but strung out mother arrives with more hangers-on. Sex noise is everywhere. His father comes home to make a new record at the house, literally propped up by his record company, hanging from the arm of the CEO. He decorates a Christmas tree in one of the big rooms. He lavishes presents on Theo. It isn’t Christmas Theo complains, which is true, but a rock star, one of the most famous people in the world, can have Christmas anytime he likes.
Theo by Ed Taylor (Old Street £12.00) has all kinds of woozy echoes from rock’s catalogue of excesses, and if some of them are naggingly familiar the author’s genius is to refract them through the innocent eyes of a ten year old boy, which he does beautifully. This is a terrific book that transcends its subject matter to become a haunting meditation on childhood.