To Bed With Gary Oldman
The Upper Norwood Lending Library (annex)

Cloakroom classics

Waterstonescatal To the pub after work to meet my new friend with the special powers. Suddenly he flies into a rage at just how crap Winter in Madrid by Christopher Sansom is. I tell him in no uncertain terms that it is his own fucking fault for going trois pour deux at the sign of the golden W. He sighed and, to make amends, palmed me a copy of their Christmas catalogue.

Now, the first thing that needs to be said here, and as a matter of great urgency, is this: If anybody should meet Tim Waterstone in the near future please buy him a cup of tea and then lead him sympathetically to the nearest secure padded cell. It will be for his own good for should he ever come across this publication he will surely mash his shiny forehead to a bloody pulp in a matter of seconds.

God alone knows what the people who work there and regularly recommend books such as this in their staff choices bay think. No wonder Clive James looks a bit shifty on the cover of North Face of Soho, you should see the company he is keeping; cheek by jowl with Alan Titchmarsh and Roy 'Chubby' Brown with Jade Goody bringing up the rear.

Turn to the fiction section and you would not know that there were new books by such former Waterstone's staples as Martin Amis, William Boyd, J.G. Ballard, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy or Richard Ford, let alone the Booker Prize winner or indeed the new Thomas Harris. What you will find instead is Stephen King, Ben Elton and Jeffrey Archer.

And don't go looking for poetry. There is no poetry. People clearly don't give poetry at Christmas. And Art. There are three books in the art section, one of them the Schama thing; another, one of those list books of 1001 paintings to see before you die and the third a book that they had obviously taken the loot from the publisher for, but then couldn't decide where to put it.

Oh, but there is a section labelled Cloakroom classics. Cloakroom classics! Who amongst us doesn't have a cloakroom? No? Me neither. I have two lavatories, toilets, bogs, whatever, but the nearest thing to a cloakroom is full of kids coats and shoes and I am not about to lock myself in there to read Dylan Jones' advice for the modern man. Not even if the stress levels reach thermonuclear on Boxing day.And truly, someone is tempting fate listing Is It Me or is Everything Shit? Volume 2 in this section - and is that not (though I have yet to see a copy) the book that ate its own tail?

There is, alas, one book in this catalogue that has managed to give me the right hump. England in Particular by Sue Clifford and Angela King, founders of the charity Common Ground. If ever there was a book, beautifully produced as it is, with its celebration of the local, vernacular and distinctive, that represented the antithesis of half-price Britain, this is it. Published in May it has sold very well and at £30.00 represents great value and a cracking Christmas present. I was looking forward to piling it high. I'm not anymore.

Hodder, you are a bunch of nervy limp tits, with, quite obviously, no faith whatsoever in the books that you produce. I'm sure the W will shift bundles for you along with Jamie and Kerry and Derren and Wayne and Stevie and Chantelle, but at what price eh? England in Particular, my arse.

Comments

Clive Keeble

The Big W have only themselves to blame if they end up in liquidation or bought by venture capitalists to be asset striped : a pity that Big W have not moved to higher ground and left the discounters to their own fate. It is so wasteful when a title which has extended shelf life potential goes into the crapper due to hefty discounting - especially "England in Particular". Quality books do not need to be slaughtered in price in order to gain a buyer - spunkless publishers.

Yesterday I received 3 newly published titles ; not main present material but all very worthy of inclusion on a seasonal gift list.

The titles "Timothy's Book" (Portobello Books) : "Amo, Amas, Amat....and all that" (Short Books): "This Spectred Isle, a journey through haunted England" English Heritage.

And now I must get ready for a press photo call : today the town has had a french market imposed on it - without consultation with the town's businesses and shopkeeper's.

Always a fight to be fought and a battle to be won !! Little "entente coirdiale" in Langport this morning.

Adam

Be careful when slagging the golden W, you never know who will crawl out of the woodwork and start nibbling... They are watching.

Saying that though, I was in the Trafalgar Square branch the other day, our closest W, just to check out their chrimbo gear and what a depressing, soulless experience. The staff looked thoroughly miserable serving the customers in a depressed silence and all the books being sold had money off stickers - £5 off, £7 off. No one was buying back or even midlist. Where are they making the money?

That's a real shame about England in Particular, a cracking book. Still, there's a few other things I think we can do ok on this year that has slipped through the W's bony, cynical fingers.

(Didn't Oscar Wilde say that a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing?)

JonathanM

Adam - I was in the Clapham Junction branch the other day. It used to be a cracking Ottakars, well run and with a vibrant front of shop - lots of personality. Now it looks like a jumble sale.

I guess with bookshops like these we get the publishing we deserve.

Peter Pan in Scarlet, reprinting for the last ten days-mountains of it in Buxton Smiths (no competition); half price.

I agree with you both though; there are some great books out there this year. Lets keep them to ourselves shall we.

Mark Thornton

Nicki and I really agonised over whether to give out the Booksellers "Books At Christmas" catalogue, being as it is full of books that we wouldn't be seen dead with in the shop. In the end, we compromised and it is on the counter, but customers have to get past our own newsletter to see it.

England in Particular has been a good seller - and we've gone large on Timothy's book. And I will definitely be starting a "give a poem for Christmas" campaign after what you wrote...

JonathanM

So as not to let a week go by without giving Jeffrey Archer a kick, I offer you this one. Years ago the BA rejected a lamentable Christmas story he had *written* for their catalogue and in revenge his then publisher HarperCollins pulled all of the other titles they had submitted.

Give a poem for Christmas, I like it.

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