Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Funny and Curious Things about the World of Books

LITTLE GIRL: "I love books. I’ve written a book."
BOOKSHOP OWNER: "Have you? What’s it about?"
LITTLE GIRL: "I don’t know. It’s in my head. I haven’t read it yet."

Every year there's a new survey by some company or another about what people dream of most. And every year, sitting longingly at the top is: Write A Book. (But not in upper case.)  

I think everyone should write a book, and not just because everybody has a great story in them. 

I think people should attempt it because it would make the dreamers (and the critics) realise it's easier said than done...

But that's no reason not to begin.
(*Bad grammer here; don't follow my example.)

But if being an author is sometimes a struggle (the long hours, poor pay, the damage to the health, the social life and the bank account), then being a bookshop owner must be even worse. 

Sure, you're surrounded by lovely titles all day long ("I think I'll read Cecil Beaton today...") but then there are the customers... 

The strange and startling questions of the curious breed known as bookshop browsers have been chronicled in the wildly successful bestseller Weird Things People Say in Bookshops, a diary (of sorts) by London bookshop manager Jen Campbell. It's very, very funny. Seven reprints. And now a sequel.

Here, inspired by Ms Jen Campbell, and a new project that I'm working madly on  adding to The Production Pile, is some literary lightness to end the week...

(All books from our house; photographed in poor light late at night with a bad camera)


CUSTOMER: "Do you have this children's book I've heard about? It's supposed to be very good. It's called Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.”

CUSTOMER: "I read a book in the sixties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?"

CUSTOMER: "Do you believe in past lives?"
BOOKSELLER: "Erm, well, I ..."
CUSTOMER: "I do. I absolutely do. I feel very at one with everything. I’m pretty sure this is my seventh time on earth."
CUSTOMER (looking pleased with herself): "And I’m almost certain that in a past life I was Sherlock Holmes."
BOOKSELLER: "You know, Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character."
CUSTOMER (outraged): "Are you trying to tell me that I don’t exist?"

CUSTOMER: "Do you have this book (holds up a biography) but without the photographs?"
BOOKSELLER: "I think the photographs are published alongside the text in every edition."
BOOKSELLER: "I suppose so you can see what everyone looked like."
CUSTOMER: "I don’t like photographs. Could you cut them out for me?"

The tumblr site is almost as funny –

And here are some more curious questions that author Roddy Doyle (Booker Prize winner) was once asked at a literary event:

"Is Roddy Doyle your real name?"
"Does your wife love you?"
"The internet says you have two children, yet you claim to have three?"
"How can you write accurately about the Dublin working class when you actually live in Los Angeles?"

Author and comedian Dave Barry once gave a talk in a bookstore. 
"Hey – is that you?" asked a customer, pointing to a poster of Dave Barry that publicised the event. "Yes," said Dave Barry. 
"Good, great," said the customer. "Could you tell me where's the men's room is?"

If you want to know about publishing illustrated books (cookbooks, design books, travel books), there's a great interview with Lantern's Julie Gibbs [here].

Or here –

The New York Times' take on books is [here].
'Books As A Way To Grace A Room'

Or here –

How a private library is built (an amazing blog post): [here]

Or here:

And finally... this beautiful letter.

In February of 1820, on learning that his good friend Lady Georgiana Morpeth was suffering from a bout of depression, the author and essayist Sydney Smith sent her the following letter, in which he listed twenty pieces of advice to help her overcome life's low points.

1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
3rd. Read amusing books.
4th. Be as busy as you can.
5th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
6th. Don't expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
7th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.
8th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
9th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
10th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
11th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
12th. And keep good blazing fires.

Yours sincerely,

(I like No 1 and No 3 the best.)

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