“I’m sure there’s a bookshop here somewhere”
It’s scary out there. The apocalypse is upon us, and I’m not talking about Superstorm Sandy. The existence of the human race hangs by a thread of organic matter because the e-book is no longer a dystopian vision of the future. It’s HERE! It’s REAL! It will devour you from the inside out and transform you into… into… someone dependent on yet another gadget! The days of paper and print are over, dead, finished, kaput, erased! Excuse me for a moment while I shriek in ghastly terror.
OK, now I’ve got the terror thing off my chest, let’s get sensible.
Books are stories, and stories are about as far from physical as you can get. If you want to commit stories to something more solid than the air from which you have pulled them, then words are still black things on a white background, whether electronic or the pulp from a dead tree. E-jokes or inky ones have an equal power to make you laugh, or perhaps just wonder how that author ever got a deal creating jokes as bad as the one you’ve just read. Self-publishing has got easier, fulfilling long-held dreams and occasionally making money. Why the fear?
All-round gorgeous readability
I went to a lovely party at the local Waterstones last Friday, celebrating a recent deal with Amazon whereby they can sell Kindles alongside what might be coyly termed ‘real’ books. The shop looked great. Inviting, varied, exciting. Rainbows of titles on the shelves, canapes from Waitrose, Rosamund Lupton to talk to, a quietly investigative Kindle corner. The only thing missing was a large sofa into which one might sink while perusing Nigellissima in hardback form. What is there to be scared of, apart from a hole in your purse from spending too much on words in their endless lovely forms? Better that than an ill-advised pair of shoes at ten times the price. (Ehem.)
There is still plenty of room in the world for the physicality of books. Their smell, weightiness and colour; their paper silky or textured; the delicious crunch as you open up the spine for the first time. (I believe orthopaedic surgeons feel much the same about that last one.) So stop screaming, people. Make room for books on your shelves and an e-reader in your pocket. Buy two editions of the stuff that you like: the e-version and the paperback. That’s TWICE as many stories out there as before. And that’s not scary at all.
Home and digesting two days of book-talk at the London Book Fair. I feel like a boa constrictor who’s eaten a fridge. A book fair, so full of creativity and the hot fierce smell of printing chemicals, is just the place to induce hallucinations and peculiar memories. I made plenty of sensible observations, met several sensible friends and colleagues and learned many sensible things, but now that I come to write it all up… Well.
- I woke up on day two having had a dream about pulling spinach leaves out from beneath Maureen Lipman’s eyelids and wrapping them around a large goldfish I had acquired for the boys’ fish tank.
- There was a strong smell of radishes around the join between Earls Court 1 and 2.
- A book entitled Glutes, showing a muscular bottom, made me snigger for most of the way around Earls Court 2.
- I didn’t win a Kindle, despite sitting politely through a ten-minute talk from Islam International Publications. The speaker looked fed up to see a row of Kindle-anticipating fools, none of whom asked any questions about the book he was trying to promote. The prize went to a Chinese delegate, who had absolutely no idea what we were all gesturing about when her name was pulled out of the hat, and required four translators to clarify her good fortune. Rats.
- Emmeline Pankhurst is buried in West Brompton Cemetery. She’s credited simply as the wife of Mr Pankhurst, which struck me as ironic.
- Caitlin Moran sounds exactly like her book How To Be A Woman with just the faintest dusting of Wolverhampton. I’m pleased to report that I wasn’t dragged away from the PEN Literary Cafe shouting “I DIDN’T MEAN IT ABOUT YOUR SHOES!” Her interviewer Sophie Heawood incidentally was sporting some excellent footwear: leopard-skin numbers with Cuban heels.
- Julia Donaldson is as warm and enjoyable as a hot cross bun. I loved her book choices for the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Promotion: epic titles like Dogger and Six Dinner Sid and Frog and Toad, plus more recent books like Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and the brand-new Snorgh and the Sailor. The boys got Dogger for their bedtime story last night, despite son number one’s insistence that IT’S TOO SAD and he didn’t want it because Dogger got sold and then hovering in the doorframe like an uncertain hummingbird as I read.
- When they come to dismantle the place tonight, workers will stare in mystification at the tiny hole-punches in the carpet left by the spike heels on my boots. I must have gone through that carpet at least five times whenever I veered along the bit between the planks. Each hole burst into being with a satisfying ‘pop’, like bubble-wrap but better.
- A tired looking rabbit with muddy feet was crossing the road outside Earls Court station. I should have directed it to the radishes in the Exhibition Centre rafters.
And now I must put all of this to good use and write my next bestseller. I may be pooped but I am also primed and pumped. So adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu.