Sunday, May 14, 2006

Richard Howorth's bookshop

Also in today's blog

Liberation Day in Guernsey
John Boyne's website
Choosing books
More about Amanda Craig
Who is this books supplement aimed at?
Daphne du Maurier's view

My big discovery this week was Richard Howorth [see photo] and his bookshop [second photo], for which I have to thank Michael Allen, aka Grumpy Old Bookman, who this week mentioned an article written by Howorth in 1999.

If you care about books - and why are you here if you don't? - you must read this brilliant piece. If you're pressed for time, click this link and save it to read later. Shouldn't take more than 15 seconds. Here are three extracts.
"The practice of returning unsold books to publishers for credit has been a standard industry practice since 1933, when Max Schuster initiated the idea as a way of colonizing retail shelf space for his own titles. Ideally used, it allows a bookseller more freely to take a chance on an unknown and unproved title or author, and, by the same token, permits a publisher to experiment more with new authors and ideas. The system of returns became seriously abused when the chain superstores glutted the market with books they were unable to sell."

"The current trend of more books "authored" by entertainment and media stars will continue, displacing books that, in the past, began modestly and then often gained in popularity and sales, as the chains inevitably narrow selection. 1998's fall bestsellers were topped by media names Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. The 1999 summer list from HarperCollins' children's publishing division, the house that gave the American public such classics as Charlotte's Web, Little House on the Prairie, and Goodnight Moon, is dominated now by books by Jamie Lee Curtis and Alan Arkin (actors), Naomi Judd (a musician), Dr. Laura Schlessinger (the pop psychologist), and Jerry Garcia (the musician writing posthumously)."

"Just as books must not, cannot, be written by commodity producers or marketing teams, but must be written by independent artists and thinkers, books must be sold by people who read them and have the capacity to help others understand what they are and what choices are available. Corporate duopolies and Internet monopolies are, by their nature, incapable of expanding markets where books are the product. Ultimately they will fail, and independent thinking, writing, publishing, and bookselling will prevail."

Who is Richard Howorth?

"Richard Howorth has worked in bookselling for 22 years, most of them in Square Books, the store he opened in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1979. He joined the board of directors of the American Booksellers Association in 1989. After serving terms as treasurer and vice president, he was elected president of ABA in 1998. Howorth has been actively involved with various ABA initiatives, most notably as chair of the publisher relations committee and the strategic planning committee."

Liberation Day

Tuesday was Liberation Day in the Channel Islands, the only part of the UK to be occupied by enemy forces during WWII.

At ten o'clock I was writing my weekday "quota" of 1,000 words of the current book, when the unforgettable sound of a wartime air raid siren began its undulating wail. It reminded me of my childhood when many nights were spent in a garden Anderson shelter, listening to the frightening sound of bombs dropping on the English cathedral city which was "home" during most of WWII.

A few minutes later the steady note of the "All Clear" siren sounded, and I got up to stretch, make coffee and read some emails downloaded before breakfast.

In one of the emails a friend recommended The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne [see photo] whose website has a time-wasting home page with an Enter sign and a visitor counter so I've linked to his biography page.

After reading a review of the novel, I went to the Guille-Allès Public Library's online catalogue and found they had one copy but it was out on loan until May 24th.

On Thursday I went to the realworld library to reserve the book. There I was told it had been returned but gone out again that morning. I'm hoping whoever has it now will devour it as quickly as the previous reader and next week I'll receive a card to say it's waiting for me.

Choosing books

By the way, the Guille-Allès has a link to a site called Which Book but it's a bit slow-loading for those of us with dial-up connections. Towards the end of next week I'm hoping to have a broadband connection and will have a look round the site then. Not that I need any help choosing books because my books-to-read list is currently eight pages long.

More about Amanda Craig

It seems polite to let people know when one blogs about them.

In the absence of an email link on her site, I asked Amanda Craig's site designer, Pedalo, to forward a message about her presence in last week's blog. This they did and soon I received the following email from her.
"Many thanks for your extremely kind mention in your weblog. A few other people have suggested I do one, but I just don't have the time! However, I found yours extremely interesting...and yes, of course I agree about Creative Writing courses, and have even written about how silly I think they are a couple of years ago in the Sunday Times. However, knowing how impoverished many good novelists are, I see it as a form of charity which has become increasingly necessary as the market is squeezed into a handful of best-sellers and everybody else. With all good wishes, Amanda"

This made me want to read her Sunday Times piece. Searching the paper's site brought up more than 700 references. I emailed Amanda again to ask if she could supply the title of the piece or, better still, a link. Disappointingly, she couldn't, but she did suggest that adding Hilary Mantel's name to my search terms might help. It didn't, and nor did a Google-search. But I don't like being defeated and shall keep on trying to locate the piece.
As the Guille-Allès doesn't have Amanda's novel A Vicious Circle, I went to Buttons - one of the four excellent bookshops in Guernsey - to order it. At Buttons I was told it was listed as "reprinting", a vague term which could mean next month, next year or never. More on this book-quest next time.

Who is this supplement aimed at?

In yesterday's 12-page book supplement with The Daily Telegraph, there was not one book I wanted to borrow let alone buy. Who is this supplement aimed at?

At the top of the Anovelinayear column, readers are advised to "Write a CV for your characters, then your plot will follow, says Louise Doughty"

At the end of the column she writes
"Take your main character, or one of them if there are several. Write a CV for that character: date of birth, education, parents' origins. Do it in note form, and don't pay any attention to how much of it might be included in the novel. Just get down as many basic details as you can."

Utter codswallop. [British slang for nonsense] That isn't the way memorable characters are created. They materialise in a writer's mind like a stranger emerging from a side street.

Daphne du Maurier's view

Browsing my Guernsey bookshelves, I came across Growing Pains - The Shaping of a Writer, published by Victor Gollanncz in 1977 when Daphne du Maurier was 70.

Page 146. "Ideas for stories began to crowd thick and fast, like people waiting for a train. A face in a street, a face in a cafe, never anyone I knew, and nothing to do with the Scandinavian cruise or my own experiences, but I could see these people, picture their lives. I sat down in the little salon, armed with a new fountain-pen, and began to write."


At 18 May, 2006, Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Ah it is the arguement of character v characterisation. And here I very much agree with you -- deep character -- the emotions and desires is much more importnat to writing than the spureficilaities of where they went to school, what colour eyes etc etc. If the writer can not write about the deep character, the reader will not connect with that character.
Some writers do find cvs etc useful in helping to define deep character. for others, it comes as instinct. There is no one right way to write a book.

At 26 May, 2006, Blogger Mark said...

Hi Anne - Unfortunately the Times search engine (recently revamped and much improved though it is) only stores current (i.e. this year's) articles.

If you want to look at older articles (and I think Amanda said two years ago) you'll need to contribute to Murdoch's coffers and subscribe to the vast News International archive - which can be found here:

I did this a few years back. You get to search everything, but only pay for the article (£1 a pop - unless you buy in bulk).

At 26 May, 2006, Blogger Anne Weale said...

Thanks for that useful comment, Mark. For a ghastly moment I thought I had given a link that didn't work, but I always double-check all the links immediately after posting a new blog.


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