Monday, 27 April 2009


There's an interview with Ishiguro in today's Guardian, during which the interviewer, Decca Aitkenhead, says: "I wonder if some of his (Ishiguro's) semantic unease stems from a worry about the popular perception of short stories as not quite "proper" literature." And it struck me that one of the problems of the general reluctance to read short stories - according to Ishiguro, in the same interview, the UK market market for short fiction is a fourth that of novels, though I would have put it lower - isn't that it's perceived as not quite proper, but the opposite; that short stories are seen as "literary" in a possibly off-putting way. The popular perception of short stories is that they may be short but they aren't stories - they're would-be poems or exercises in style of some kind. When short stories really were popular - in the days of Somerset Maugham and Daphne Du Maurier - their status as literature wasn't an issue. People read them to see what would happen next. I can't help wondering, as well, if the fairly high figure for short story sales in the UK that Ishiguro quotes isn't skewed by the presence of, among other things, Stephen King's short fiction, which is often, incidentally, far more highly regarded than his longer work.

Thursday, 23 April 2009


Well, my plea (see two posts down) has had some effect. Little Monsters is now ranked at 42022 at the Book Depository. Whoever you are, thank you! 

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Moose Show

A very quick post to recommend a book that deserves more than a cursory nod, and I hope to find time in the next few days to nod in more complete fashion. It's The Moose Show by Matthew Licht, a collection of stories that bowled me over. They're tough, funny, endlessly surprising, oddly heart-warming. A joy to read. 

The link is to Book Depository. The Moose Show, like Little Monsters, has no sales rank. Yet. I think you know what to do.

A plea for David (and me)

I've just had a rather ungratifying experience. Checking up on online sales of Little Monsters (a vacuum activity familiar to anyone who's ever published anything, most often carried out when more important things need to be done), I noticed that Book Depository had no sales rank for it. In the light of recent history over at Amazon, and despite the fact that Little Monsters - bar the usual priest - is pretty much LGBT-free, I smelled a rat. I wrote a rather snippy mail to ask what was going on. The following day, I received a mail from Tom, customer service manager, who said:  

"This title does not yet have a sales rank, as we have yet to sell any copies. Sales ranks are calculated on the number of copies of books sold."

I felt this big. No, smaller. And then I wondered why so many people automatically go to Amazon when Book Depository is often cheaper and almost always cheaper if you're outside the UK, has pretty much everything you could want (i.e. all my books) and is the David to Amazon's Goliath. So I'm just reminding you. Shop at Book Depository. And help me get a sales rank for Little Monsters. Someobody out there must need a copy!

And just to show how serious I am, I've deleted my Amazon link for the book. So now it's up to you...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Small unsexy boxes

I've decided to moderate all comments made. This isn't because I dislike obscenity, sacrilege or political disagreement. On the contrary. But I don't intend to clear my posts of dozens and dozens of small empty boxes interspersed with the occasional group of letters, received from someone called, no doubt inappositely, Sexy. I might regret this, but there you are. It's a risk I'm prepared to take.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Once upon a time and a very good time it was

Over at Eratosphere, Tim Love has kicked off a fascinating discussion on child narrators in adult fiction. As part of his thoughtful and stimulating introduction, he's quoted from interviews conducted during the Cyclone tours that Elizabeth Baines and I completed earlier this year, Elizabeth to publicise her collection, Balancing on the Edge of the World, and I (me?) to do the same with The Scent of Cinnamon. The links will take you to the Book Depository, rather than Amzaon, which needs to be taught a lesson after its appalling recent conduct. And here's a random picture of a child, in non-narrating mode, just to make the post look a little livelier. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

If it walks like a duck

If you're a fan of Ben Goldacre but don't have the new paperback edition of Bad Science, you can still read his chapter on vitamin pill quack and Aids charlatan, Matthias Rath, by clicking here. Believe me, it'll be time well spent.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

It's all in the name

Brilliantly spotted - and titled - by Jane in Stoke Newington (and I hope we're not trespassing on Ms Baroque territory, particularly as it's her birthday today!).


Have you been paying attention to the widget on the right?

Friday, 10 April 2009

Thursday, 2 April 2009


It happens so rarely, I feel I ought to share it with you. Earlier today, I travelled from Rome to Birmingham (which isn't the part that's rare, so keep reading) and the journey went smoothly. Not relatively smoothly. Smooth in an absolute sense. At the moment, no airline company has accountants that can make sense out of a direct link between the two cities, so travellers are forced to find more circuitous routes. This is increasingly common; a friend of mine is about to fly from Rome to Bournemouth via Gerona as though it were the most natural thing in the world. So each time, with enormous effort, I find new ways of getting from A (Rome) to B (Birmingham) and back.

This visit, the cheapest option was Swiss (ex-Swissair),
via Zurich, incidentally one of the most attractive airports I've ever seen. I've done this before, and enjoyed certain aspects of it very much. After a hundred low-cost flights the simple fact of being offered a free coffee and croissant and a piece of chocolate with the letters SWISS embossed on it made me feel as the Queen must have felt when receiving a personal iPod from Obama. Finally, I'm worth it. But it doesn't quite compensate for the manic rush from one terminal to another in the 45 minutes deemed sufficient by Swiss, with a Security Control, like Cerberus, in the middle. Today there was a man with a head shaped like Fester (Fester's head, that is) and the most charming, desperate, arm-waving way of saying No you must make the queue HERE I've ever come across.

In the past, I've missed more connections than I've made, often because of 'technical problems' at Rome's Fiumicino. Zurich airport, as I think I've said, is lovely, but five hours there bites significantly into a weekend visit to a place that isn't Zurich airport, that isn't even Swtitzerland, wonderful though it no doubt is. Today, though, we left Rome on time. We arrived in Zurich slightly before time. Fester notwithstanding, I passed through Security Control (a second time) on time. A slight hitch occurred when a passenger with special needs had to be disembarked from our plane before we could board it. As far as I could see, and judging from the limousine with the number plate SWISS ONE that carried the sheikh-like figure off, the special needs were closely linked to significant wealth, but Switzerland has always had a special understanding of the special needs of the rich.

Still,we made it up. We landed on time. I went through the fabulous iris-reading thingumajig at Birmingham airport and IT WORKED. The shuttle to the station was waiting for me, the train I had to catch gave me just the time I need to make a very satisfying call (of which, more news anon). I even had the right change for the bus that brought me, triumphant and ON TIME, to my destination. I feel blessed.

And so, two countries away from where I woke up this morning, to bed.