Sunday, 5 July 2009

Expressing Ourselves...

I like making window displays, thinking up themes, and descriptive phrases that might catch the eye, hook the mind, or raise a little smirk.

The line-up of Fontana Agatha Christie novels is doing well to catch attention, and indeed to sell itself. And I'm rather fond of the 'DO YOU NEED A DOCTOR?/THEY'RE BIGGER ON THE INSIDE' window of Target Doctor Who novels. A certain kind of person stops to have a good look and a smile, and from inside the shop, behind the counter, I look up and think - 'You're one of us...'

It's all just a way of letting people know the character of the place of course. And there really are some delights within... I've been finding all sorts of gems in the SF/Fantasy stocks (with some help from our friend Jez). Fritz Lieber collections, Tim Powers, a first collection of 'The Best Of Interzone', Gene Wolfe's 'Island Of Dr. Death' and many more. There's quite a treasure trove to be found in here. A veritable browsers delight.

Of course, putting the good stuff out on display is a double edged sword. It says look at me! I'm interesting! You didn't even know you wanted me but look, take me home! And then somebody does...

And you're pleased. Not only because you're making money, but because you've introduced someone to something GOOD.

And then you realise that you have to find something else. That if you're any good at this, and people keep on buying your recommendations (like you hope they will) you're going to have to get out there and hunt out more, find the cream that other folks are missing because they don't have the eye. And you somehow have to do this despite not being in the position to hire anyone just yet to look after the shop while you go out on the hunt...

Of course as soon as things are paying for themselves, and fully on ther feet, you can just go to the wholesalers, find the cream of all the new stock, the missing things that aren't being pushed by British Publishers so much, distracted as they are by paying to get their new 'bestsellers' into the Waterstones chart, or bargaining to have the public buy them as part of '3for2' deals.

In the mean time shops like us slip round the back and pull the curtains wide on smaller stranger, much more interesting treasures. Books that might just change you. Books that make a difference. Books that you will treasure, instead of leaving them in hotel rooms smelling of sun-tan lotion and the sea.

I've just finished reading Philip Pullmman's CLOCKWORK, which is a lovely little story that would probably make a great Christmas Day TV movie treat. I've also got MAUS on the go, finally. It's been sitting here since christmas past. I can safely say that it lives up to it's reputation. At the same time I've got an itch to go back and read more Ursula Le Guin, but Diana Wynne Jones's HOUSE OF MANY WAYS is looking at me; whispering and winking from the shelf. As is Michael Chabon's GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD (which I didn't get into first time around - and I LOVE Michael Chabon - but which I re-read a bit of the other day and it seemed like now might be it's time), but then Michael Moorcock's MOTHER LONDON is doing much the same, and Harlan Ellison's* DEATHBIRD STORIES, and for that matter Glen David Gold's follow-up to CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL, SUNNYSIDE, and, and, and... it's no good they're ganging up on me! And they all look so good!

What can I say, I'm a book slut. So sue me. I'm even thinking I might have to read at least ONE of the books in our really rather popular US Romance section. Let's call it 'research'. Just so I have some idea of whhat I'm talking about. I'll let you know if I get past page 1.

*Mentioning Harlan Ellison, I must just point you all towards a wonderful documentary about him that's currently avaliable on DVD from the states, called DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH, it's a wonderful look at this immensley talented, highly entertaining, witty, angry, irascible old man, who - though largely known as an author of SF and dark fantasy - has written every kind of story under the sun, not to mention award winning scripts for televison, and is probably one of the finest writers that America has ever produced. If you don't believe me, ask Dorothy Parker.

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