Wednesday, September 11, 2019

About books, again

Following on from the Thatcher Wine horrorshow, I was in Waterstones in Gower Street yesterday and saw, on a tabletop laden with books as slim and pretty as a posse of wannabe fashion models, this sign:

Which annoyed me a bit. Of course, it could be justified as a bit of stealth marketing, selling books to non-bookish people on an aesthetic basis, and, hey, maybe a few of them may absent-mindedly pick them up and read them. But would such people be in a bookshop – specifically a bookshop in the heart of the University of London – in the first place?

I calmed down a little when I turned 90 degrees to face the delectable wall of orange and cream below, all the Evelyn Waughs and Angus Wilsons you can eat at a fiver a pop. (The pale blue Pelicans were round the corner.) But then I noticed that these are being marketed not as second-hand books, but as “Vintage” Penguins and I’ve got a horrible feeling they’re also being shifted as design accessories first, books second. And yes, I accept that anything that helps to keep proper walk-in bookshops viable has to be a good thing. And yes, I’ve lost count of the books I own that I’ll probably never get round to reading. (The Japanese word for this is “tsundoku”) And yes, by taking a photo of the old Penguins like a bloody tourist, I’m further enabling the fetishisation of design and appearance over content.

But it’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want to. And now my degree’s over I can get back to reading what I bloody well want, so I bought a remaindered copy of the most recent edition of Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train, the book proper of which is just 168 pages long, but has enough notes and discographies and indexes and similar geeky stuff to take the whole package well past the 400 mark. Will it make my bookshelf look good though?

1 comment:

Ms Scarlet said...

You should turn that photograph into wallpaper and sell it on Etsy, you'd be minted.