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An American Neighbour

Author: joe

Saturday, 23 December, 2006 - 00:11

Windsor, 1999: an American neighbour was a lover for a while. She heard me through the walls, I bought her flowers because I scared her daughter by banging on the door, and she thought I was 'Etony' because I wore a waistcoat with my suit.

For some reason I forget, I told her I disliked Robert Burns. For christmas, she gave me a book, inscribed it beautfully; it was an Everyman, one of my favourite bindings; it was 'The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns'. Later, of course, we fell out permanently.

I don't even know whether she'd ever been to Scotland. I could have deceived myself and seen her earnest American evangelism as irony. Funny the things that you think of at christmas.

Categories: xmas, poetry, american, lover, books,
Comments: 0

Book-porn in Hay-on-Wye

Author: joe

Thursday, 02 June, 2005 - 14:06

People who know me think of me as a book collector. I have some long bookcases packed with paperbacks from charity shops, cheap antiquarian relics, and everything in between; fact jumbled with fiction, though with some semblence of order around the science section, which seems appropriate. These people may be surprised to learn, though, that having been to my first Hay-on-Wye literature festival, I have come home empty-handed.

One of my great pleasures when visiting towns is to look through the shelves of charity shops, or to hunt down second-hand book-shops tucked away in back-streets, and then to rescue some forlorn treasure that I hadn't realised I needed until I set eyes on it. The most pleasure comes from finding just one shop hanging on to its trade by dusty finger-tips, and piling books in my arms as I roam the tight aisles, only ending when I can't carry any more.

Hay-on-Wye, therefore, while it seems a bibliophile's paradise on the surface, is actually more like a pornographic emporium. Everywhere you look there are the multicoloured blocks of books lined up, titles just beyond vision, but their presence gaudily overwhelming. You can buy any book here. You can come to buy a book you plan to buy. You can find anything - eventually. But why even start? No book here can surprise you, since finding it is ultimately inevitable. Here a book is a symbol, a badge. No-one walks without a book in Hay in May. Except me. I am a secret book-lover.

Categories: hay-on-wye, books, secret, literature,
Comments: 2

The study of critics

Author: joe

Wednesday, 01 June, 2005 - 14:04

In a book-shop in Hay-on-Wye - in the Cinema bookshop - I pass an aisle and catch out of the corner of my eye a section sign reading 'critography'. Already lost and desperate to find the exit from this maze of aisles and dust, I duck into another aisle and find pointers to the exit.

Outside, I say, "there's a section in there called 'critography' - what the hell is that?" We don't know. "Perhaps it's the art of laying out a bookshop, a methodology of how to categorise books, which has become such a debated subject it has developed its own field of inquiry. Maybe there's even a related field of how to categorise the various schools of thought on how to categorise books. A meta-critography." My companions, however, are nowhere to be seen.

None of us has seen a critography section anywhere before, or even heard of it. Back home I look it up, only to find it doesn't actually exist. This has become an anti-meta-critography.

Categories: hay-on-wye, critography, endlessly self-similar universe, bookshop, literature,
Comments: 0