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Archive for March, 2009

The Murder One plaque: whodunnit?

The Murder One plaque: whodunnit?

 

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One of Charing Cross’s past crime novel hubs finds itself embroiled in its very own mystery. Murder One, which saw its last spy thriller creep out of its doors back in January after 20 years of touting furtive thrills, and its Charing Cross companion Shipley, a specialist in art books that has also permanently shut up shop, have been gifted cultural landmark status by a clandestine crusader.

Past master: Shipley's blue plaque

Past master: Shipley's blue plaque

Shelved: The bowels of the Shipley

Shelved: The bowels of the Shipley

The plaques – which resemble the official blue plaques bestowed on sites of significant cultural heritage across a number of UK cities – that have appeared to mark the shell-like site of each shop were spotted by staff of other local bookshops as they rolled up to work last week. According to Time Out’s blog, a bookseller at Charing Cross art bookshop Keonig Books put the plaques puzzle down to “probably just some bullshit art students” (hmm… a faint whiff of culpability…?).

Shipley: Now you see it…

Shipley: Now you see it…

… now you don't

… now you don't

Well, be they presently whitewashed like lazy graffiti or allowed to remain as poignant, mysterious markers, the blue plaques are a fitting salute to this pair of lost literary luminaries.

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Being a child of the ’80s, I face a daily battle to suppress my innate love of the Diana Spencer-style bouffant (of hair and clothing), synth pop and cheesy workout videos. My only places of refuge from the otherwise relentless temptation to buy a ticket for the Spandau Ballet reunion tour are the midst of library queues and the dark depths of second-hand book shops, where the term ‘slouch sock’ could only refer to the dust cover of a hardback that got left out in the rain. In these blessed sanctuaries, the 1980s never happened. Or so I thought…

Terrifying. But brilliant.

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LibraryWartime

My addiction to the musty whiff of a well-loved book and the hiss of a turning page means that I detest – de-test – being sensually swindled by having to read more than about 250 words through a screen. If you’re anything like me, you’ll share my horror at this downright catastrophe:

 

The iLiad: The literary equivalent of a microwave burger

The iLiad: The microwave burger of the book world

50 pre-programmed ‘books’, A5(ish) format, at £399 – behold the (*ahem*) iLiad Electronic Reader. So many questions: can I get it in paperback? Can I offer it up for BookCrossing? When I’m shipwrecked on a desert island, can I read/build a fire with/eat my 50 books? These, of course, are the everyday concerns of your average dog-earing culprit. And the answer to each is a pixelated NO. What a letdown. And it appears that the customers of Borders feel the same, according to The Independent.

Round 1 to the paper pushers, then. Round 2 – the struggle to save the nation’s libraries, as reported in The Guardian – is currently being hard-fought in the modern-day trenches that masquerade as library isles and local government corridors, most publicly by journalist Rachel Cooke, who wrote a great article for yesterday’s Observer. A damn good read, even if it does clock in on the wrong side of 250 words for my screenphobic peepers to contend with. Best get practising my library card quick-draw, then…

(Word count: 234. Phew)

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Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig and stitching crafts in one YouTube video? I thought the day would never come. The incredible Black Books gets the amateur animation treatment, replete with cardboard box shop, drugs and grapes. Great stuff(ing.)

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Conservative types may claim that nothing particularly noteworthy has sprung up in Bath in the past 50 years. I beg to differ (see exhibit 1, above.)

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Topping & Company is the best thing to happen to the old roman city since hot water. The first time I set foot on one of its creaking floorboards and was hit by the avalanche of coffee wafts, Yann Tiersen tunes and row after row after row of cellophane-wrapped signed first editions, I could barely contain myself.

I still can’t stay in there for more than 20 minutes without breaking into a sweat.

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So, I certainly don’t need any coffee when I’m in there, but the lovely Topping & Co folks offer great pots of the stuff – in polka-dot cups cups, no less – as well as reading groups (fuelled by a healthy amount of red wine), author talks and good chat, as provided by Saber and Mark who very kindly let me get under their feet to take some photos. For not a second longer than 20 minutes, mind.

Saber, Mark and a pot of Topping's finest

Saber, Mark and a pot of Topping's finest

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BritishLibraryGates
News breaks this week that the British Library has ‘mislaid’ more than 9000 of its books. Not had them pinched, but actually lost them behind, I can only imagine, dusty bookshelves, cisterns in the public facilities or between cracks in floorboards – although I prefer to imagine that they made  a canny break for it by launching themselves into a bin of dirty linen on its way to the launderette.

The relics included in the fugitive group include an essay by the 16th century theologian Wolfgang Musculus valued at £20,000, an 1876 illustrated edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and a first edition of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is apparently worth £1,300 and hasn’t been seen since 1961.

Like trying to find a book in a… ah…

The British Library: Like trying to find a book in a… ah…

 

The library’s head of records, Jennifer Perkins, told The Guardian that probably all of the missing texts remain within the library’s walls. But the most bemusing quote of The Guardian’s reporting on the story comes from security firm SA Secure’s Keith Rathmill, who is quoted as saying, “There’s theft from all libraries, but the British Library can think itself lucky it isn’t in a worse situation – it doesn’t attract the dregs of society.” Some of us might count the dregs of society as those who carve chunks out of priceless volumes provided for the education and enjoyment of the public, no?

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affiche_colophonSlightly off topic, but interesting nonetheless (because sometimes we all want to just look at the pictures…): The second issuing of the biennial symposium for the indie magazine world, Colophon, is in full swing in Luxembourg this weekend. Celebrating innovation and excellence, the event brings together the movers, shakers and zine makers of independent magazine publishing for a slew of exhibitions, talks, workshops and previews of new titles and (doesn’t it go without saying?) cocktail networking shindigs.

 

Colophon's magazine lounge

Colophon's magazine lounge

With the programme of events including talks titled ‘Feel type, breathe shapes, taste letters’ and ‘Yummy: Dressed up a juicy burger’, it has to be good. You can watch a great video about the first Colophon, held in 2007, here.

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