Like kids waiting for Christmas morning to open the pressies, we waited for Monday morning to see if the lease agreement was in the post. We finally signed off on it yesterday and sent it off. YES! Step 1 completed. Now, we are waiting for the licence to alter so we can get into the premises and start our fit-out works. Spoke to Jack at Bookworks Design yesterday; am so glad he has a steady hand and a confident manner - we need the assurance. Shivaun and I have had late night discussions about what would happen if the fit-out was delayed. But it looks like things are falling into place. Still some niggly things to iron out, but nevertheless all in hand.
Went to work yesterday creating the artwork for the large format vinyl sticker prints for the doors. This is so that during the fit-out period, we can let passersby know we will be coming soon to the neighbourhood. My poor PC groaned and wheezed, the file was humungous and making any adjustments took ages.
I wanted to have images of people. Shivaun didn't. But I thought plain text wouldn't cut it. I reckon smiling faces and some colour is much more attractive than plain text. But that's one of the key differences between Shivaun and I; I've always been more visual, while she's more text-oriented. Chalice, Shivaun's daughter-in-law, helped me pick out a stock image. We must have looked through hundreds. Some were too corporate, some too GAP, some too family-cereal-ad-ish. We finally settled on this one. It's kinda GAP-ish but hey, has a nice mix of old and young, men and women. So this is what you may see when you are next at Bermondsey Square in a week or two. S'alright, no? :) - Fran
My all time favourite!
It's Saturday evening. Really I should be lying on the couch, catching up with my SKY box, watching recorded episodes of The Good Wife, Britain's Got Talent, or even Randy Jackson: America's Best Dance Crew... there's only 3% space left for recording, so I have a lot of viewing to do. Instead, I am sitting in front of my PC, pouring through publishers' back lists and trawling through my memory for favourite books to put on our international list of must-have books.
Shivaun and I have decided we should each focus on our repective strengths. She's great at American, European, African and Middle Eastern authors. I, on the other hand, have a little more knowledge about Chinese and Japanese authors. This is because, in my younger days, I went through a Sino and Japanese phase.
I remember how it all began. I was in the library and the cover of Yukio Mishima's Sound of Waves had caught my eye. I was 13. From then on, until about 21, I read works by quite a number of Japanese authors - Tanizaki, Kawabata, Akutagawa, even the really old classics - Murasaki's Tale of Genji and also the lesser known Tale of Heike. (I must say I actually liked Heike more than Genji. While the former dwells on the intricacies of court life, I enjoyed the historical sweep of Heike; it's an epic tome involving clan rivalry, samurai battles, honour and betrayal.)
I even remember the first time I read Haruki Murakami's Pinball, 1973 and Norwegian Wood. I think this was in 1988 or 1989. A Japanese friend had bought them for me. They were English translations but unlike usual paperbacks had soft paper covers, and inside, neat, small print on soft, smooth yellow paper, typical of Japanese novels and manga, measuring only about 3.5 inches wide and 5 inches long. These stories blew me away.
And so, here I am, 20 years later, asking myself, what books will I select for the international selection bookshelves in our store? What would best represent a good cross-section of Japanese and Chinese literature? As a rule of thumb, I think they have to be pretty memorable. For example, I found myself searching for Ryunosuke Akutagawa's story The Dragon. I remember it almost as if I had read it yesterday. So surely that's got to be on the shelves. Then there's the heartwarming, heartbreaking autobiography Six Records of A Floating Life by Shen Fu, which was originally published in the 1870s. This book taught me that lesbianism was pretty common and accepted among the gentry, and dispelled for me the general notion that historically Chinese men perceived their wives as chattel. Instead (yes!) love was alive and kicking, and Shen Fu's outpouring of love for his wife is an amazing testament to read.
What can I say? I hope some of the books I select will warm the hearts and stir the curiosity of others as they have done me. Now it's off to the back lists I go, or maybe, just maybe I should nick downstairs and reacquaint myself with my SKY box. - Fran
You know I haven't read fiction in quite a while, and I found myself feeling quite tentative when I decided to foray back into this genre. I'm not really sure why but I tend to go through spells when it comes to reading. If I'm doing non-fiction, that's all I do for a while, and over the last couple of years, it's been nothing but non-fiction, history or self development stuff.
But hey, you have to hand it to the publishers, Sceptre. The blurb on the back cover of The Other Hand reads more like an instruction manual than a synopsis, and it caught my eye. It's cleverly worded and potential buyers are admonished to not tell others what it's about after they've read it. So... like the good girl I am, I will not spoil it for anyone else. Except to say that when I read the first paragraph, I knew I had to buy it.
The book starts like this:
Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead - but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other's names.
Now, who can resist an opener like this? I couldn't. It's a cleverly told tale about two women, who meet under extraordinary circumstances, and who years later, meet again. While the storyline is certainly engrossing, I enjoyed the book in large part because of Chris Cleave's mastery of imagery and the way in which he uses words in telling this unusual story. I remember the last time I felt such admiration was when I read Arthur Golden's 'Memoirs of a Geisha.'
But beyond all that, The Other Hand also paints a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations faced by an asylum seeker. Oops, I hope I haven't given too much away. This is definitely a worthy read. - Fran
Thus far I've left all the blogging to Fran. Let's face it, she's far better equipped for the task than I will ever be. She carries her camera with her as a matter of habit, ever ready to whip it out and capture aspects of the world around her which link to her current passions. Besides she usually manages to get the object of her attentions within the frame, whereas I invariably focus on legs or ceilings. She's an old hand at Twitter and Facebook and actually remembers all the relevant passcodes and how to navigate between sites. For some time now she's been saying, 'You know you can add a blog if you like.'
So here it is:
This morning I awoke early to the sound of rain (in June!) and couldn't get back to sleep. I glanced over at my nightstand and realised I had no less than twenty-eight books sitting there gathering dust. I am actually reading about four of them. I then looked over at the dresser and saw another thirty or so volumes; the bedroom, much like every other space in our home is beginning to resemble a makeshift bookshop, one good reason to own one I guess. Another rationale for our latest venture is that I can't actually pass a bookshop without entering... and purchasing.
I tend to judge the ciites I visit and remember them by their bookshops. Shakespeare and Co in Paris, Books and Books in Miami, The Book Lounge in Cape Town and Daunt in London are among my favourites. It is exciting to think that we might create a similar space of our own. When I enter bookshops, subconsciously perhaps, I am looking for the theme or the essence of the place. This is written not only into the selection on offer, but also into the decor, the ambience and, of course, the people who own and run it. I want to know what they like, in effect, who they are. Just as clothes, cars, homes reveal the identities of their owners, so too with books. For what's it's worth, following are a selection of books that have moved or struck me over the past few months.
An Unfinished Business by Boualem Sansal, banned in his native Algeria for his criticizing the government. This book is about two Algerian brothers living in Paris who discover some disturbing truths about their father's Nazi past and undertake a foreboding journey home. I read it in two sittings.
Everything is Connected, a memoir on the power of music to speak to all aspects of the human being: the animal, the emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual by conductor Daniel Barenboim.
Love Begins in Winter, heartbreaking stories about people for whom chance meetings with strangers force them to face responsibility for lives they believed had continued on without them, by Simon Van Booy.
The Armies, about the violent life of a small, fictional Columbian town by Evelio Rosero
Last Night on Earth, a chronicle of the life and experiences of choreographer Bill T. Jones
and my favourite -- Wandering Star, the moving story of two women, one Jewish, one Palestianian, caught up in the turmoil of the Middle East, but who aspire for peace by J.M.G. Le Clezio.
Reading through these I am aware that they are all by male writers. Not intentional, I promise. - Shivaun
I recently heard from photojournalist Kirstine Fryd that she will be at the Appleby Horsefair
. As it sounded like so much fun, my interest was piqued and I had to look up the fair online. Apparently this is an annual gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Appleby, Cumbria, and draws as many as 30,000 visitors to this town. This year, the fair will be hosted between 3-9 June. It's a tradition that dates back to 1685 according to this BBC news report
, 4 June 2010.
Image Copyright © 2010 Appleby Fair Strategic Group. From Appleby Horse Fair 2010 web.
The merry making and carnival atmosphere evident at this fair is in direct contrast to the tone of the letter - 'Threat to Gypsy and Traveller Rights
' - published in the Guardian on the same day. Signed by 27 academics from various higher education institutions, it is a sombre reminder of the challenges faced by these minority groups, an issue that will be explored in Kirstine Fryd's exhibition, Travellers
, at Woolfson & Tay in October. - Fran