Some New Books

It’s sunny and the Valentine’s chocolates are -50% and the Easter chocolates have arrived for those of us who are keen to see what the new season has in store for us. So basically everything is perfection, except that per my previous post, ordering online is becoming a nightmare.

My bookseller at Passa Porta today explained to me the complicated world of ordering books to sell in a store, or indeed ordering them online as an individual. I was moaning to her about the misery of ordering with Amazon these days, something I really do try to avoid as much as possible. I changed to their German website thinking it would somehow solve the Brexit-related problems, but of course it did not. The company still buys their books centrally via the UK and the delivery times are becoming ridiculous (an order placed in January is currently foreseen for delivery in the end of March).

Indie bookstores are trying to step up game as much as possible to survive, and many of them actually offer fantastic service. Given that my local bookstore would have had every book on their shelves weeks ago instead of me now waiting for bloody forever for some international shippings to happen, I will absolutely move my (considerable) business there 100%. This might be a short-term glitch until a bureaucratic equilibrium is again found on both sides of the Channel, but it’s tough going for magazine- and newspaper sellers, too, as their shelves have been empty for weeks and weeks now.

I hauled back a handsome stack today, but to keep with the aesthetics, will only introduce only three. I have not read any of them yet, by the way. Im in the middle of Conversations with RBG which also just arrived, so will move on to the new batch in the next days.

We will start with Joan Didion’s let me tell you what I mean. There’s likely nothing new about this collection, but given Didion’s respectable age and the fact that she has published very little in recent years, the world has been anxiously waiting for this one. The oldest piece is from 1968 and the latest about Martha Stewart from 2000. Probably because of the pandemic, possibly because of her said age, Didion has done rather little press around the publication, which is understandable. It hasn’t stopped the buzz, though – much of the Anglo-Saxon world has offered various analyses about her writing, processes and politics. There are even online tests to find out whether one’s writing is Didion or (Susan) Sontag.

January 19th would have been the 100th birthday of American novelist Patricia Highsmith. I really only knew her from the Talented Mr Ripley. There were couple of long reads about her life in January, marking the anniversary, which painted a picture of a highly controversial and outré artist who was openly misogynist and homophobic while being gay herself and who believed that menstruating women should not be permitted in libraries. Carmen Maria Machado has written the foreword to the collection Under a Dark Angel’s Eye and remarks that while Highsmith didn’t like other people, she didn’t much like herself, either.

I am particularly looking forward to this collection, because I have been hankering for good stories for some time now.

Which brings me to today’s last intro: Lauren Oyler’s ‘Fake Accounts’. Oyler is a well-known literary critic for the New York Times and the London Book Review, and has torn apart many a millennial self-help bible in the past years. It is therefore bold to introduce her own production to the savages. I’m intrigued. It looks to be a very contemporary piece, starting on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration and taking place in the underbelly of the internet ie. conspiracy theories and dating apps and such, with some autobiographical elements of Oyler’s own life (the protagonist moves to Berlin, where Oyler also lives part time).

There were some other purchases as well, more of which later. In the meanwhile, do support your local booksellers. They are a dying breed and really doing their very best to survive.

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