Saturday, May 19, 2007

At Knifepoint With Cultural Amnesia

Sorry for the slightly late in the day update, Chipettes. I’ve had to take a day’s rest and force myself to watch a pretty dull FA Cup final. Not that I’m complaining about their being a lack of excitement in the Chipster household. I had enough of that yesterday, which started with me trying to make a five pounds saving and ended at the point of a paperknife.

We’d gone over to Birmingham to see Gabby’s management team who are still working hard to come up with a hit as big as the hokey cokey. We spent the lunch hour browsing the local Borders, which is where I’d intended to buy Clive James’s new book of essays, Cultural Amnesia. I’d had a quick browse through the book, read the opening paragraphs on James’ piece of W.C. Fields, which I thought made it worth the cover price alone, and I was making my way to the counter when Gabby leapt out from the bargain books brandishing a novelty paperknife in the shape of Count Duckula.

‘What that?’ she growled.

‘What what?’ I asked, having quickly hid six hundred pages or more behind my back.

‘What you buy, Chippy?’

‘I buy nothing I said, truthfully, as I tried to slip into the aisle of murder mysteries before I was involved in one myself.

But it was too late. The great Romanian sleuth ran a finger over her waxed moustache, grabbed my wrist, and dragged the book out into the open where everybody could see my profligacy.

‘How much?’ she asked, knife waving around my loins.

‘Twenty pounds… a five pound saving off he cover price,’ my loins replied.

‘You not pay twenty pounds for this,’ she said. ‘You put it back right now.’

I might have reminded her about the copy of my English Auden which she and her cabal of free versifiers has munched their way though yesterday.

‘I won’t put it back you heathen,’ I hissed. ‘I’m buying it. He’s making an excellent case for not being so intellectually dry as to ignore every form of culture.’

‘Culture?’ she spat. ‘We save for holiday to Romania!’

‘Save away,’ I said. ‘I’m buying the Clive James.’

She raised Count Duckula menacingly.

‘Step back,’ she warned. ‘Gabby not allow Chippy to waste our money.’

‘It’s thong money,’ I said.

She stabbed at the book with the opener. ‘How much on Amazon?’

‘That’s not the point…’

‘How much on Amazon?’

‘Twelve pounds,’ I admitted.

‘Then you buy from Amazon or Gabby stick you with paper knife in shape of duck.’

And there she had me. It was a duck. And Clive James’ latest book is indeed twelve pounds on Amazon. But, then, there’s also something in buying a book and walking out with it. It’s never the same when the postman arrives with the Amazon crate.

Yet in favour of Amazon: have they ever tried to slice off your manhood with something made for envelopes? Precisely. And that’s exactly how I imagine a certain cultural critic would have responded to these most trying of times…

9 comments:

Ms Baroque said...

Isn;t Borders great? I love the way you can get almost anything there.


I can understand how Wales' top stripper might prefer instant gratification in his personal purchases - after all, you spend so much of your time thinkig of others... but I have to say that, tired as you may be of packages, I do love a parcel.

Realpolitik said...

My experience of Amazon (and, indeed, any internet/mail order):

Postman tries to deliver parcel. I'm not in. Postman leaves note saying "collect from sorting office after 48 hours have passed. Collect within 7 days or parcel returned to sender.".

I wait 48 hours. Sorting office only open 6am to noon. So I have to get up even earlier to go to sorting office before work.

Result: much easier to buy in bookshop even if it costs more. Amazon good for rare items though.

My mum used to like Clive James when he wrote for the Observer in the 1980s but I have read a few of his columns on the BBC news web site and I don't like them.

Jan Tregeagle said...

Realpolitik, why not use AbeBooks? Much better. Particuarly as you can check local shops from home, then if they have the volume you want you can just wander down.

Of course charity and arthouse shops remain by far the best way of finding books.

Chip Dale said...

Ms. Baroque: I love Borders, though the prices are a bit high for anything that isn't 'front of shop'. But I do like finding things I've never heard of before.

Realpolitik: I'm okay working my hours. I'm always in for the Amazon orders. And now with Gabby keeping an eye on my book buying, at least they are really cheap. Clive James just represents something I don't find very often these days. And he's much more interesting than Melvin Bragg.

Jan: Charity bookshops? Everything in my local charity bookshop smells of house clearance and disinfectant. Arthouse bookshops are the best, though there aren't that many around.

Ms Baroque said...

I use Abebooks a lot, though the ex-Mr B, who is a bookseller, froths at the mouth if you mention them. Apparently the booksellers hate them. He doesnt't sell through them any more.

I have a great indie second-hand shop near me & they get lots of poetry in, which is what I mainly need. Then, the ex is usually pretty good for a lot of the other stuff! I'm lucky. And I buy a lot more off amazon, truth be told, than in Borders - or Waterstones (when I said 'anything' I meant the Cuont Duckula letter-opener).

Jan Tregeagle said...

Ah, my charity bookshops are rather decent (though occasionally a little pricey. Oh for the days when a book was 20p there.)

Thinking about it Library's are pretty decent too. My local one has a shelf filled with stuff they'll flog at dirt cheap prices that ranges from the Reliant Robin full colour manual and Mills and Boon to some lovely David Galula (which lives in my desk) and Conrad (who is, lets face it, god.)

Chip Dale said...

Ms. Baroque: I thought Abebooks was the saviour of the second hand book shops. To be honest, I've bought all the books I need second hand and what I buy now tend to be new. I hate being a Borders/Amazon person but there just aren't any independent bookshops near me.

Jan: Conrad is indeed God. For what it's worth, this old stripper thinks he's the finest writer of English prose. 'Heart of Darkness' is the Chipster's favourite novel, but 'Lucky Jim' runs it a close in second. 'Under Western Eyes' is another good one, with so many depths to it. The only one I've still to conquer is 'Nostromo', which I should try again but I'm probably waiting for the right moment.

Jan Tregeagle said...

Ah, Nostromo is actually my favorite. The first Conrad I ever read.

The Secret Agent is another classic.

Chip Dale said...

Ah, 'The Secret Agent' and Mr. Verloc! How could I forget that one? Except for HoD, it's probably the one I've read the most often.