Reading While Tottenham Burns

I spent almost the whole of Saturday night, right up until 5.00am, reading the rest of W F Hermans’ gripping wartime thriller, The Darkroom of Damocles. That’s my excuse at least. Other people – a little down the street from me – were outside, burning and looting, as you can see on this video.

This is the street I usually do my shopping on – when, at least, I can’t be bothered to walk to Crouch End (and, to be honest, I can often be bothered to walk to Crouch End, since – as you may guess – it’s an infinitely nicer place). That H&M, by the way, that you see being looted: it used to be a big bookshop, but they closed it down a few years ago (because no one in the area can read). Clearly, if it had remained a bookshop, it wouldn’t have got looted.


21 thoughts on “Reading While Tottenham Burns

  1. Two things, a) not terribly opposed to the looting of H&M, you see I’m still technically a yoof and may occasionally shop there; and b) love that there’s a store on the street called “Loot”. Isn’t “big bookshop” code for Border’s or something?

    Have you read any other stuff of the Dutch Big 3? I recently read Mulisch’s The Procedure, decent book. I’ll definitely try to pick up this one.

  2. No, it was a Waterstone’s (though prior to that – and as I remember it – it was an Ottakar’s; I don’t ever remember it being a Waterstone’s). I found the answer on this Lee Rourke blog for The Guardian about The Big Green Bookshop. The Big Green Bookshop have some comments too on our local riot. (They suggest there’ll be trouble down in Green Lanes tonight, which is nearer where I am – but only if the rioters want to get their heads kicked by the Turkish community).

    The Guardian also reports: “6.18pm: Shops are also closing early in Crouch End, a nice suburb in north London.” – Yeah, that’s why I shop in Crouch End. It’s nice. Young professional couples with babies and young children. It also has a great Oxfam Bookshop.

    Big 3? Who is the third? – I’ve read a bit of Mulisch – I enjoyed Siegfried, and am a bit stuck in Last Call at the moment.

  3. How did I ever miss that blog post? I was gainfully employed with a publisher, loads of free time as it was the low season for us, and it was my own brief dream (until publishing kicked the shit out of me and left me properly–and thankfully–skeptical). My old local shop, Lorem Ipsum, recently moved into a larger space and it’s wonderful. But that was in Cambridge, hardly a tough spot to sell a book or two.

    Funny, a neighborhood blog here in our rather illiterate capital is all riled up over a soon to open bar that apparently won’t have enough high chairs for the young parenting set in the area.

    The other big Dutch author of similar vintage is Gerard Reve. Haven’t read him though. Another who falls in the orbit of a Great Four expansion, is Jan Wolkers. I know very little about Dutch literature in general, but was planning on finding some works by these 4 authors. Very hard though, considering this blasted political circus town has a terrible library system. Not sure how much is in English anyways…

  4. I thought it might be Gerard Reve. – I was intending to read a book by him, but I later discovered I’d never actually ordered it on Amazon. I think there’s only one book of his in English. – Jan Wolkers I don’t know at all. (Oh, I see he wrote the book of the Verhoeven film Turks Fruit – the greatest film in Dutch cinema history!).

  5. If it had remained a bookshop, and had been looted, it would have been interesting to see what the Most Stolen Book was. Twilight? Harold Potter? Literary fiction left undisturbed, I should think.

    I’ve met several people in the (now rather distant) past who claim to have been arrested for shoplifting Hoffman’s (or was it Rubin’s?) Steal This Book. I feigned surprised amusement, but it’s far too contrived to believe. I wish I’d made a citizen’s arrest now.

  6. When I lived in London a friend of mine made his “living” stealing books and selling them to the many second hand book shops. Friends were drafted in to distress them from time to time in order to get the patina of second-handedness.

    He was a bit of a psychopath but had several interesting techniques for stealing books. One involved entering a shop looking extremely odd and as people were too embarassed to look at him he took the opportunity to nick the stock.

  7. I’ve always thought Crime and Punishment would be the book to steal, if you were going to steal a book.

    I’m sure people do steal books. Last time I was burgled however, the books strangely remained untouched. They seemed, yet again, to stick to CDs and electrical equipment.

  8. I was burgled many times whilst living in Manchester .. no-one was interested in the books.

    I had 5 collections of CD’s nicked and in the end I used to hide them in with the vinyl LP’s which had lost their sell-on value.

    I’d imagine Kindles will be quite stealable though where a junkie or a thief could sell them I have no idea

  9. Yes, that’s another reason not to buy a Kindle, along with the fact – with all the unread books in my flat – I obviously don’t need one.

  10. I wouldn’t have thought of buying a Kindle myself, but I was recently given one and I rather like it. Manoeuverability is a key factor for me – I’ve started reading in bed again now I don’t have the struggle with flopping pages and wrestling with something the size and weight of a housebrick. The progress bar at the bottom is a bit of a drag – knowing you’ve still got 40% of the Charterhouse Of Parma to go can be discouraging during some of the duller passages.

  11. Interesting to use percentages to monitor progress reading a book. Is this the death knell for “I’m half way through”? To be replaced by “Only 50% left”.

  12. I see, MM, those corporate jackals have finally convinced you of how heavy books are and how difficult it is to turn the page.

    I was close to buying a Kindle at Christmas – or, let’s face it, a Sony E-Reader (which look much nicer), but didn’t, based on the former unread books argument. I do have Kindle on my PC though – you can read all the free books (or at least download them and then not read them).

  13. There’s something about “Infinite Jest” ( current read ) falling on your face when you’re too tired to carry on reading that a Kindle just can’t match.

  14. For a dinosaur such as yourself, ET, such imprecise terms as ‘half-way through’ and ‘got a bit to go’ may be adequate, but cutting-edge lecteurs such as myself require a more accurate appreciation of their lexical consumption.

    Actually, the Kindle is a stimulus to get through all those 19thC blockbusters I should have read at university but just couldn’t face. Middlemarch is my next read when I have finally overcome the last 17% of the Charterhouse Of Parma.

  15. They could at least make the notes that you find at the end of a book interactive, I was thinking last night. But I’ve no doubt it would be uneconomic to be so bothered.

  16. I’ve tried the Text-To-Speech, but I found the voices irritating: it’s like being read to by a voicetext. I’m not that keen on being read to anyway. I suppose the notes can be interactive, in that you can write public notes (as well as private ones) which anyone can read (should you choose that option). I would have some hard things to say about Stendhal’s method of finishing his novel (ie slaughtering all the characters). Quite disappointing after so many page impressions.

    I’d completely forgotten that George Eliot had a sense of humour. 8% in and really enjoying Middlemarch. Probably should have picked it up 40 years ago instead of staring at it in despair.

  17. I shall never read Middlemarch. I tried reading Daniel Deronda a year or so ago – got about 150 pages into it. Lost the will to go on.

  18. The BBC Sunday serialisation of Silas Marner 45 years ago or for MM about 83% of my life so far ago is my only George Eliot experience.

  19. I’ve read several of her other books (Adam Bede more than once), but it was quite a long time ago.

    I think I should tell you that when I’ve tried to access this site through the Kindle it comes up as an unreadable black page. You may be losing readers.

  20. Since I didn’t know you can access this site through a Kindle, I’m not too disturbed to find you can’t. – Not that I can afford to lose readers, of course – it can’t be too long then before my readership goes into negative figures. But then, I suppose if I cared about having readers, I’d review books which have just come out, rather than concentrating on books which no one read even when they came out sixty years ago.

    When I was younger, I enjoyed Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss, but I’ve not enjoyed any George Eliot since.

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