Thursday, 27 September 2007

Philip Callow (1924-2007)

We were very sorry to hear of the death of Philip Callow on September 22nd. The novelist was a customer, and the writer of his obituary called us to obtain a copy of The Hosanna Man. This, his first book, brought him recognition but also unfortunate controversy. A Nottingham bookseller claimed that one of the characters, Thompson, was modelled on himself, and threatened legal action. To me, Thompson seems no more nasty than the many other (unfounded) stereotypes of the bookseller in literature - and certainly not a spot on Arthur Gwyn Geiger in The Big Sleep.

In a rare instance of publishers listening to booksellers, Cape withdrew the novel and pulped all the remaining stock. First Editions are subsequently scarce. Not surprisingly, we fielded many phone calls this week from customers hoping to obtain a copy of the book. For all those who were disappointed, here's a picture of the colourful dust-wrapper.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The Cycle by Neil Bousfield

Neil Bousfield is the only artist I know to produce a wood engraving of a Job Centre. While this image is a powerful expression of the tension between two brothers competing for little benefit, both the subject and the artist's medium are handled with delicacy and skill.

The print is one of two hundred in Neil's 'novel in wood engravings', The Cycle, which he brought in to show me recently. The narrative of The Cycle refers to a pattern of social exclusion repeated through the generations in a family who escape their difficult reality through crime and alcoholism.

The Society of Wood Engravers think Neil's work is great, and have kindly sponsored him through recent printmaking projects. Nonetheless, with such an epic project before him, Neil took a very economical attitude to the job, and disciplined himself to produce one engraving every day. The consequent integrity of art and politics calls to mind the book works of Frans Masereel. As Neil left the shop, he was talking of an upcoming print series which will portray different aspects of the city of London. I can't wait to see it.