I have been an owner of Kindle for a few years. I have bought and downloaded lots of books on it in the past few years, most of them costing no more than 99 pence, via ‘Kindle Daily Deal’. I prefer reading fiction over non-fiction, but I have noticed that most of the books I have bought on Kindle are of the non-fiction type. Insofar as a there is a theme to my buying non-fiction books on Kindle, I steer clear from military histories, biographies of non-entities in what passes for cultural life in Britain, or whingeing memoirs of attention-seeking, histrionic people who are convinced that they have an exclusive right to misery. I have no interest in wanting to know the military moves of Rommel in the Second World War, or how some outwardly dowdy but really quite clever housewives helped to break the Enigma code at Bletchley Park. I would rather watch Ed Miliband drone on in his nasal twang on parliamentary question time than read books by P list celebrities (Radio DJ types who present breakfast shows, having been apparently chosen for the job on the questionable grounds that they are able to talk drivel without pausing for breath; or comedians who would struggle to make a hyena on a laughing gas laugh but somehow always land up with prime-time programmes). And I can’t stand people who have decided to cash on their childhood miseries. They were horribly bullied at school; their dad was an alcoholic; their mother slept with half of the village; no one really understood them and their crippling need for self-attention that manifested through anorexia, yawn, yawn, yawn. Life is grim enough, if you ask me, without all this crap. I can’t understand why anyone would want to read misery memoirs unless it is to make yourself feel better about your life (which, you justifiably suspect, is, by most yardsticks, a failure), or driven by an inner unconscious drive towards masochism (the same reason for which you’d watch First Gear or listen to Duran Duran).
Yet the majority of the books I have bought on Kindle are of non-fiction type.
Here is a list of non-fiction books I bought in the last few weeks.
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell
Past- it Notes by Maureen Liipmann
Nurse! Nurse! By Jimmy Frazier
Cabin Fever—the Sizzling Secrets of a Virgin Air Hosstess
The Girl who Couldn’t Smile by Shane Dunphy
In the Ring: A Commonwealth Memoir by Don McKinon
All Gone to Look for America by Peter Miller
World Crisis—Volumes 1 to 5 by Winston Churchill
I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant
You see what I mean? There is no common theme except that all of these books were cheap as chips. I wouldn’t have bought them otherwise.
I read Weird Things People say in Bookshops in one sitting. It is a compilation of, well, weird things people say in bookshops. Majority of the contributors to this book are owners of independent book shops, which, for reasons one can guess, seem to attract their more than fair share of odd fish. There was an independent book shop in the town I used to live a few years ago. (I expect it has gone out of business by now.) It used to advertise itself as the only real bookshop. This in a town which had more second-hand bookshops (not to speak of Waterstone’s and about-to-go-bankrupt Borders) than I have teeth in my mouth. Quite what made this one (which sold brand new books without any discount, but no second-hand books) the real bookshop as opposed to others which were ‘unreal’ was not immediately apparent to me. The owner (at least I thought he was the owner) of the bookshop was pretty odd himself. He had an uncanny resemblance to that bald guy in the Coen Brothers film The Miller’s Crossing. The dome of his bald head was barely visible above the counter, but he had an incredibly booming voice. If I were to compile a book of strange things bookshop proprietors say, this guy alone would have contributed a few dozens. Say, if you entered his bookshop on a scorchingly hot day, he would announce in a voice that could be heard in the next doors barber’s shop, “Excellent day for tea, what say you?” and would look at you as if he had posed you a philosophical question which, in another time, Wittgenstein would be debating.
I don’t know why I bought Maureen Lipmann’s Past-It Notes. I can’t say I have watched any of Lipmann’s plays or films. I might have read some of her news-paper columns, which, I regret to announce, failed to leave a lasting impression on my mind, which is forever eager to absorb new information (so long as it does not belong to any of the categories mentioned in the first paragraph). I started reading Past-It Notes, but I can’t say, after reading the first couple chapters, I really got into it. The writing style is not particularly riveting or witty, and the content is banal. I mean are you really interested in wanting to know about Lipmann’s move from her “spacious Edwardian” house with its “Edwardian” garden into a flat in Paddington, a move which would have never come to fruition but for the vital contribution from some woman Lipmann met on the set of one of her plays (or was it a panto? Who gives a s**t?)? But I have not given up on Lipmann yet. Perhaps I should read the Introduction, which I skipped. That might give me a clue what the woman is on about.
I murdered my Library by Linda Grant is a bit of a rip off. At 28 pages long it is really an essay than a book (or a Kindle Single). In it Grant (one of my favourite writers) moans about having to get rid of half of the books she owned when she moved from a bigger to a smaller flat. Grant is apparently so depressed, so insecure (why?) that she has neither the will nor the concentration to write another novel. The ground has been taken from under her feet (why did she move house, then?). She is wrecked with guilt for having damaged her connection with the little girl (presumably Grant herself when she was a little girl) who embarked on a library collection. Grant could just about muster up enough energy to type this provocatively titled essay, which Kindle has kindly made available for 99 p. I hope you will be a willing sucker like me to buy this essay (it’s well written; you expect nothing less from Grant). One hopes Grant’s depression lifts soon (would Prozac help?) and she will find the energy to bring out a new novel I love to read.
I think I shall read the sizzling secrets of a virgin—sorry Virgin—air hostess. I am off to Malaga. This seems just the kind of book to read when your brain is in theta.