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Amaryllis Is Not Amused

Christmas is coming. We know this not because geese are getting visibly fat but because of the rising preponderance of so called humour books… Last year the Christmas best-seller lists were topped by the Ladybird spoofs: these were formatted on an idea by someone who published an original parody entitled We Go to the Gallery but forgot about copyright. Penguin tried to sue and then realised what a brilliant idea it was but failed, as so often publishers do, to realise that less is more… They brought out six titles and the books found themselves in every secret santa and stocking and by January they were to be found in every charity shop in the country! But undeterred, Penguin have brought out more books for every ‘day’ of the year (see last week) and this Christmas they plan to excel themselves with about 10 new spoofs! Great to see original and thoughtful publishing at the forefront this Christmas. See also, more guinea pigs dressed up in 18th costume for our amusement, more pictures of ‘funny’ buildings and too many books from blogposts. Now, I like a giggle as much as anybody but I just don’t find these books funny. And, it can’t be because I’m old because obviously I’m not!
To make the matter even worse, publishers are very like proverbial sheep; everything one can do, the others (think) they can do better. So the publishers of the Famous Five have our trepid adventurers all grown up and engaged in parenting, strategy and ginger beer and fruitcake free diets. Another has taken the old I-Spy books to another and definitely not improved level. And so on and so on until every beloved literary memory from our childhood has been adulterated and we won’t be able to remember our favourite characters in a prelapsarian existence. It follows on from the dismal colouring books for adults phenomenon which saturated the market, a sop for people who didn’t know what to do once they had put their phone down so why not waste some more time by colouring in detailed but pointless images. We are all fiddling like Nero as time Trump gets into the White House and Syria burns whilst we worry about staying within the lines…
Anyway, thankfully there are still real books about. This week I read Transit by Rachel Cusk which was a wryly intelligent and engaging fictional account of life after divorce. I also read a forgotten classic, Now in November, by Josephine Johnson which was a very bleak account of surviving the drought in Depression era America but was so beautifully written. I am now reading Thin Air by Michelle Paver and thought about buying a ticket to Inverness so I could stay on the warm train and read this chilling ghost story all the way through. I often dream of doing this – just booking a train journey to some distant place, getting off, having a cup of coffee and then coming home again.

About Amaryllis


Amaryllis is our bookshop blogger.


Her pen name is taken from Alice Thomas Ellis’ Other Side of the Fire, which is unfortunately and scandalously out of print. One of the funniest bits in the book is the bodice-ripper that one of the characters is writing and the female - who slays the men with one toss of her raven locks and one glance from her fiery green eyes as she strides among the glens, faithful wolfhound by her side - is Amaryllis! And the name just seemed to suit so here we are.

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