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Amaryllis: Reports of the demise…

In News by Tara Spinks0 Comments

I have been hearing cries of grief in some quarters at the alleged death of literary fiction. It has long been discussed but the spectre at the literary feast has raised its head again, coincidentally following the death of Philip Roth, the last of that band of (old, white, male) American authors who wrestled with the American dream of writing the Great American novel.
 
Well, as one of my customers said over lunch following our book group outing to see that future classic of American cinema, Book Club, literary fiction is alive and kicking in this bookshop! And so it is and always has been and never just in the hands of a few straight, white males and their monopoly of ‘big issue’ fiction. Literary fiction is firing on all genre fronts (and in our current display relating on the topic): crime in books such as The Whites by Richard Price; ghost stories such as The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters; westerns like Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt; short stories; the emerging autobiographical fiction of Knausgaard and Rachel Cusk and a huge wealth of fiction from all over the world such as State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee and the Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.
 
The problem as I see it is that book sales are largely in the hands of chains and that Cyclops of the book world, A–. who lack the imagination or are scared to take the risk on a book unless the book is a rehash of a very successful one that has gone before and therefore sure of making ‘lashings of lolly’ (see below). If you look up a book on A–, it will give you future reading suggestions of the same book with a different title. Talking to a customer yesterday, I found out it will preselect books before you realise you even want them based on past reading, meaning you carry on in the safe, same groove for ever and ever. If bookshops greet you with table upon table of as far as the eye can see of mass-market fiction that you can read easily in the time left over from the phone and computer, it is difficult to believe that real jewels can be found in the dark depths of the shop…
 
This week marked the end of an era and the departure of an adored colleague: Tigger to my Eeyore, J bounced up to me on her first day of work and to my horror, crashed into my silent musing, plying me with questions, book-related admittedly but shrill… However, despite this inauspicious beginning, an unlikely friendship emerged: she is tall, I am short(er): she is fair, I am dark(ish): she is young, I am not (so) young: she is a dragonfly, I am wasp(ish). But I guess a sense of humour can overcome most differences and we certainly had a lot of fun and good luck finding that in the Outback!
 
My books of the week are: Wise Children by Angela Carter which we read in our Classics book group this week and from which I borrowed the above ‘lolly’ reference. All I can say is why haven’t I read this before? Why hasn’t it been pressed into my hands with urgings to read without delay? It is gorgeous and one of the most joyful and exuberant books I have ever read and I urge you to read it!
 
My other book is After the Party by Cressida Connolly which is a very thoughtful and moving novel about sisters and set before and during WW2 but from the original angle of Mosley’s Black Shirts which made me rethink my moral high ground…

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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