One of the world's leading specialist dealers in modern English, Irish and American Literature, including first editions,
association copies, manuscripts and archives, and artworks with literary associations.
He collected absences. For him they were more intense, vibrant and real than the presences that they shadowed. And this one – he’d just heard the news of the most audacious art theft of his time – was astonishing, quite enough to merit a change of travel plans. And so he and his friend Max departed from Milan and headed for Paris, the scene of the crime.
On a day early in September 1911 they arrived at the Louvre that little bit late to join the queue, heightening the anticipation. When they eventually entered the Salon Carré, they approached the spot where the Mona Lisa had been displayed for generations. The crowd – all of whom had come on the same pilgrimage – pushed forward, and the little man, jostled, could hardly see. Taking his friend by the shoulder, Max pushed to the very front. Other onlookers paused to deposit flowers on the floor beneath, with notes of remembrance tied in silk ribbons.
The title is from Groucho Marx: "Outside of a Dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read," which is both funny and a demonstration that homilies about reading are stupid. The subtitle - A Bibliomemoir - is a term and category I have made up, and do not wish to define. What is a bibliomemoir, then? It's one of these. Read it and find out.
INTRODUCTION: The Battle of the Books
“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book."
(Henry David Thoreau, Walden)
“Lot 147 then. Lovely item!”
The auctioneer’s eyes flicked towards the left hand wall.
A ferrety porter in a green apron pointed out the object.
“Showing here, sir!”
“Who’ll start me at £100 then?”
“a veritable feast of the tales behind some of the most iconic titles to have graced British publishing, and fascinating anecdotes about the authors who wrote them…. a gem of a book, tales about Tolkien, Potter, Orwell, Larkin, Hemingway and more, representing a treasure trove of trivia for book fans. Really, every library should have one!” (Publishing News)
Based on the radio series Rare Books, Rare People, from BBC Radio 4, Tolkien's Gown tries to do several things at the same time. It profiles the publishing history of 20 major books (largely) from the twentieth century, and describes the ways in which they have later entered the rare book trade. My own involvement in the sales of these books - and often with their authors - is described. There is, to be sure, some serious content, but the idea is to tell stories about someone having fun, and wishing to share it with his readers.
I am the only football fan who has written a book containing an inside account of a year in the life of a Premiership team. OK, it was only Coventry City, but the season was 1997/1998, and we finished solidly in the middle of the league, and got to the quarterfinals of the F.A. Cup. I had the decidedly mixed experience of being there every step of the way, and it was by no means a comfortable journey. Football people are uneasy in the company of outsiders, and the book is chronicle of their unease, and mine. The result is a sort of travel book, with balls: a foreigner goes to a strange land, is feared and mistrusted, learns new languages and viewpoints, and eventually finds a modicum of acceptance. Not an easy process, but fascinating.
After Staying Up was published, two responses stood out, and gave me the most satisfaction. The first was from the redoubtable poet and critic Ian Hamilton (himself the author of Gazza Agonistes, and a Spurs supporter) reviewing the book in The Sunday Telegraph. Staying Up, he wrote, actually told us things about football we hadn't known, "was richly comic" and "the year's best soccer book by far."