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Dr James Darke has expelled himself from the world. He writes compulsively in his 'coming of old age' journal; he eats little, drinks and smokes a lot.
Meditating on what he has lost – the loves of his life, both dead and alive - he tries to console himself with the wisdom of the great thinkers and poets, yet finds nothing but disappointment.
'I was beguiled and charmed by the vivid personality being revealed. By that, and by the fact that I couldn't stop reading. Gekoski puts words together with a sure touch and deep craftsmanship'
'A wondrous book with two fathers, Kingsley Amis and Dante'
'Staggeringly accomplished. Heartbreakingly true. A shockingly monumental first novel'
'Stuffed with more wisdom, bile, wit and tenderness than many writers create in a lifetime. In James Darke we have a hero as troubled and eternal as King Lear . . . And in Rick Gekoski we have a late-flowering genius of a novelist who proves it's never too late to start a glittering career in fiction'
'Rick Gekoski's impressive debut novel . . . Darke is both a tender and hard-hitting examination of grief and the slow, singular healing process . . . A brilliantly vivid creation . . . life-affirming and life-shattering'
'Gekoski has created an extraordinarily memorable character... This is an original and bleakly funny portrait of grief'
'An immensely enjoyable elegy . . . done with precision and patience. I have never laughed as much at a book that made me weep so copiously'
STUART KELLY - THE SCOTSMAN
Radio National: Books Plus with Kate Evans - 21 May, 2017
RADIO NATIONAL - BOOKS PLUS WITH KATE EVANS
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."
Football mad Mickey Hamburger, aged 12, wins £500,000,000 in the new Super National Rollover Lottery. He uses it to take over control of United, the most famous and successful football team in England, though now somewhat in the doldrums. Mickey appoints himself the new manager. His family demand their own roles. Though none of them likes football, they are certain they can improve the team.
The unworldly and severely logical Professor Felix Hamburger takes over the team’s finances. “It’s not rocket science,” he decides, and makes it his sole strategy to cut expenditure on over-paid players.
Mickey’s mother, Amanda Cholmondeley-Smythe, an eccentric celebrity chef, bans junk food from the Stadium. A team of in-stadium waiters, composed of unemployed actors dressed in leopard skin leotards and berets, offers organic cranberry juice, vintage champagne and sushi.