Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A BOOK ABOUT BOOKS, WRITERS, BOOK PUBLISHERS AND READERS

Hamilton, John Maxwell. Casanova Was a Book Lover and Other Naked Truths and Provocative Curiosities about the Writing, Selling, and Reading of Books. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Pr., 2000. 351p. $24.95, alk. paper (ISBN 0-8071-2554-7). LC 99-059582

Last Christmas, I went to National Book Store Super branch in Cubao and they had on sale ,I think they still have, several books and CDs from the UK. These were brand new books selling for around half its price. A cursory glance at a few of the books would seem to indicate that they were from the stock of financially troubled airport and train station-based book store WH Smith. Maybe NBS got these from Hong Kong.

Now the value of these books and CDs of course will vary from person to person. There were several children books and CDs. Differently covered Lemony Snickett and Harry Potter books. The cover of a book would differ from time to time depending where it was released. A publisher sometimes would also come up with two versions of the same book, case in point Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – they came up with a children’s version, which was cheery red or orange, and the adult version, which had a more somber color. When this was released here someone actually claimed on Bidshot that this was the adult version implying that it contained passages for mature viewing. Caveat emptor! Buyer beware!

Another interesting find in this sale was the amount of audio books and radio plays on sale. For me the radio-plays were a real bargain, but I digress.

One of the books I was able to buy was a book written by journalist and radio commentator John Maxwell Hamilton entitled, “Cassanova was a Book Lover and Other Naked Truths and Provocative Curiosities about the Writing, Selling and Reading of Books”.

Hamilton enchants us with an irreverent look at all the facets of the book from A to Z. His irreverent and factual narrative spares no one – the writer, the publisher, the patron, the critic, the reader and even the library.

"Dear friend I believe, contrary to the fashion among our contemporaries, that one can have a very lofty idea of literature and at the same time have a good-natured laugh at it." - Marcel Proust

The writer used this quote in the book and it would seem that he truly believes in the message. Hamilton rephrases this quote in the title of his introduction that he describes as “An Introduction to the Proper Study of Mankind” and continues with “In which it is shown that the best way to study books, reading, and people is no to take them seriously”.

In my case, Hamilton is preaching to the converted.

The chapter titles of the book foreshadow the wit and style he employed in discussing history and issues affecting the book industry. Below is a list of said chapters:

T ROGER CLAYPOOL'S FISH STORE
THE ART OF MARKETING
ARTLESS THANK-YOUS
A GUIDE TO GOOD BOOK BEHAVIOUR
INGLORIOUS EMPLOYMENT
LITERARY LUCK
BEST STOLEN BOOKS
DEAR MR POLITICIAN PLEASE DONT WRITE
THE UNIVERSAL LIBRARY

In T Roger Claypool’s Fish Store, Hamilton debunks the stereotypical image of the writer as a laid back and earning his living just by writing. He cites that writing has been a second career for most successful authors. William Shakespeare earned not from his work but from his earnings as an actor, shares in the theatre and real estate. Chaucer worked as an ambassador and not a writer. Milton depended on his father, tutoring of children and working as a propagandist for Oliver Cromwell to make ends meet.

All in all, Hamilton’s work read as an articulate and engaging story telling rather than a sleep-inducing lecture. Bibliophiles, writers, publishers, and readers will find this book informative and interesting.

Go back to Harvard Street Cubao

4 Comments:

Blogger eClair said...

I have the audio book of Shadowmancer. Got it for cheap in national Bookstore Cubao
:D

9:06 PM  
Blogger juned said...

A virtual treasure trove for bibliophiles and audiophiles :)

1:54 PM  
Blogger monanoke said...

I was there recently and made away with 5 books: Jeffrey Steingarten's "It Must've Been Something I Ate" (my source of food porn, hardcover), Miles Harvey's "Island of Lost Maps" (nonfiction ala "Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil"), A.S. Byatt's "Elementals" (short stories), Robin Jarvis' "Deathscent" (fantasy) and Desmond Morris' "The Naked Eye: Travels in Search of the Human Species". All great books, all barely new! I have to get back there soon.

6:04 AM  
Blogger juned said...

I bought some interesting books: like one how to read a church, A report on the Weimar republic and others.
But then taste is individual is it not?
Again a wide array of choices.
Cook books too :)

3:15 PM  

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