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Bookshops are Back

Sometimes you don’t even realise what you’ve been missing. Or how much you’ve been missing it. I went to our local bookshop, the lovely Pages of Hackney, to pick up a book that I had ordered and that had to come from the US.1

They’ve stayed in business through this mad year, and I’ve ordered several books from them in that time. If a book’s not in stock they can usually get it in in a couple of days. I just had to walk up the road and collect them at the door.

No going in, though. Apart from collecting an order, all I could do was look in the window.

So it was fantastic to be able to go into the shop and browse. I’d almost forgotten what that’s like.

  1. The Situation and the Story, by Vivian Gornick. I don’t know why it had to cross the ocean. 

We started watching Line of Duty two or three weeks ago, and now we’ve caught up. So we’ll have to watch the rest of series 6 week by week. Like it’s the past.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (Books 2021, 4)

On Alexander Chee’s book of essays, which I was prompted to read because he was cited several times on my MA course.

Despite the title, this is not a writing ‘how-to’ book, except maybe by example. Nor is it a novel itself; it is a collection of essays. The subjects they cover do include writing and writing courses, most notably the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. That was one of the first, if not the first, postgraduate-level course in creative writing, and Chee studied on it.

But the book covers a lot else, too. As Chee is a mixed-race gay man, you won’t be surprised to hear that those details feature in a number of the essays. As does living in New York and trying to make it as a writer. And growing roses, and the origin of Catholic rosary beads.

I was drawn to this because one of the essays was assigned reading on the MA early this term, and he was also cited at various other points on at least two modules.

His debut novel is called Edinburgh, which immediately interests me. Though you learn from a couple of the essays that he hoped, when younger, to go to Edinburgh to study parapsychology, but didn’t; and that the Edinburgh connection in the novel didn’t survive the writing and editing process, but he kept the title anyway.

I don’t know what his fiction is like yet, but he’s a fine essayist.