London was a whirlwind two day tour of bookshops (and a few restaurants) and the results were quite favorable. The London Review of Books has a wonderful shop in Bloomsbury, with a tea and snack room next door on Bury Place. Their stock is well-chosen,literary, and there is an excellent ctiticism/philosophy section,in addition to the extensive new titles and backlist general fiction and nonfiction.They are particularly strong in translated fiction. One of the titles that I could not put down is Dubravka Ugresic's fabulous Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, published by Canongate in its series of myths brought up to the current times.
Lest we not forget that LRB is also the publisher of their crazy collected personals "They Call Me Naughty Lola'- (also available in The US)
These are contained in a two page section of classifieds at the end of the paper and contain such gems as these:
“67-year-old disaffiliated flaneur picking my toothless way through the urban sprawl, self-destructive, sliding toward pathos, jacked up on Viagra and on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet.”
My finger on the pulse of culture, my ear to the ground of philosophy, my hip in the medical waste bin of Glasgow Royal Infirmary. 14% plastic and counting - geriatric brainiac and compulsive NHS malingering fool (M, 81), looking for richer, older sex-starved woman on the brink of death to exploit and ruin every replacement operation I've had since 1974. Box no. 7648 (quickly, the clock's ticking, and so is this pacemaker).
John Sandoe books ,off Fulham Road in Chelsea is another wondrous place where virtually all the sales help are published authors. They are involved in publishing a journal-Slightly Foxed, and quite knowledgeable about the entire literary scene. A priceless experience.
Then there are the politicals- Bookmarks in Bloomsbury, a socialist center and publisher , where people like Robert Fisk go to read, and Housman's,in the once cheeky but now comfortable area near St Pancras International railroad station at King's Cross. They have a diverse stock of anarchist and left-wing stuff, including some of the wilder books by Stewart Home;they also publish an annual peace diary with worldwide listings of concerned groups. There are also a host of small ,literary shops in the outer fringes,like Primrose Books.
One of the more unusual places in Bayswater, is Al- Saqi Books, a Lebanese publisher and bookseller; it was there I picked up a brilliant title- Honor Killings, By Turkish Journalist Ayse Onal- She interviewed several men in Turkish prisons for honour killings in an attempt to understand the social pressures that motivated them to commit these reprehensible crimes.This book and two others, by the way, are the subject of a brilliant review in the Nov edition of London review of Books by Jacqueline Rose,who teaches at the University of London and is , among other things, a Lacan expert.
Another highly recommended title is The Little Black Book of Griselidis Real- Memoirs of an Anarchist Whore. I picked it up in NY right before leaving for the trip and read it in three days. Ms Real,who passed away in 2005 was an educated Swisswoman who became a prostitute early in life, scribed several memoirs as well as wrote poetry and letters including those to her friend Jean- Luc Hennig which constitute the first part of the book. Her writings have been published in Europe , but before this US Semiotexte version, never released in the USA.
The letters are a revelation of what it is to be a whore, from the standpoint of an advanced mind. The black book of client's specialities and helpful hints is a staggering insight into the trade. In later life, Ms Real campaigned for civil rights for sex workers. She was reburied in 2009 in the cemetery in Geneva which also holds the remains of Jean Piaget, Jorge Borges, and John Calvin. Truly one of the elect!
Patrice Mugny, a local politician who championed the transfer, said the city was "in no case apologizing for prostitution, but honoring an individual who distinguished herself by battling for human dignity."
"This shows that human dignity is not a question of social status, that it is not limited by moral prescriptions," he said at the ceremony.
Ruth Morgan Thomas, a leading European campaigner for prostitutes, said the burial was an important recognition for sex workers "who demand simply to be treated without discrimination and valued as an integral part of society."
But when I asked for her books(in French) at La Hune in Paris and a few other stores, they were out of stock....