BY THE BOOK | The Despair Of Bestsellers


Every week the book trade magazine Publishers Weekly comes to the book shop.  And every week I peruse the bestseller lists.  And every week I despair. 

The bestseller lists are like fast food, malls and television – to be avoided.  

Of course, once in a while a quality book will sneak in there.  A Gentleman in Moscow, (a gem!) comes to mind.  (I was so prejudiced against A Gentleman in Moscow just because it was a bestseller, and it just goes to show how wrong I am about everything!)  But it is really rare (the gems sneaking in) and I look at those lists constantly.  

But what am I going to do about it?  Well, I do have a bookstore in which every single book is better than anything on the bestseller lists (not kidding, deadly serious).  But what would be my bestseller list in the bookstore?  I'll stick to contemporary authors, as a list filled with Dostoevsky, Dickens, Orwell and Jane Austen is well known.  But what about Karl Ove Knausgaurd, Peter Carey, Michelle Houellebecq, J.M. Coetzee, Hideki Murakami and Dag Solstad.  (Dag Solstad???)  Yes, that Dag.  I discovered him through the love of my life Karl Ove Knausgaard.  I've read most of the author's Knausgaard has mentioned and they have all been so interesting, but Solstad is so immediately riveting he has jumped up the list!  

Solstad's Professor's Anderson's Night is the best I've read of him so far (not all his novels have been translated into English – what an outrage!)  The novel is about a professor in Norway who witnesses a murder in an apartment across the street and the interior wrestling in his head over the next week or so, just great (I almost wrote riveting, but I already used that, seems that I'm riveted a lot).  

Speaking of Knausgaard, (I might mention him a bit in my store) his six volume My Struggle is the best thing I've ever read.  His writing and thought, is the best of modernity (clear, no jargon, perceptive) without any of the modern junk (unclear, jargon filled, unperceptive.)  I have a deep fear of being buried alive, but if all six volumes were down there with me it probably would be a picnic.  

Peter Carey is another amazing current author on my list.  The True History of the Kelly Gang is just that, a sort of mythologizing of the story of Ned Kelly and his gang, you learn so much about early Australian culture.  Michel Houllebecq, my goodness just read him.  Murakami, like getting to wander a Japanese dreamscape full of culture.  J.M. Coetzee, dark, like Houellebecq, but true (trueish, I guess is what literature goes for – mythologically true?).  If you come into my store for these authors, I'll probably be out of the one you want (not Knaussgaard though, he will be in here eternally) but then I can steer you onto to other “bestsellers,” the bestest bestsellers.

karl ove knausgaard, michel houllebecq, publishers weekly, ned kelly, j.m. coetzee, bestseller, narratology, my diarrhe, michelle houellebecq, karl ove knausgaurd, jane austen, orwell, manchester, mark stolle