(Disclaimer: I haven't read beyond the first chapter. This isn't really a review. You can find one of those here.)
I've been thinking about the difference between the physical book and the e-book a lot lately. Our novel is to be e-published in time for Christmas. And I've been using the wonders of modern technology to self-publish some of my other stuff in book form just to see what it looks like. In particular, my Shropshire book which I wrote to look a particular way on the page and which to my mind can in no way be an e-book.
So , the latest venture of JJ Abrams attracted me immediately – more than any of his TV shows have that's for sure. He's done what many of us must have daydreamed about over the years (I sketched out something similar 25 years ago and almost immediately abandoned it as impossible).
He's produced a book that is something special in and of its physical self. I received my copy this morning. One hardback book in a slipcase. It smells old. It purports to be an old library book, complete with stamps and stuff. It's a made-up old novel “The Ship of Theseus” by V M Straka, with a foreword explaining the author's brilliance and place in history and, as part of the novel, footnotes supposedly explaining but mainly misleading.
Placed within the book are postcards, letters, cuttings from newspapers, even a de-coding wheel. And in handwriting in margins all over the book are notes. Firstly by one author, then later a conversation between 'him' and 'her', and then a later more urgent conversation.
Yes, it's a shaggy dog story. Yes, it's like 'Lost' – all style no substance - and yes I haven't a clue what to read and in what order so it has no linear page-turning momentum. But, it's a wonderful conceit, and jabs one in the eye of the e-novel. Though it's much, much, more expensive...
For those who love books on their shelves, and holding them in your hands - treat yourself...
I was reading that Amazon/Kindle already has the capability to tell authors at what points readers stop reading their book, and similar feedback impossible in the paper world.
It's seems both fascinating and terrifying. Future authors will be treated differently. Early drafts will be subject to Kindle focus groups. The readership of the first week's sales will be scrutinised, not by number, not by 5 star reviews, but by page references:
"27% of readers are giving up on chapter 3, 18% skipping chapter 4 entirely, and only 2% reading in one sitting. On the plus side, the sex scene in chapter 14 is getting plenty of re-reads."
I've given up sugar. And I don't just mean my debilitating addiction to Candy Crush. (Update for those wanting to know how that's going – I promised to give up as soon as I reached Level 100 and am currently stuck on Level 117..)
Anyway, I decided a while back that sugar is the devil and that the only way forward was zero tolerance. In my favour, if I don't have it, I don't miss it, as has been the case for the last couple of months, though I have occasionally caught myself sucking the sweetness out of the extra bottle of red wine I use to self-medicate.
Unfortunately, this week Anne has been wearing her bake-a thon head. The thing is, she cooks to share and this week saw a perfect storm with a hat-trick of opportunities – hosting her book club, a colleague's birthday and some do-gooding charity thing or other. Honestly, it's so selfish of her.
Her evil temptation started with a small round disc of cheese biscuit, which I succumbed to a) because they might actually be the very best thing she makes and b) because they're SAVOURY for crissakes. But soon she was pushing the heavy stuff. Here, finish this half a chocolate and blueberry muffin that's got stuck in its casing. Or You've got to try just a sliver of chocolate fridge cake, it's Felicity Cloake's. It wasn't long before we were sharing spoons.
And come 10pm last night, as her Book Club crowd floated off home on a sugar and prosecco high, I was backstage snorting blackberry frangipane and mainlining a chocolate marble coffee-cream death star. The shame this morning was palpable but didn't stop me from slathering home-made “meadow jelly” on my toast. This afternoon I've hit the inevitable rock-bottom - scouring the cupboards for cooking chocolate and glacé cherries. And the dog seems desperate for a trip to the newsagents...
2. One Dog and His Man. Out now in paperback.
3. Farewell Trip.
Published by Carina UK.
4. Silly Verse for Grown Ups