Friday, November 18, 2005

News Items: Film and Books

Three news items today. The first is the excellent film news that Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit had made it onto the best animated feature Oscar long list ! The long list also includes Valiant (featuring the voices of Ricky Gervais and Ewan McGregor), Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, Howl's Moving Castle (based on Diana Wynne Jones' book) and Chicken Little.

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In book-related news, and linking back to my post Lovely Language, the BBC has run a news story that masterpieces of English literature are condensed into a few lines of text message to aid student revision. Personally I see no point in this - at least given the examples given on the BBC website; I cannot see what use there is in the following which is Pride and Prejudice in the form of a text message summary:

5Sistrs WntngHsbnds. NwMeninTwn-Bingly&Darcy. Fit&Loadd.BigSis Jane Fals 4B,2ndSisLiz H8s D Coz Hes Proud. Slimy Soljr Wikam Sys DHs Shady Past.Trns Out Hes Actuly ARlyNysGuy &RlyFancysLiz. She Decyds She Lyks Him.Evry1 Gts Maryd.

Admittedly if you haven't read the book, it tells you a bare outline - but what use is that for answering exam questions ? As it happens, I've just re-read Pride and Prejudice and this text message summary conveys nothing of the lengthy inner battle that Elizabeth Bennet fights against her prejudice, or indeed Darcy's slow realisation that she is the woman for him. It conveys none of the tension surrounding Jane's partiality for Mr Bingley and none of the foolishness of Lydia's elopement with Wickham. It certainly doesn't give anyone any idea of the inanity of Mrs Bennet's discourse ! I despair...

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Finally, on a rather more intriguing - and certainly less blood-pressure raising note - is the following Independent news item:

Whenever I've bought books, for myself or other people, I have relied on serendipity. Hours spent in second-hand stores, charity shops and junk warehouses would, I always believed, yield the right results if I spent long enough in there. Coupled with a tendency to indecision and a belief in never spending more money than absolutely necessary, this means I have spent a large proportion of my life on the Charing Cross Road with my head at an awkward angle reading the spines of books I was never likely to buy.

Well, it's time to uncrick my neck and stride purposefully into the exciting modern world of the book business, courtesy of an invitation from Waterstone's. At their Oxford Street branch I met Cathy Waterhouse, the "personal shopper" the store had allocated me to showcase a more rational, up-to-date approach to book purchasing.

The idea is that you tell the personal shopper about the people you're buying for - age, tastes, eccentricities - and then they use their skill to pick the perfect books for them. I brought with me some pen portraits of people I knew to test Cathy's abilities.

Personally I'm not sure I'd be prepared to rely on someone else's judgement, and a personal shopper for books seems even more pretentious than a personal shopper for clothes, but perhaps some people are just clueless when it comes to buying books for others ?

1 comment:

Camille said...

Wow, a personal shopper for books? That actually sounds like a job I could do rather well. I have sold so many books to people standing in the aisles at bookstores that I should get an employee discount. I am a unrelenting booktalker.