The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
The latest book in the shop Corner of Shame – that is the resting place for books rejected by customers because considered too expensive – is The Death and Letters of Alice James, 228pp, fully indexed with a significant introductory essay, nattily designed, published by Exact Change (almost my favourite American publisher, masterful custodianship of a coherent and vibrant list). So it’s had love and attention bestowed upon it and done air miles. The book is an account of Henry and William James’ sister’s neurasthenic illness and fixation with her own morbidity. It’s become a kind of invalid’s classic: Susan Sontag used it as inspiration for a play, and it’s generally held to be a formative infra dig text for those interested in various niche histories. Anyway the book has had in depth counselling all day, been on a reiki course, done some yoga with rosemary burnt in its presence, deep breaths of self-worth drawn, and it will return to active duty tomorrow morning, 11am. If you feel kind (if, for instance, you have given money to charity, recently sent a letter to your aunty, fostered children, or even if you have a pet and feed it), then why not call in and buy it? It needs a home to sit proud in, a home that considers it to be worth £9.95 – the price of less than two pints of beer, an evening watching Brad Pitt at the Odeon, a takeaway curry (with an onion bhaji if bought down the Cowley Road). See? Love don’t cost that much.
The well heeled who have just counted out the money for their gardener (one, two, would you mind if I pay you three next week?) and who smell of mint humbug and mothball, aren’t always my favourite customer. But am always surprised when anybody can find such a book priced like this to be too expensive. If it were £12.99 or more, for sure. But at £9.95, either you want it or you don’t?