Breakfast of Champions - and missing books!
Before I allow myself to fall into a self-righteous pit of outrage I want you, yes you, to know that in the week of my birth the best-selling novel in America was Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. Was does it signify? Bugger all. But I like the irony of it. And is it champions for breakfast or breakfast of champions or champions sitting down to breakfast? Needless to say, I haven't read it, but I have read Slaughterhouse 5, and I would claim it's a masterpiece, a fantastic accomplishment from a man who, whenever I've read in interviews, has come across nothing but amiably and kindly towards other writers - which is often not the case. He also displayed a lot of kindness to the writer Richard Yates, who like many writers, had his share of ups, downs and not very much in-betweens. Why do so many writers have 'issues'? I'm not talking about bog standard issues common to the human race - but alcoholism, depression, mania, OCD - or are they common to the human race? Are writers driven to write because of these things? Like taking a drink or feeling there are stories that one must get out - like the proverbial bar-room drink who just won't bloody shut up? I think so. But it's also easy to say that it's a trait particular to writers. Just think, the highest rate of suicides, apparently, is amongst dentists! Imagine. All those teeth. And fillings. And drillings. And spending your entire working life wearing a mask. Next comes psychiatrists and then writers. I may have got that wrong in terms of suicidal rankings - but not much. What do teeth have to do with writing and mental health, apart from incessant grinding, which I'm told I do in my sleep? Anyway, whilst I leave you to ponder that, you can also check out what the best-seller was in America in the week of your birth.
Second, this morning I received an email from the British Library informing me of their new app called 'Treasures', which, for £1.79 - until 24th January (QUICK!) - gives you access on your iphone and ipad to ... treasures - the BL's collections. Apparently, even if you looked at 10 items a day, it would take you over 40,000 years to see everything. This morning I looked up just one - the original manuscript of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. But I'm not happy with the British Library at the moment. Before the New Year opening I pre-ordered a copy of Max Saunders 'Self-Impressions', a book which, at £50, is best loaned. However, there are not many copies in the library system. So I thought, thank cripes for the Brit Lib, it really does provide such an invaluable service. I had problems ordering the item as, before Christmas, it seemed to be out all the time. Surely, I thought, Saunders book on autobiografiction can't be THAT popular? I soon found out, when I arrived here (yes, I'm writing this in the humanities reading room), that it had gone 'missing'. Enquiries were sent into various reading rooms, and then one down to storage, and nada! So, I felt like I wasted the whole day, which is a tad dramatic. No worries, I pre-ordered, on the same day, the other copy, the one held at Boston Spa, which can only be ordered on a 48 hour delivery basis. I ordered it for Saturday, but couldn't get it here that day. Just as well. When I arrived here today they say they have no record of me pre-ordering it - or indeed, ordering that book at all - and that a glitch in the system meant that, even though the system said the book was available to order from Boston Spa, it may not be. That's a major glitch. So, ho hum. 'I'm furious...' I said, kindly, to the lady behind the counter, and then again to the man behind the reference enquiries desk. There's not an awful lot they can do - but it's important that I tell them that I am furious. Why? I don't know. Does it matter whether they know I am or not? As representatives of the BL if I can't say it to them, who else? Must I fill out another form, like I did the only other time when I was barked at by a lady in humanities who told me I must only come to the returns desk when summoned? No, I'm writing a blog on it instead, hoping to allieviate some of the stress as I wonder whether I should shell out £50 on this book!