Archive for September, 2011

Sainsbury’s bookshop chain of the year

September 30, 2011

Awarding an industry prize to Sainsbury’s seems idiotic, like awarding a peace prize to Tony Blair. — The Guardian

Fact: Sainsbury’s was devised as a retail buffer zone to keep the riffraff out of Waitrose. — Jasper Fforde

Sainsbury’s! Bookshop chain! An award!

Someone’s idea of a sick joke?

Sainsbury’s: your new local bookshop?

Sainsbury’s is a supermarket. The one near me is a superstore. Half a town centre, many businesses were destroyed, social housing was destroyed for its car park.

Books consist of one side of an aisle sandwiched between the chill cabinets and clothes.

When supermarkets offer buy one get one free, this is not down to the generosity of the supermarket. The supplier supplies the free one. I guess the same applies to books.

Jamie Oliver has a new book out. £9-99 in Sainsbury’s, £30 cover price.

Supermarkets are killing independent bookshops.

Travel Bookshop to close

Jamie Oliver has done much to raise food awareness. Maybe now he should be doing something for small bookshops before they are all lost.

Waterstone’s may have blotted their copybook with the Aleph debacle, but they are at least a bookshop chain.

Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot

Sainsbury’s is not a bookshop chain. It is a supermarket that sells books.

Of late I have shopped in Waitrose. To shop in Sainsbury’s is to join the riffraff. The best that can be said is that it is better than Asda-Walmart!

How does one justify an award to Sainsbury’s?

We should celebrate the fact that they are embracing books and offering people an alternative place to buy – somewhere they can spend time browsing as well as buying.

What utter bollocks!

But let us check out a Sainsbury’s, which is what I did. Not one side of an aisle as I thought, but half of one side. Let’s give it the Aleph test.

No Aleph, now there’s a surprise! I asked at what is jokingly called an Information Point. Aleph please. The girl looked at me blankly: What’s that? A book, Aleph by Paulo Coelho. Don’t read. She asked me how to spell and checked the computer system. No, we do not have, cannot be popular or well known. I patiently explained that it was a worldwide bestseller, released in US on Tuesday and already No1 on Amazon, that Paulo Coelho had more followers on facebook than Madonna. Don’t use facebook. She then used a phone to seek further help, again I was asked to spell Aleph. No, we do not have, try ordering on-line.

I walked out wondering why Sainsbury’s had an award as bookshop chain of the year when it is not even a bookshop chain, why the least able are manning an information point.

I feel I am in a surreal world. A parody of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Where supermarkets are book chains, where publishers forget their writers, where war criminals are appointed peace envoys.

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Shameful treatment of John Stewart

September 30, 2011

Escorted off a plane by armed guards, questioned by Customs and FBI for several hours, denied access to the US, deported.

Not quite the reception one expects on arrival in the US, but that is what happened to John Stewart when he arrived in the US for a speaking tour.

His only ‘crime’, being an environmental activist!

Third runway protester escorted off plane and barred from America
John Stewart refused entry to USA for speaking tour, due to visa problem
Green activist who stopped Heathrow third runway heads to U.S. to explain how he did it… by aeroplane of course

Very heavy dew

September 30, 2011

Tuesday evening I put down a book I was reading in my garden. Half an hour later it was wet with dew.

No surprise then that the next morning my lawns were wet with dew, as was the leaves. My wheelie bins were so wet that it looked as though it had rained.

My lawns were still wet by midday.

This is how it has been the last few days.

An Indian summer, though apparently not officially.

Today it has probably hit 29 degrees, at least ten degrees above normal, though with global warming, what is normal.

Tomorrow it is expected to hit 30 degrees, maybe hotter, which will break the record for October which stands at 29 degrees.

As a child I used to see dew ponds lying derelict, no longer used by farmers as they had piped water.

Dew ponds are shallow clay-lined depressions in dry grasslands over chalk ar limestone. I can now see how effective they would be.

Super Thursday

September 29, 2011

Today is Super Thursday, a term coined by The Bookseller, the day publishers launch their latest books in a hope of capturing the lucrative Christmas market.

Super Thursday: 225 books compete for the Christmas run-up
Book retailers brace themselves for Super Thursday

Why today or what is special about today I do not know.

One such release is the latest cookbook from Jamie Oliver, but £30 for a cookbook? No one is going to pay £30 which is why it is £9-99 in Sainsbury’s. A raw deal for independent bookshops as this is less than the trade price they pay. Something Jamie Oliver should look into.

Travel Bookshop to close

Or you can subscribe to Jamie Oliver’s magazine and get the cookbook for free.

Aleph by Paulo Coelho jumped the gun and came out on 1 September. A head start one woould think, except HarperCollinsUK forgot. Now it will be lost with all the other books.

HarperCollinsUK you should be embarrassed!

Bishop Christopher on closer Anglican ties with Catholic Church

September 28, 2011

God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. — Isaiah 55:8

My immediate thought is why?

Martin Luther ushered in the Reformation in what is now Germany. England never had a Reformation, or looked at another way, it is still on-going.

What counted as the English Reformation was the lust of Henry VIII for a woman, lust for church property to finance foreign wars.

Jesus was a Jew. Should we have closer links with Jews? The Koran adopts much of what is Biblical teaching, should we have closer links with Islam. Where do we start, where does it end?

I have nothing against individual Catholics, nothing against individual Catholic priests, nothing against individual Catholic churches. I have a lot against the Catholic Church: Inquisition, ethnic cleansing against the Cathars in what is now southern France, torture, burning at the stake of heretics and witches, child sex abuse scandals and the cover-ups, treatment of women.

Women have a role in the Catholic Church, making of tea and cakes, a servile role. Saudi Arabia is to give women a limited vote. Women in the Vatican still lack a vote.

It is the perverse attitude of the Catholic Church to sexual pleasure that has led to the child sex abuse scandals. If priests are denied normal outlets for sexual pleasure they are going to seek abnormal pleasures.

Perverse attitudes on contraception has led to poverty in Africa.

The treatment of homosexuals and bisexuals is a disgrace.

The Catholic Church is a very powerful organisation whose only interest is the preservation of that institution at all costs.

When the child sex abuse scandals started to emerge it quickly became apparent that the Catholic Church was doing everything possible to protect the Church, the victims did not count.

Jesus said my house has many mansions. There are many paths. In China, Catholicism and Protestantism are seen as two separate and distinct religions. Protestant and Catholic in there many forms are two of many paths.

None of these issues were addressed or discussed, instead the last 100 years of Anglican-Catholic meetings and discussions!

When two organisations join, what is often termed a merger, is in reality a takeover over the weaker partner by the stronger. That is what is happening here, though in all likelihood it will never happen.

Who will in charge? It will be be the Vatican.

Sexuality is a sticking point. And yet sexuality is not a Biblical issue. It is only now, as the Bishop admitted, the theology is being developed. Ordination of women bishops is being slowed to appease the Vatican The Episcopal Church in US is beyond the pale and has been denied a seat at the table.

I suggest look at what is going on on the ground in Chicago

The Council of Nicaea decided the nature of the Trinity. St Augustine put the emphasis on the oneness, others on the threeness.

Two thoughts kept running through my mind.

The medieval discussion of how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.

In The Witch of Portobello, Jesus looks in a church and feels even he would not be welcome. I had a variant, Jesus walking in and asking why was all this being done in his name.

Jesus did not have a problem with the ordinary people, nor with the Roman occupiers, but he did have an argument with the clerics.

Why this appalling waste of time and resources when their are real problems in the world?

Cooperation is good but it should be at grassroots.

Look to St George’s Church in Baghdad, an Anglican Church but with people of many denominations, even Muslims attend.

At Christmas I attended Christmas mass in a little Parish church. Local Methodists were invited and the Methodist preacher helped lead the service.

God is infinite, not only unknown but unknowable. If infinite, then there must be many if not infinite paths.

The Bible alludes to God, the shepherd looking for lost sheep, the woman looking for lost coins. God is!

In China Catholic and Anglican are seen as two different religions. Maybe that should tell us something.

Celebrate diversity.

A Best-Selling Author Who Gives His Work Away

September 26, 2011

A publishing industry that is being transformed by all things digital could learn some things from Paulo Coelho, the 64-year-old Brazilian novelist. Years ago he upended conventional wisdom in the book business by pirating his own work, making it available online in countries where it was not easily found, using the argument that ideas should be disseminated free. More recently he has proved that authors can successfully build their audiences by reaching out to readers directly through social media. He ignites conversations about his work by discussing it with his fans while he is writing.

That philosophy has helped him sell tens of millions of books, most prominently “The Alchemist,” an allegorical novel that has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 194 weeks and is still a regular fixture in paperback on the front tables of bookstores.

This week Mr. Coelho releases his latest novel, “Aleph,” a book that tells the story of his own epiphany while on a pilgrimage through Asia in 2006 on the Trans-Siberian Railway. (Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, with many mystical meanings.) While Mr. Coelho spent four years gathering material for the book, he wrote it in only three weeks.

Spreading the word about the book should be easy; he has become a sort of Twitter mystic, writing messages in English and his native Portuguese and building a following of 2.4 million people. (A recent example: “When your legs are tired, walk with your heart.”) In 2010 Forbes named him the second-most-influential celebrity on Twitter, behind only Justin Bieber.

Mr. Coelho continues to give his work away free by linking to Web sites that have posted his books, asking only that if readers like the book, they buy a copy, “so we can tell to the industry that sharing contents is not life threatening to the book business,” as he wrote in one post.

From his home in Geneva, Mr. Coelho spoke about his new book, his feeling of connection to Jorge Luis Borges and his leisure time spent networking with his fans on Facebook and Twitter. Following are edited excerpts.

Q. The protagonist of your new novel, “Aleph,” sounds familiar: best-selling author, world traveler, spiritual seeker. How autobiographical is this book?

A. One hundred percent. These are my whole experiences, meaning everything that is real is real. I had to summarize much of it. But in fact I see the book as my journey myself, not as a fiction book but as a nonfiction book.

Q. The title of the book, “Aleph,” mirrors the name of a short story by Borges. Were you influenced by him?

A. He is my icon, the best writer in the world of my generation. But I wasn’t influenced by him, I was influenced by the idea of aleph, the concept. In the classic tradition of spiritual books Borges summarizes very, very well the idea of this point where everything becomes one thing only.

Q. When did you decide to become a writer?

A. It took me 40 years to write my first book. When I was a child, I was encouraged to go to school. I was not encouraged to follow the career of a writer because my parents thought that I was going to starve to death. They thought nobody can make a living from being a writer in Brazil. They were not wrong. But I still had this call, this urge to express myself in writing.

Q. Your most famous book, “The Alchemist,” has sold 65 million copies worldwide. Does its continuing success surprise you?

A. Of course. It’s difficult to explain why. I think you can have 10,000 explanations for failure, but no good explanation for success.

Q. You’ve also had success distributing your work free. You’re famous for posting pirated version of your books online, a very unorthodox move for an author.

A. I saw the first pirated edition of one of my books, so I said I’m going to post it online. There was a difficult moment in Russia; they didn’t have much paper. I put this first copy online and I sold, in the first year, 10,000 copies there. And in the second year it jumped to 100,000 copies. So I said, “It is working.” Then I started putting other books online, knowing that if people read a little bit and they like it, they are going to buy the book. My sales were growing and growing, and one day I was at a high-tech conference, and I made it public.

Q. Weren’t you afraid of making your publisher angry?

A. I was afraid, of course. But it was too late. When I returned to my place, the first phone call was from my publisher in the U.S. She said, “We have a problem.”

Q. You’re referring to Jane Friedman, who was then the very powerful chief executive of HarperCollins?

A. Yes, Jane. She’s tough. So I got this call from her, and I said, “Jane, what do you want me to do?” So she said, let’s do it officially, deliberately. Thanks to her my life in the U.S. changed.

Q. And now you’re a writer with one of the most prominent profiles online. Are you a Twitter addict?

A. Yes, I confess, in public. I tweet in the morning and the evening. To write 12 hours a day, there is a moment when you’re really tired. It’s my relaxing time.

Q. That seems to be the opposite approach of writers like Jonathan Franzen who blindfold themselves and write their books in isolation.

A. Back to the origins of writing, they used to see writers as wise men and women in an ivory tower, full of knowledge, and you cannot touch them. The ivory tower does not exist anymore. If the reader doesn’t like something they’ll tell you. He’s not or she’s not someone that is isolated.

Once I found this possibility to use Twitter and Facebook and my blog to connect to my readers, I’m going to use it, to connect to them and to share thoughts that I cannot use in the book. Today I have on Facebook six million people. I was checking the other day Madonna’s page, and she has less followers than I have. It’s unbelievable.

Q. You’re bigger than Madonna?

A. No, no, no. I’m not saying that.

An interview with Paulo Coelho published in the New York Times.

His latest book Aleph is published US on Tuesday 27 September 2011

We pray for our planet

September 26, 2011

Music: Veneziela Naydenova

Text: Paulo Coelho

Waterstone’s Guildford catches fire

September 26, 2011

Waterstone’s Guildford caught fire on Sunday.

Apparently a fire in the Costas coffee shop on the first floor which burnt through to the ground floor.

I looked in today. Strong smell of smoke, lots of damage. I do not know what the first floor is like or floors above the first.

Waterstone’s Guildford is closed until further notice.

Weird, no mention by Waterstone’s on twitter!

Autumn day in Brighton

September 26, 2011

It was the last Sunday in September, it looked like it was going to be a pleasant day, so I decided on a day trip to Brighton.

Walking down to the seafront, I popped into Waterstone’s. No display of Aleph latest book from Paulo Coelho either in the window or in-store, but at least when I asked, they were at least aware. But then this is Brighton, if not aware in Brighton?

Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot

After a wander along the seafront, lunch outside Iydea. I usually enjoy lunch at Iydea, but not this time, and not helped by smoke being blown into my face. It would be good to make these tables No Smoking.

By now not much open, though still very busy in the street.

I was shocked at the number of businesses that had closed in North Laine since my last visit in the spring on Easter Sunday. Maybe it had been a bad summer. There were people about but maybe holding on to their money.

Easter Sunday in Brighton

I always enjoy looking in Eco Logic Cool. They always have interesting and unsual products and always interesting music. I asked, to be told The Cinematic Orchestra.

Infinity Foods always have excellent baked bread, but I was too late.

Earlier, on my way to the seafront, I had dropped in Grocer and Grain. Very delicious local apples. A very busy and popular shop.

From Brighton Pier I was able to watch the sun going down until it disappeared behind clouds.

From the bookstall on the seafront I picked up The Shack, The Pilgrimage and Manual of Warrior of Light.

I said Paulo Coelho had a new book Aleph and spoke of the experence of Waterstone’s. I was told Paulo Coelho very popular and his books sell very quickly.

Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot

Taj the Greengrocer I always visit.

It had been warm all day and walking along the seafront long after sunset it was still very warm.

Writing as a spiritual activity

September 24, 2011

While I was writing The Witch of Portobello, the main character Athena started to unfold in such an unexpected way thanks to its structure.

It was as if I was chasing after her: I had no idea how her story would end but got really excited by the opportunities that aroused from the different perspectives.

At one point in my book, the character of Nabeel Al Ehi teaches Athena the following:

Even a simple letter demands that we put all power into it that we have, as if we were to carve its meaning in hard stone.

Thus, when holy scripts find their place on paper, they also include the person’s soul.

Because the hand leading the line reflects the soul of the writer.

In this excerpt, he voices my view on writing. I regard writing as a spiritual activity.

It’s the moment, when, in silence, I’m able to talk to myself, to connect to my soul. But you can apply that to any act performed with commitment, humility and love.

— Paulo Coelho

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.