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    To Long Island – 26 May 2024

    Authors who know what to leave unwritten, narrators who place their confidence in implication and characters who leave truths unspoken are the order of the day. Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, which this week won the International Booker Prize, is an exemplar. The story is of an affair between a young woman and a much older married man in 1980s East Berlin. In the first section, the couple never part without looking back at one another. In the second, he seeks to control which way she looks at all times. The grand scale of their love is offered in the subtle details, turning points in their relationship might be seen in…

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    Eventful Herons – 18 May 2024

    ‘Do you read in the shop?’ I am often asked. ‘Um. Emails, I suppose,’ is the disappointing answer. ‘And the occasional picture book.’ True genius lies in a good picture book. The customer (or hopeful bookseller themselves) looks a little forlorn. ‘I read some poetry each day,’ I add. I leave out the fact that this is usually at 5am… It’s a pleasant picture, isn’t it: books in teetering piles, duties abandoned, a large armchair, a bookseller buried in a weighty tome, glass of wine within easy reach. But if there ever was a time when that image reflected reality, then I’m afraid it has passed. Although… sometimes there is…

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    Herons Love Gardening – 12 May 2024

    I would follow Olivia Laing to most places – along the River Ouse; to the bottom of a bottle of Echo Spring; into protests, prisons and art galleries; to the culmination of an experiment with Kathy Acker – so, when she holds open the door to Arcadia, I am delighted to join her there. The Garden Against Time is her account of restoring a walled garden in Suffolk which once belonged to renowned gardener Mark Rumary. There is so much to do in the neglected garden – endless, backbreaking work – and yet, in her first year there, Laing must wait. Restraining herself, she must stop, take notes, watch as…

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    Herons Go Birding – 5 May 2024

    Single word titles are currently dominating: Beastly; Elderflora; Wavewalker; Rosewater; Enlightenment; Kairos; Bellies… Out with pronouncements plus explanatory subtitles; down with novels that jolt one’s vaguest memories of GCSE physics; curtail those lines of poetry; no more titles that require but lack punctuation, please (it’s OK – her next one is called Intermezzo). The minimalists are here. It’s a busy world out there. I don’t make the rules.*   At an event on Tuesday evening – Jackie Kay’s warm, generous poetry and insights enveloping a packed room for a marvellous hour – I found myself next to a customer whom I knew to be a Paul Auster fan. We discussed…

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    And Other Stories – 28 April 2024

    I am going to write about short fiction without (only) mentioning Claire Keegan, brevity without pulling out that Mark Twain/Pascal/Cicero-attributed quotation about how if he’d had more time he would have written a shorter letter, concision whilst questioning my own abilities in that regard. I have been reading Ghost Pains by Jessi Jezewska Stevens. This short story collection opens with the morning after a party, a party the narrator tried to cancel which went ahead anyway until it was cut short. The rhythm of the writing swept me up so that I was at times amused, at times nervous, at times fearful about the coming disaster. The narrator offers a few details about…

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    And Other Heron Stories

    Heron Books partners with publisher And Other Stories for Independent Bookshop Week – 15-22 June We are delighted to be working with And Other Stories for Independent Bookshop Week. And Other Stories is an independent not-for-profit publisher, whose books are among the most innovative and boundary-pushing works we have read. We herons have always been particularly drawn to their short fiction, their poetry and their many translated works. And, when they launched their new series design, we may have melted a little at its sleek simplicity, centring the author’s words. Join us for some or all of our plans throughout Independent Bookshop Week. Celebrating short fiction, enter our flash fiction…

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    Enthralled Herons – 21 April 2024

    Awestruck and enthralled, I know where to start but not how to. For this week was packed with poetry: a stunning performance from Rachael Clyne at monthly poetry night Under the Red Guitar; a screening of the 1986 BBC film Caribbean Nights: Poetry in which Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Fred D’Aguiar had an argument about tone, voice and class, a very polite argument which made their disagreement all the more stark and enjoyable; a discussion of their discussion with poets Helen Thomas, Anthony Joseph and Rishi Dastidar; but then, Alice Oswald. Alice Oswald holding out the scissory voice of a blackbird. Alice Oswald offering the chatter of the…

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    Poised For The Next Catch – 14 April 2024

    If you are the hardy customer to whom I this week promised that I would finally read Far From the Madding Crowd, I apologise. I will. But not today. To the impeccably dressed Mathias Enard fan, I offer similar regrets. And to the outraged child who discovered that I haven’t read all the books in the Pages and Co. series, you are right: what have I been doing with my time? My reading lists are pulling me into all sorts of contortions. On Monday, I went to see Percival Everett speak about his new book, James, a reimagining of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from Jim’s point of view. I will read James next, I thought. Except I ought to…

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    Rural Herons – 6 April 2024

    At the Clifton Literary Festival last year, I sat alongside two fellow booksellers and announced my Desert Island Books. The impossibility of the task – choosing six books above all others – was clear from the moment it was set and weighed on me more seriously than it ought. For several weeks I tweaked my longlist, removing a title here and adding one there until I had a selection wholly different from the one with which I had started. Then I changed it all back again. How I ended up defending a list which included no George Eliot I hardly know. My choice of Mrs Dalloway over To the Lighthouse…

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    Sunny Herons – 31 March 2024

    Have you already consumed too much chocolate? Did you perhaps take a ‘one for me, one for the hunters’ approach when hiding sugary eggs in the daffodil trumpets? Are you appalled at the violent clash of what ought to remain mutually exclusive worlds in the form of the Terry’s chocolate orange mini egg bar? In search of book content, have you opened Instagram only to be shown endless videos of people air frying a creme egg inside a croissant? To what is the world coming? I cry out as my hot chocolate is rendered undrinkable, presented as it is beneath a fortress of marshmallows, wafers, oreos and three colours of…