On Planet Heron – 22/06/2024

An eight-day week later, we have had a brilliant time partnering with publisher And Other Stories and championing their books.

And Other Numbers:
One poetry reading (two poets), two book groups, one flash fiction competition (lots of entries, five shortlisted).
Five hundred temporary tattoos, some glasses of wine (accurate data not found), many towers of AOS books, (too?) many social media posts.
One argument between booksellers about a tote bag, one argument between booksellers settled by publisher arriving with second tote bag.
Three heavenly herons now adorn the shop’s windows, flanked by more AOS books.
Zero accidents when putting up bunting (four close calls).
Myriad lovely customers.
I think Independent Bookshop Week has been rather wonderful. And we are not finished yet.

And Other Events:
Today, Harry is at the University of Bristol supporting a packed day of workshops and talks celebrating the amazing authors who work there and encouraging new writers. You can see and order all the books here.

And Other Endeavours:
Meanwhile, I will be in the shop, poised to announce the winner of the flash fiction competition, in between my usual Saturday activities (drinking coffee and talking about books).

I have this week immersed myself in a different AOS book each day and I thought I’d round these up here: 

An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell by Deborah Levy
A book-length poem alternating between narrators: she is an angel; he is an accountant. She wants to save him from hell. He ‘can’t afford rhapsody’. She wants delirium. He wants a takeaway. Will they? Won’t they? ‘Did you say you can hear a frog splashing at the end of the world?’

Boulder by Eva Baltasar
A devastating and very sexy novella you’ll want to read over and over again: ‘Boulder’ and Samsa meet when Boulder is working aboard a ship. When she leaves life at sea and moves in with Samsa in Reykjavik, Samsa announces that she must have a child. Boulder lets it happen, never quite expressing her own wishes.

Ghost Pains by Jessi Jezewska Stevens
This collection of short stories delights in wrongfooting you at every turn. Rumpel is an inventive and brilliantly odd, grim tale, somehow ancient, contemporary and futuristic: ‘This is no bedtime tale. Nor a novella.’ You will have to read it to assess what you think it is. ‘We will proceed deductively from the available evidence.’
Honeymoon is a masterpiece: an examination of becoming a new old couple, of being a tourist with instructions to enjoy ‘Art’, of heat and landscape and religious experience combining to form the ineffable.
And then there’s Siberia: two people who were once a couple, speaking on the phone as a drama unfolds around them and they try to write their own lines but the stage directions are beyond them.

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
‘Smells unleashed from the spring thaw lift us into a frenzied desperation for movement. The air is so clean you can smell the difference between smooth rock and jagged. You can smell water running over shale.’
Welcome to the top of the world. Nunavat, Canada. The ice. The landscape. The foxes, lemmings, dogs and bears. Welcome to the world of an Inuk girl telling her story in a harsh, unvarnished voice through poetic fragments and short bursts of prose, pouring frost and fear down your throat.

In Case of Loss by Lutz Seiler
A brilliant essay collection, its title refers to the poet Peter Huchel’s notebook which was inscribed with these words and, thankfully, not lost. Within the notebook, Seiler finds collections of words, phrases and symbols, as well as records of the land, which give clues to Huchel’s writing. You can read it with no knowledge of Seiler or Huchel and will find yourself in rich forests and devastated landscapes, meeting Seiler at all ages and gaining insight into what writing can do when care is taken with every word choice.

Ten Planets by Yuri Herrera
In Herrera’s short stories, one can have a brilliant time on another planet, or near a comet or in a version of our planet altered by machines/aliens/weird grammar/new language. You could call these stories science fiction or you could leave them joyfully uncategorised. Either way, jump in. But hold onto your ID badge. You’re going to need that.
An obituarist realises a life has been stolen. A house protects and then overprotects its residents. A monster makes art. Explorers check if the earth is flat. Then check if it’s flat on the other side too. Zorg writes Don Quixote. It’s a wild ride. It’s about reality as much as it isn’t. It ends with a warning: don’t whatever you do press HERE.

Berg by Ann Quinn
Alistair Berg has gone to the seaside. He has gone to the seaside to kill his father. His father seems to be with a rather attractive young woman. She is a little like a dummy. And then there’s an actual dummy – his father is a ventriloquist. This is certainly one we’ll be reading in a future Ruthless Book Club.

Incidentally, details of all our book clubs – we’re up to five per month – are here.

Next week, you may find yourself bereft. You have to wait a whole year for the next Independent Bookshop Week. The ampersand on your And Other Herons temporary tattoo is starting to look a little worn. It’s been days since you’ve seen your favourite bookseller get stuck in a box in order to advertise a charity campaign.

Do not panic. We’ve got you covered.
On Saturday 22 June, we are very excited to go back to medieval Britain with Amy Jeffs. We’ll be selling books at her talk at 12.30 in St James’ Priory. Wild and Storyland, are beautifully written, weaving history, folklore and fiction together with her stunning linocuts and we are so looking forward to Saints: A new legendary of heroes, humans and magic, which comes out in September.
On Thursday 4 July, once you have voted, do come and celebrate the publication of Jo Leevers’ second novel. This is a really special occasion for us: we met Jo last year through an event for her first novel, have since enjoyed lots of discussions about books in the shop and at book groups, and are thrilled to be able to launch The Last Time I Saw You, a novel following a woman in search of her mother when she is about to become a mother herself. Do get your ticket in the shop or online.

May your weekend teem with numerous books,

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