Fun Reads for Friday

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

A must read for anyone who interacts with customers or patrons of any stripe. This six-part blog post (see the continuation at the bottom of the 1st post) was compiled by Jen Campbell, a London-based writer who works at the Ripping Yarns children’s bookshop. A sampling of some of the better gems:

on the phone
Me: Hello Ripping Yarns.
Customer: Do you have any mohair wool?
Me: Sorry, we’re not a yarns shop, we’re a bookshop.
Customer: You’re called Ripping Yarns.
Me: Yes, that’s ‘yarns’ as in stories.
Customer: Well it’s a stupid name.
Me: It’s a Monty Python reference.
Customer: So you don’t sell wool?
Me: No.
Customer: Hmf. Ridiculous.
Me: …but we do sell dead parrots.
Customer: What?
Me: Parrots. Dead. Extinct. Expired. Would you like one?
Customer: What?
Me: Parrots. Dead. Extinct. Expired. Would you like one?
Customer: Erm, no.
Me: Ok, well if you change your mind, do call back.

***

Woman: Hi, my daughter is going to come by on her way home from school to buy a book. But she seems to buy books with sex in them and she’s only twelve, so can I ask you to keep an eye out for her and make sure she doesn’t buy anything inappropriate for her age? I can give you a list of authors she’s allowed to buy.
Me:
With all due respect, would it not be easier for you to come in with your daughter?
Woman: Certainly not. She’s a grown girl, she can do it herself.

***

Customer: I read a book in the eighties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?

Swedish Education Minister Pushes for Chinese Instruction in Primary Schools

“I want to see Sweden become the first country in Europe to introduce instruction in Chinese as a foreign language at all primary and secondary schools,” said Jan Björklund, who heads the Liberal Party, a junior member of the centre-right ruling coalition.”

A short article, but certainly one of note. Interesting–although not surprising, perhaps–that the decision to push for Chinese language education as well as English, French, and Spanish is motivated by economic factors. As Björklund is quoted, “Not everyone in the business world speaks English. Very highly qualified activities are leaving Europe to move to China. Chinese will be much more important from an economic point of view than French or Spanish.”

Man Booker International vs. Translated Literature

An article by freelance journalist, editor, and translator Ángel Gurría-Quintana published on Three Percent regarding the frankly surprising limitations of the Man Booker International Prize, which aspires to the same prestige of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The winner of the Man International Booker Prize 2011 will be announced in Sydney on May 18th. Though still a relative newcomer to the world of literary awards –it is only in its fourth edition—the £60,000 prize has already acquired some heft. Unlike the Man Booker, given yearly to an outstanding work of fiction by a British, Irish or Commonwealth author, this biennial gong aims to celebrate “one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.”

Its organisers hope that such a global remit might eventually make MIBP a rival to the prestigious Nobel. But is this aspiration compromised by the rule that the award is given to an author writing fiction in English, or whose work is “generally available” in English language translations?

Australian writer and publisher Carmen Callil, one of this year’s judges, admits that the translation requirement can undermine the prize’s claim to rewarding the best of world literature. “There are many writers who haven’t been translated and who are very important. But we agreed that, to be considered for our list, authors needed to have at least three books in translation.”

And also via Three Percent:

The Booker Prize’s International Embarrassment

Oh, the literary drama, delightfully remarked on in caustic British fashion by Robert McCrum at The Guardian. As it begins:

“The latest Man Booker International prize, awarded on Tuesday to the absent figure of Philip Roth, has been a car crash. Or rather, an unfortunate series of avoidable collisions between the Booker limousine and the oncoming traffic on the four-lane highway to the top of Mount Parnassus.

First, there was John le Carre’s refusal to co-operate: the author of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold asked to be removed from the shortlist, on hearing he was in contention for the prize. The London book specialist Rick Gekoski, who was chairing, handled that pretty well.

More embarrassingly, this was followed by one of the three judges, the ex-publisher Carmen Callil, withdrawing from the panel in an outburst of literary road rage after Philip Roth was named as the 2011 winner.

Finally, Jonathan Taylor, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, proceeded to throw kerosene on the smouldering wreck by claiming, in the course of some snooty and ill-judged remarks to the diners in the London ceremony held in Roth’s absence, that the prize he’s been in charge of for the past several years was now the world’s premier literary trophy, superior in fact to the Nobel.”

And lastly:

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Shortlist

Head’s up from Mystery Fanfare on the shortlist of a crime novel award I was previously unaware of. The delightfully named prize also includes a delightful award:

“The winner will receive a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.”


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