Chapter and Verse on the perils of news books

THE film director John Waters – Baltimore’s beloved Pope of Trash, with his pencil thin moustache and fine eye for comedic sleaze – is a massive bibliophile.

His stand-out dating advice is that if you go back to someone’s house and they have no books you might want to consider your options. (What he actually says is ‘don’t fcuk them’, but I was being polite). He also says that the greatest luxury of success is, for him, being able to go into any book shop, and buy any book without having to look at the price tag. Forget your yachts, your cars, your gold plated golf clubs – for the genuine billionaire, happiness is a warm book.

I like this idea so much that I recently got a job in a book shop, where the long hours and terrible pay would be balanced out by sitting in a cave of books, all available at a hefty staff discount. I lasted four hours. The experience left me filled with new love for my long-term job – this one, where books are also part of the deal.

As a profession, journalism may be as secure as polar bears clinging to melting icebergs, but at least we get free books regularly. So we can read as we drown.

Sometimes though, you might just hit the eff-it button and find yourself in a Waterstones in book-buying blackout, where you emerge hours later laden with a bag of new titles and a badly injured debit card.

There is probably a 12 step programme for this, and if there isn’t, maybe I should start one. Bookaholics Anonymous, where we admit that we are powerless over bookshops, that 3 for 2 are our downfall, that once we start we cannot stop.

It is during one such episode that I stumble across the new John Waters book, about him hitch hiking across America carrying a cardboard sign saying “I’m Not A Psycho”.

I add it to the growing pile in my arms, which I will later have to cull a bit before reaching the till if I still want to pay this month’s gas bill. (I love Russell Brand’s definition of ‘cull’ – it’s when we kill something lovely. Did we kill it, sir? No, we culled it. Is it dead, sir? Yes it is.)

All around are the mountains of new books, hundreds of them, since Super Thursday dumped its potential Christmas presents all over the shop tables.

Russell Brand stares up at me, endearingly messianic and well placed at the front of the shop.

Behind the till, and considerably less prominent, is a new book from John Lydon. Aha! So that’s why he has been slagging off Russell Brand. Lydon has a book to flog.

For a moment, the excitement of my armful of books is tainted by the whiff of greed and cynicism.

Katie Price publications aside, aren’t books meant to be a little bit sacred? Do you need to be horrible about someone more successful than you, in order to get your own book noticed?

Because it shouldn’t work that way, should it?

Chapter and verse on the perils of news books

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Saturday, June 12, 2021

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