An honour or a slur

Suzie Eisfelder

I was talking to Arnold Zable the other week and happened to tell him I hadn’t seen his books in op shops or secondhand bookshops too often. I’ve seen so many other authors but not his. A couple of authors I’ve seen come up so many times are Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum. Ludlum writes a quite nice thriller but very formulaic while Brown has interesting ideas but his books are not terribly good. I’ve read quite a number of Ludlum’s and have only recently disposed of my collection so I feel I can actually talk intelligently about them, but I’ve only read one by Brown and that’s The Da Vinci Code. I was not impressed by this book, I felt it had so many holes and the writing was just okay, if I’d been at home I wouldn’t have bothered finishing it. Now, what I’m wondering is if it’s an honour or a slur on their writing if you see a secondhand book on sale somewhere. I’m guessing the more copies you see the more likely it is to be a slur. Ludlum and Brown probably generate a huge number of copies of their books and it makes it so easy to get new ones so people probably just dispose of them willy nilly. Authors like Zable, on the other hand, generate far fewer copies of their books and as their writing is so much better then I’d suggest you’d be much less likely to find the books being sold secondhand as people would be more likely to keep them to read again.

I found this lovely article the other day Stars of the Stalls (Edit: removed link as it’s broken) and it talks about booksellers on streetcorners in New York City. It’s an interesting idea and I’d love to see it in action and the author, Simon Akam, talks about his survey of the books and his findings. He even shows us the top 19 books as shown by the number of copies he saw. What I found interesting about this article is the list of books. Most of the authors are top notch literary authors with only a couple of exceptions. The biggest exception I know of is Ian McEwan, now I’m told his latest book, Solar, is not as good as his earlier ones, but I would never have listed him in literary authors. One of the things he discusses is whether it is an honour or a slur to be found in secondhand bookshops.

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