Forgive me if I sound a bit fractious, a little staccato this month; the imminent arrival of the Academy Club downstairs has subjected us to long weeks of shuddering floors and dull reverberating thumps which have inspired a few unforgivable rudenesses to the technicians and craftsmen responsible for them. Unforgivable because they have a job to do as much as we have. It is just that constant requests for brooms, ladders, telephones, lavatories – a kaleidoscopic range of conveniences – can grate when demanded by those creating a subterranean inferno.
It began two months ago when two men, indifferent to the beautiful display of pristine new novels and literary nonfiction which we offer at 25% off the published price, appeared mesmerised by the area just above the skirting board, tucked below the shop window, and alongside the rocking chair in 51 Beak Street. Immersed in Norman Lewis’s escapist wanderings around the world which will feature on our Winter List, I was oblivious to their strange scrabblings until alerted by the word ‘hole’. Explaining that a big hole was required for ventilatory purposes, they politely assured me that they would later fill it up again. It is still gaping as I write. Meanwhile, behind my back, I can no longer ignore excited discussions concerning lavatorial deracinations, dominating as they must the high-pitched whine from an electrician’s drill, and the sawings and groanings essential to the construction of two conveniences.
I am sure it will be all very nice come 12th December when we will be able to pop down for a quick bevvy at any hour. It is just that November is normally one of the quietest months in a habitually somnolent year: the Booker prize has been put to bed – and I very much hope that it will be John Banville who will be the richer for it (The Book of Evidence ABC price £8.25); the Winter List is safely at the printers; and Christmas shopping is yet to come. But there is always a silver lining as they say. In this case, the arrival of my sister Catherine at the Academy Bookclub has done much to soothe my spoilt ill-temper at a temporary disruption. Some members will be familiar with Catherine’s sartorial style, efficiency and charm from her brief residence at the Academy Bookclub last Christmas. With luck, she will remain until D-day on December 12th and for long after that.
The Academy Bookclub offers new published books of literary merit at a minimum discount of 25% off the published price. Literary Review subscribers are entitled to an extra 10%. The only criterion for membership is an undertaking to buy four books a year. For our complete stocklist please contact:
The Academy Bookclub
51 Beak Street
London WIR 3LF
Tel: 01-437 2131