Saturday, December 29, 2007

To order or not to order?

Recently I read a book that I enjoyed so much that I decided I wanted to try something else that writer has written. It was not an educational book. It was a novel, written by Christopher Brookmyre, called The Sacred Art of Stealing.

Actually I bought this book at least a year ago at the big booksale (which didn't happen this year, and WHY NOT?). A couple of weeks after buying it I picked up the book, started reading it and hated it, so put it aside for when I was really desperate.

A few weeks ago I was desperate, so picked it up again. This time I managed to get past the first part, which is a long exposition on the advantages of paid-for blowjobs written from the point of view of a hitman who is hanging around in a small Mexican town waiting for information about the guy he is there to kill. It was this part that put me off last time I started reading. Instead of trusting that this was the character's voice rather than the writer's, I sighed and put the book aside, assuming that the writer was not capable of thinking outside that particular narrow way of seeing the world and that therefore the whole book would be like that.

This time, however, I read on, and discovered I was wrong. I soon found myself totally immersed in a fabulously funny bank robbery (I want to be a hostage! Go on, pick me!), and developing a crush on the bank robber (but not the hitman). I was riveted. The plot was so twisty and tricky that when I finished the book I had to go back and reread bits, which had suddenly changed in the light of what I now knew. And yes, including that first scene, although I still think the blowjob rant was a bit unnecessary. Perhaps that was there to draw in the dumb macho male readers.

Anyway, last week I went into Osaka, to Junkudo bookstore to see if they had anything else Brookmyre had written. They didn't, so I went to Kinokuniya as well. There I discovered that the ever-shrinking English book section had shrunk still further, so that the B section in fiction was only two very short shelves. I think I have more books at home written by people whose names start with B. It is PATHETIC.

That was discouraging.

Today I went into Kobe, to see whether they had anything at Random Walk, my new favourite bookstore. Actually they have a bigger store in Shinsaibashi, but Kobe is closer and easier and less crowded. (If you go to the bookstore site, be sure to scroll down and click on 'how to find our store' for a good example of scrupulously accurate directions. I confirmed for myself today that there is no big red arrow sticking out of the police box.)

Random Walk had one book by Christopher Brookmyre. I got all excited until I realized it was the book I already have. After browsing a bit and only buying two books (a new record for me in that shop, I think), and then wandering around Kobe window shopping, I decided I wasn't really in a shopping mood. I went into a coffee shop, ordered coffee, and was served tea. I don't know how that happened. I definitely ordered coffee. Did I mumble? It wasn't important enough to make a fuss, so after drinking that and reading a bit of one of my new books (an ever-reliable Terry Pratchett), I came home.

It looks like I'll have to use Amazon. I hate using Amazon. It is dangerous. I get on there and think, Well, since I have to pay for postage I might as well get more than one book, because then it's a bit cheaper per book . . . and the next thing you know I've almost bankrupted myself.

But before I visit the Amazon site I thought I'd ask. Is it worth it? Have any of you read any of Brookmyre's other books? Are they as interesting and funny as The Sacred Art of Stealing?


kenju said...

I have not heard of him, but on the strength of your review, I'll look him up.

Contamination said...

BadAunt, you should try BookOff. I've found they have recently doubled their English Section in my city.

torrygirl said...

I recently did the same thing - read the first few pages of a book, thought it was totally rubbish and only re-read it when I was desperate. Only I wasn't so lucky with mine and the inappropriate and unnecessary sex descriptions carried on through the entire book. I suppose that's what happens when you only spend $3 on a book.

If you're looking for some good books, I've recently read 'The 5 people you meet in heaven' (Mitch Albom) and 'The curious incident of the dog in the night-time' (Mark Haddon) - both great reads.

potentilla said...

Can'i help with Brookmyre, but The Book Depository does free delivery to Japan (from the UK). I expect the books are more expensive than they would be from, but they are similar to and certainly cheaper than they would be from a bookstore in Hong Kong (no experience with Japan).

James in Chiba said...

Nearest English bookstore for me is two-hours away in Tokyo. I order from regularly - huge in stock English selection, shipping is free for more than 1500 yen and it shows up in less than 2 days.

...But I still love getting used books in English from friends here and devour anything I get my hands on. Heck, even an old issue of the Japan Times doesn't get a pass. ;)

Happy O-shogatsu.

James in Chiba-ken

Badaunt said...

Contamination: Bookoff, at least in our area, has very few English books. It's better for browsing rather than looking for something specific. Sometimes there's something good, but more often not.

Torrygirl: I've read (and enjoyed) the second, but not the first. Will keep an eye out for it!

Potentilla: Thank you thank you! The prices are comparable to Amazon's, but no postage makes them cheaper. (I've already sent the address to two other book-loving friends.)

James: Maybe the next time I'm getting rid of books I should takubin the lot to you instead of to the Seaman's Mission in Kobe! (I should warn you, though, the last time I got rid of books it was 37 cartons and a VERY mixed bag. Do you have a large apartment? Will you read absolutely ANYTHING?)

Anonymous said...

Badaunt--hiatus after my life changed Oct 23rd...but have kept up reading your blog---the only Brookmyre here is "Quite Ugly One Morning" which I will get when the libe opens---sounds like a cousin to Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men"---sobering, philosophic and catharic pieces, but when comedy doesn't suit....
Happy 08! Kay