Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Three From Shearsman

I’ve been looking through the Shearsman Press 2010 online catalogue recently and have been impressed with the variety there. Three books in particular caught my eye.

The first illustrates the power of an interesting review. On the Governing of Empires by Alasdair Paterson is billed as a poetic document for the “imperially and post-imperially inclined,” and you’ll see from the .pdf sampler how that looks in practice. I’d read James Sutherland-Smith’s review of the book about a week before and had reckoned that anyone who thought John Ash’s collection was terrific had to be worth listening to. The review didn't make me buy the book on its own, but it did lead me to investigate further and now I am going to buy the book.

Incidentally, speaking of reviews, The Opposite of Cabbage could really do with a few Amazon reviews. I’ve been told it really helps with sales and it’s languished without any Amazon reviews for its entire existence. If any of you who enjoyed the book would like to write a review at Amazon, I’d be very grateful. An Amazon review doesn’t need to be long or detailed. A sentence or two is fine, along with as many stars as you can bring yourself to give, of course. In fact, good examples can be found at the Amazon page of On the Governing of Empires – three short, pithy five-star reviews!

Anyway, back to Shearsman. The second title which drew my attention was A Curious Shipwreck by Steve Spence. Now, again, this illustrates the power of title recognition. If a book seems familiar somehow, if it’s been ‘talked about’, then even relatively marketing-resistant readers like myself will notice it before others, and this book had been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. So I clicked to read more. At that point, when I read about the book and read the .pdf sampler, the prize begins to mean sod all. I either like it or I don’t. In the case of this book, I felt naturally well disposed towards it. The first lines grabbed me and I liked the tone. I wasn’t quite sure always what was going on, but I still wanted to keep reading. The pirate theme was intriguing and, when I read Steve Spence’s interview at Stride magazine on the parallels he was trying to draw with contemporary culture, that got me more interested still.

The third book was Alan Wall’s Doctor Placebo. Why did I click on that? Was it something to do with the title, the cover, the blurb? I’m not sure, but I did click on it and found poems which made me think immediately of Zbigniew Herbert’s ‘Mr Cogito’ (not the first time I’ve thought of Cogito when confronted with a new collection) – the searching character, the philosophical enquiry, the barbed sense of humour, the pointed ironies. I’m not sure whether this book has been published yet (due ‘October 2010’), but it looks exactly my kind of thing.

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