Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Last Christmas Party

So we had our last Christmas Party yesterday at the Alma Tavern – yes, the Alma Tavern – you know the one, it's just outside Wandsworth Town's train station – and no, we are not connected in any way with that establishment, nor are we branching out in other, merrier forms of entertainment.

It was a very good evening of drinks and food with our staff (which can be counted on one hand) and some of our authors – all the ones who were not stuck somewhere else because of the weather or were brave enough to face the one and a half inch of snow that has brought the London airports to a halt.

It was a shamelessly self-celebratory party – this was by far our best year and we felt we had to splash out a little bit. But after my introductory Alma speech we also talked about Italian politics, Russian literature, computers, dying pets and the credit crunch. No, I'm lying, we didn't talk about the credit crunch, but somehow Wakefield was mentioned, and one of our editors said that it was Gissing's birthplace. At that point I turned towards Tibor Fischer, who was sitting next to me, and asked him if he liked Gissing. There was silence around the table. I repeated my question and everyone looked on even more puzzled and embarrassed.

"Do I like 'kissing'?" Tibor asked.

"No – no! Gissing, with a G."

Everyone swore I had said "kissing". It's true I had drunk quite a bit by that time and I may have slurred a bit.

First thing this morning I wrote to Tibor and confirmed in writing, being totally sober, that – much as I admire him – I had said Gissing, not kissing.

He replied that he was extremely disappointed.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Comical Day

I thought today would be panto day, but I double-checked and it was comedy day instead (panto's tomorrow). Well, it truly was a comical day, not just because of the three brilliant stand-up comedians at the corporate event I was invited to, but because my phone went dead, my watch did the same, the event lasted a couple of hours longer that schedule, with the result that by six o'clock I was in no man's land. Everything worked against me – even the notoriously slow Hammersmith & City line seemed slower today – probably was, but it's difficult to know without a watch.

Anyway, I had a great time, and I managed not to get drunk, although there were about thirty bottles of wine on our table, which sat just eight people . . .


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Almost there

It's getting dangerously close to mid-December, and we're already getting into the swing of that most excellent of British traditions: the Christmas party. For us, it started a couple of weeks ago, interrupted only by a couple of "normal" days. It has resumed in full force last weekend, when we had a delightful dinner with one of our authors, and continued yesterday with another great dinner with an author/friends and today with one of the most elegant parties I have ever been to. It was organized by the excellent Pushkin Press, and it was the launch of Marella Caracciolo Chia's The Light in Between, a book I loved when I first read it in Italian a couple of years ago.

One of the chaps who was serving wine was called Alex Estorick – and his surname didn't strike me as entirely coincidental in the context of the party room (we were at Robilant & Voena), where the most amazing paintings were hanging. He was remarkably slow in pouring Prosecco into my glass, and apologized by saying that he'd been asked to be careful about the seven-figure Boucher behind him. I peered over his shoulder: it was a real one, not a copy – and signed.

To be honest, I was afraid of brushing against some of the guests, which seemed even more precious than the paintings. Sophie Lewis was not so careful and poured an entire glass of red wine on her evening dress, which she said she had borrowed from her sister.

Tomorrow, for a change, it's panto day in Richmond – Thursday we've got a Christmas party in town with some big-shot stand-up comedian – Friday it's school disco I think . . . Thank God our own Christmas party is a full week away.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Cloud-Cuckoo-Landscape of Modern Publishing

The "cloud" is now, officially, the next big thing in publishing. Technology blog Electric Pig says that "the cloud is the new frontline in the war for book sales", and Bloomsbury's Evan Schnittman notes that "anyone that has any platform with any legs moving forward is on cloud". I doubt these sentences would have made sense or been understood only a few weeks ago. And I am not entirely sure I understand them even now.

To Mighty Google's move into eBook sales (in the US, so far) – trumpeted to the world on 8th December – Amazon has promptly reacted by launching its own cloud-based eBookstore.

In the meantime, Jamie's 30-Minute Meals has become the fastest selling hardback book in this country since records began (I think). It clocked up around 735,000 as of last week. I wonder how many ebook copies of the book have been sold – if anyone has that bit of information, I'd be curious to know.

So books are not entirely dead for the time being – at least some books. . . There's every reason to remain cheerful.