Thursday 13 January 2011

British Bookshops Are in Trouble

As if the latest from W's was not depressing enough, there's more bad news from another chain, British Bookshops, which entered administration today. Let's hope something can be salvaged out of it – they had just opened a beautiful shop on Richmond's high street. . .

Lovely to see a second mention of Flaubert's Dictionary of Received Ideas on the TLS. I am curious to see their announced Dictionary of Received Phrases, a spin-off of Flaubert's dictionary of clichéd language. It is true that "mordant wit" or "coruscating wit" or "unvarnished truth" et sim. have been used one hundred billion times, but I think that clichés are nice sometimes – and you can find them anywhere, from newspapers to classics of literature. Take for example the following random passage from Walter Scott's Waverley (1814 – italics are mine):

He gave Edward to understand that the greater part of his followers now on the field were bound on a distant expedition, and that when he had deposited him in the house of a gentleman, who he was sure would pay him every attention, he himself should be under the necessity of accompanying them the greater part of the way, but would lose no time in rejoining his friend.

Clichés are like a cigarette after a long run, or like a McDonald Big Tasty with Bacon in Toulouse at three o'clock in the afternoon, when all restaurants are closed. They are reassuring, they are comfy – and you don't need a brain to understand them. In short, they are needed for quick, ant-like conversation, which is becoming more and more the standard of human communication.

It makes me laugh when authors declare war on clichés and become clichéd in their attempts to avoid clichés . . . I could give many examples but I'll stop here since, as Leonardo said, "I do not meddle with royal decrees, because they are the perfection of truth".

Anyway, moderately good news from Italy today. Cheers.


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