WBN is fast approaching and I’ve now collected my 25 copies of Someone Like You from the wonderful Camden Lock Books at Old Street.
I chose Someone Like You because reading it as a child I loved the brevity and the complexity of the stories. Or possibly I loved the fact that each story raced towards a twist that was, on the whole, dark and fantastic and, well, twisted.
Flicking back through the book now it’s absurd how clear my memories of the stories are; without looking at a word I could tell you what happens in Taste, in Lamb to the Slaughter, in Man From the South. Dahl weaves his magic and without even realising you find that his stories lodge themselves unbidden in your mind.
WBN’s remit is the promotion and celebration of reading and literacy. If ever there was a book to encourage someone to read, this is it.
Friend 1: Morning. You’re looking rugged today.
Friend 2: (strokes facial hair) Thanks bub.
Friend 1: Hah. Kudos for the Wolverine reference.
Friend 2: Say what?
Friend 1: No? He says it in the comics a lot.
Friend 2: Oh . . . okay . . . So you got time for a coffee?
Friend 1: Sorry mate, no. I flew in to Starbucks on the way in. Had time to grab a banana too.
Friend 2: And kudos to you for Groucho Marx reference.
Friend 1: ??
Friend 2: ‘Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana’?
Friend 1: Um . . . no.
Friend 2: Oh.
A few years ago I had the idea of a story set on a bathysphere, sunk deep below the waves. The crew would have been small, four or five, and the cable would have snapped, plunging them down, down, down to the depths of the ocean. Back on board the research ship a reporter for the London Express would have been sending telegrams back to England about the disaster, rousing interest and sympathy in equal measure. The captain of the ship was named Rachman. His father was a tailor. The first mate, unnamed so far, was a coward, though it was only when Rachman was knocked unconscious in a mishap that this cowardliness became evident. In the great depths of the sea they would have been almost blind, but the phosphorescent glow of tiny sea creatures would have been visible in the black, like stars in space. Later they would rise to the surface somehow, and find themselves the other side of the world than when they started. I had been reading a lot of Alan Moore and Jules Vern at this point, and the sketch, and idea, are obviously influenced by this. Something to come back to in the future perhaps.
A sketch drawn one lunchtime:
The text reads: The history of the explorers of the oceans is long and varied. From China to the Persian Empire, from Aristotle’s tales of Alexander the Great sinking deep beneath the waves, to sponge divers in India and village girls diving for pearls in the Philippines. The sea holds many attractions and many terrors. In 1903 a new diving bell was built in the docks of Liverpool. Not really a diving bell at all, this steel ball was built to sink many thousands of feet in to the churning waters and then hang suspended, a tiny point of light in the engulfing inky darkness. A bathysphere.
Searching Google Maps for how to get somewhere near Kings Cross I stumbled upon the ‘Pirate Bookshop’. Despite the name this is in fact an unlicensed sex shop (or was, it’s now been closed down) and was owned by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s mother.
Books, pirates, sleeze and the mother of a celebrity. It’s a bizarrely wonderful amalgam of facts.