Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bookshop Snakes and Ladders

So in the latest round of KL bookshop snakes and ladders, who's on the way up and who's coming down?

MPH for sure climbs up a fireman's ladder for arranging events for Tash Aw this weekend - a dialogue at the Writer's Circle, two booksignings and a private gathering tomorrow. (Am dying to tell you all about it - have sheaves and sheaves of notes - but have to get my article out first. And yes, I am still alive and totally totally charmed by young Tash.)

Silverfish also climbs a ladder. Although Tash's reading there was hastily arranged, a good crowd came and crammed into the tiny bookshop, and many of them had read the book so asked thoughtful questions. The Chilean wine was good, and there was a wonderful relaxed atmosphere.

MPH slips down a few rungs for not bringing in hardback copies of the book. Honestly! Why didn't they realise that we'd be flocking to get our books signed for posterity?

Borders (which slid right down the biggest blackest snake the other day telling me that it would take 6-8 weeks to get Edward Carey's books which the other bookshops could obtain in half the time) now redeems itself by having anticipated the desire for hardback copies of The Harmony Silk Factory.

Silverfish goes up another ladder because it can get me Edward Carey's books within a fortnight. They have a good relationship with the local supplier, apparently. Responsive, personal service wins the day.

MPH goes up a rung for having a counter selling delicious chocolates and sweets which you can munch as you browse. I laid waste to a bag of sugared almonds while browsing the shelves. (Laid waist to my waistline?)

But I'll make them descend a rung (spiteful, aren't I?) for shelving a novel by Will Self in the psychology section. I guess someone just saw "Self" on the spine and decided it belonged with Freud.

Incidentally, the funniest misshelving of books occurred in Times, Bangsar Shopping Complex a couple of years ago. I found a whole pile of Peter Carey's The True History of the Kelly Gang in the non-fiction section. I went up to the counter to point out that the book was fiction and should be shelved with the novels. The staff there argued that it must be non-fiction because the title said "True History" and refused to move the copies.

I felt so sad for Peter Carey because his books couldn't be selling. When the staff had their backs turned, I picked up the books and transferred them to their rightful place among the fiction.

The next time I went into the store, the books were back in non-fiction. And once again I moved them.

In the end they left the books where I had placed them. Maybe the staff thought there were ghosts around?

13 comments:

Simon said...

some time ago i was quite disappointed with mph for certain reasons, but in recent months i have liked them again for stocking some rare books i were looking for. for me borders was a little disappointing, but i need to visit them more often to really explore the place. silverfish is nice, but since it moved bangsar i've only been there once...

danny said...

Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel was shelved under "Biographies" at MPH. It may have something to do with the tagline - A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years.

Leon Wing said...

I don't think this is happening now in Times KLCC when it was still up on the 1st (or 2nd?) floor. One time I noticed the books were all arranged in an alphabetical order; that's correct, you say - but by first name? Like, you couldn't find Alasdair Gray under G - it was shelved among all other books having 'A' as the first letter in the authors' first names.

BTW, re one of Edward Carey's fav illustrator, I also read Alasdair Gray. His last little book of collections The Ends of our Tethers - absolute gem - is printed and bound in Germany, and has Gray's own signature illustrations : skulls, big eyes, naked.

Simon said...

times klcc is really pathetic! they just stock all the common & popular books. how they plan to take on kino is still a mystery to me...

dz said...

am devoted to kino, amazon.com and silverfish. the rest pale in comparison. went to borders and found it too cavernous to be a bookstore. prefer the borders in SG.

Namra said...

unfortunately at my hometown (bentong) all I have is a mamak styled book stands that only sells gossip magazines, mystic novels, comics (that i doesn't mind!)and love stories, love stories, love stories

It's all snake and no ladder here

Sham said...

Not sure how many of you are familiar with Penang but there is a series of bookshops in Chowrasta bazaar. These guys are stocked up with the latest as well as the rare. Where they get it from is still a mystery especially since they sell the books at below market prices.

bibliobibuli said...

Simon - glad MPH is in your good books again. I've also often found books there that were out of stock elsewhere. Shame on you if you haven't been in Silverfish in a while - drop by for a cup of tea and say that Sharon sent you.

Times KLCC can never hope to take on Kino, but it's conveniently located for folks who are too lazy to go up there. Last week I beheld them snake sliding though. They told someone they didn't have a copy of Culture Shock Malaysia when there it was sitting on the shelf.

Danny - good one! Hard book to shelve though, anyway, isn't it? (Science? History?) That reminds me - it's still sitting on my to-be-read shelf. (Guilt!!)

Leon - Yes, I remember most bookshops used to shelve books in that way. Just shows how far we've travelled in our sophistication.

I'd love to see the illustrations in the Alasdair Gray book - am intrigued after surfing around looking for examples of his work.

dz- Borders in singapore is really nice. still haven't made it to the one in Times Square. Never seem to have time ...

Namra - I've served my time in small towns (Raub, Kuala Kangsar) and know just what you mean. But at least you can browse the websites and by by post if you get desperate. And hey, you aren't so far from civilization!

Sham - I must visit Chowrasta ...

Simon said...

those days i use to work near silverfish DSH, used to drop in every week or so. so if i mention your name i get special treatment? i think the nice owner doesn't like me, he rolls his eyes everytime i come but never buy any books!

bibliobibuli said...

I'm sure the nice owner loves you, just he doesn't always smile. And now there's the warm and welcoming Phek Chin.

Buy books? What a strange idea. Just sit with Phek Chin and have a cuppa and catch up on the gossip. But be warned - she might just charm you into a sale.

And I sincerely believe that it is very bad luck to walk out of ANY bookshop without making a purchase.

Simon said...

didn't notice anyone there other than the indian owner... you're right, he doesn't smile... but i think he remembers me b'coz the first time i walked in (not realizing it was silverfish) i said naively "its a bit like skoob books, huh?" to which muttered something and rolled his eyes...

wow, since i'm broke most of the time i ALWAYS walk out of bookshops empty handed... must be lots of bad vibes on me...

bibliobibuli said...

That was Raman. Well, you didn't exactly start on the right foot did you? What you should have said is wow! this reminds me of Kinokuniya or Foyles in London.

Never tell anyone that you don't have money no matter how much Phek Chin sobs to you that she hasn't sold a single book all day. Just down your tea and run.

Namra said...

oh! you've been (or was it live in) to Raub hahaha how wonderful!! *ek ehem* sorry...easily amused.

So yeah I am not that far from civilization, but I have a distance with the "capitalisation" hehehe