Well. We’re sitting here quivering slightly because we’ve done something rather rash. We’ve bought a second-hand bookshop.
Actually, we’re pretty excited about it. Like many good things, it came to us in a serendipitous way. Not many months ago word reached us that Nick Dennys, the owner of the Gloucester Road Bookshop (123 Gloucester Road, London SW7) was looking for someone sympathetic to buy the business. The bearer of the news wondered if we might be interested.
Nick, who is a nephew of Graham Greene, has spent most of his working life in the second-hand and antiquarian book trade and has built up a reputation as a highly knowledgeable and disarmingly unconventional bookseller. (Word has it that when one of his regular customers moved and could only get to the shop early in the morning, Nick gave him a key to the front door. The customer would drop in once a week before work and leave a cheque for his books on the table.) It all seemed to fit with our idea of what a bookshop should be like – welcoming, human and slightly eccentric – so we went to visit, and liked the place immediately.
But ‘Are you mad?’ we can hear some of you murmuring. ‘In this climate!’ Well, possibly. But we do remember that quite a few people were equally apprehensive when we started Slightly Foxed. And to us it does seem a logical move. For one thing, we’re aware that quite a few of you feel happier ordering books directly from a bookshop rather than via the Internet. We intend that our bookshop will stock good reading copies of out-of-print books mentioned in Slightly Foxed (as well, of course, as a wide range of other second-hand books) and new books from interesting publishers. So if you’re on the hunt for a particular title, do please give the shop a ring (020 7370 3503) or drop the staff an email ([email protected]).
What we envisage is a really individual, friendly, well-informed bookshop that will stimulate customers’ interests and provide a showcase for Slightly Foxed itself and the Slightly Foxed Editions, as well as for books old and new. It will be a place, too, where we can hold events and introduce readers to some of our contributors. And of course we hope that any of you visiting London at any time will drop in. It’s only a step southwards from Gloucester Road tube station and you’ll be warmly welcomed by Tony, our very experienced manager, Aimi his deputy, and Jane and David, who will be working for us part-time – all of whom have long been fans of SF. At the moment we’re still settling in, but by the spring we hope to have finished rearranging and painting and titivating and made the place our own.
Meantime, on p.15 Grant McIntyre introduces the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions, James Lees-Milne’s irresistibly comic yet poignant memoir of his early life, Another Self. Jim, as he was always known, was probably the twentieth century’s best-loved diarist, chronicling the doings of upper-class English society from the Second World War onwards in twelve addictive volumes. This account of growing up in a vanished world is a wonderful antidote to winter gloom, and not to be missed.
And finally, something else for the long dark evenings. We realize that you subscribers are a pretty literary lot, so this year our Christmas competition takes the form of a literary crossword. You’ll find it tucked into this issue. Entries should reach us no later than 14 January and the first correct one to be drawn out of a hat will receive a free subscription. So why not settle down with a warming glass and have a go? Meantime, against all the odds, we wish you a very prosperous – and happy – new year.