Every bookshop has a Corner of Shame – that is the resting place for books rejected by customers because considered too expensive. When I last had a bookshop, two years ago, its latest addition was The Death and Letters of Alice James, 228pp, fully indexed with a significant introductory essay, nattily designed, published by Exact Change (almost my favourite American publisher, masterful custodianship of a coherent and vibrant list). The book is an account of Henry and William James’ sister’s neurasthenic illness and fixation with her own morbidity. It’s become a kind of invalid’s classic: Susan Sontag used it as inspiration for a play, and it’s generally held to be a formative infra dig text for those interested in various niche histories.
The book, suffering from the trauma of rejection from its potential customer, has had in depth counselling all day, been on a reiki course, done some yoga with rosemary burnt in its presence, drawn deep breaths of self-worth, and it will return to active duty February 8th, 11am. If you feel kind, then why not call in and buy it? It needs a home to sit proud in, a home that considers it to be worth £9.95 – the price of less than two pints of beer, an evening watching Brad Pitt in Tywyn cinema. See? Love don’t cost that much.
The well heeled who have just counted out the money for their gardener (one, two, would you mind if I pay you three next week?) and who smell of mint humbug and mothball, aren’t always my favourite customer. But am always surprised when anybody can find such a book priced like this to be too expensive. If it were £14.99 or more, for sure. But at £9.95 – a takeaway curry – either you want it or you don’t?