Greenwich Book Time

Greenwich Church St, SE10

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
There used to be several of these remainder books shops around Greenwich, all selling pretty much the same thing, thus prompting me, with Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction, to assume they were run by the same people. I guess I’m not quite as gutted about the loss of these as I am about the gradual death of Greenwich’s legion of quirky second-hand bookshops (I’m still mourning the recent demise of Marcet Books) but even so, the fact that I don’t believe any of these has been replaced by anything at all -not even a Greenwich Inc cafe, makes me sad, and I am pleased that at least one is still with us.

Remainder books rock. I know that it is the ultimate misery for an author, but for me it is an adventure playground of discovery.

The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.
Much of it boggles the mind as to how on earth it ever got commissioned in the first place – take A History of Men and Snakes, The Head-Collector’s Bible and Knitting With Your Pet’s Fur – three of my own personal favourites.
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook
No – what I love are the hidden gems that didn’t work at the time – perhaps a lack of publicity, a bad title, a release-date shared with the latest Harry Potter, an author not quite famous enough – or merely written before their time. They rub shoulders with dodgy celebrity autobiographies, obscure Australian-measures cookbooks and comedy stocking fillers that missed the mark.
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee’s Promenades and Pierrots–One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment
A few years ago they were everywhere, these shops, now I know only of half a dozen in London and most of them have a porn emporium in the basement. As a penniless student, I often found myself in one or other of them – you could fill a carrier bag with reading material for a few coins (well, ok – pound-coins…) And some of them were not only really good, they have become old and trusted friends of mine. Especially the ones that were just a bit too scholarly to be blockbuster material – usually written by some unknown professor without that popular touch that sells multiple copies. They’re sometimes rather hard work but they do occasionally repay the effort, even if, like that free history channel on TV, many of them seem to be based on military tactics of WWII.
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs
In fact there is even one book that I bought as a remainder in the 1990s that I loved so much that I had to cover it in sticky-backed plastic to keep it together (yes I am a Blue Peter child) and its influence continues today – there is a new book out by Greenwich author that I can’t quite bring myself to read yet because it covers the same ground as my fave and I have fears that I will be horribly prejudiced when I come to review it here…
But back to Greenwich Book Time. It’s not all remainder-fare – some are cheap imprints, overstocks and bulk-buys. There are gems to be discovered in here, if you can make the effort and time to delve past the dross. And the perfect time with this particular store is just before going to the movies, while you’re waiting for your mate (who’s always late – yeah – the same one as yesterday…)
They open conveniently late and are directly opposite the Picturehouse (BTW can someone tell me why this shop’s official address seems to be in Greenwich Church St but the Picturehouse – opposite – is in Greenwich High Road?)
Greenwich Book Time is not the ultimate in quality – and it doesn’t pretend to be. But it’s a good place, out of the rain, to meet people – and you can, just occasionally, find a book that will become a personal favourite.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.
Clive James

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