Between the covers: 16/08/12

Your guide to what's really going on in the world of books

Who said this? "I make it a rule not to puff books but Andy Kershaw's NO OFF SWITCH is sensational. An amazing read. An amazing man." Yes, it's Stephen Fry – the man responsible for more plugs than Armitage Shanks. In 2009, Stephen Fry wrote: "What I'm fed up with ... is seeing my name on the fronts, backs and flaps of books saying things like 'a beautifully paced, unforgettable thriller', 'a magnificent feat of imagination', 'a delicately realised and vividly felt journey through memory and desire', etc etc. Yuckety, yuckety, yuck. Pukety, pukety puke ... isn't there a law of diminishing returns at work here? I am fully aware that each peal of praise trumpeting a new book must be worth slightly less. The coin gets debased: instead of crying 'Wolf!', I'm crying 'Gold!', but the effect is the same …" In the same blog, of course, he went on to puff "a truly amazing book". Andy Kershaw is "humbled" to have Stephen Fry big up his book, he tells


In the nearly four years since the first Literary Salon at Shoreditch House in London, salonierre Damian Barr (inset, bottom) has interviewed writers including Diana Athill, Louis de Bernières, Jojo Moyes, Brett Easton Ellis, David Nicholls, John Waters, Helen Fielding, and, last week, Shirley Conran and Clare Balding (inset, top) over a Hendricks and tonic in the increasingly cramped and sweaty room. (All the more sweaty after Conran read an S&M scene from her newly reissued novel, Lace, and Balding explained why she licked radiators.) So who will interview Barr next February when he reads a sneak preview of his own memoir, Maggie & Me (Bloomsbury, 9 May 2013) at the salon? "Diana Athill is going to come in and interview me about the book," he confided to Between the Covers. Athill is the author of acclaimed fiction and non-fiction, and the editor of writers including Norman Mailer, John Updike, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Rhys, but can she fill Damian's bar stool? We'll see.


Do booksellers do more embarrassing things than other professions, or are they just keener to share them? Either way, they have a whole chapter to themselves in the new ebook No, It's Us Too, written by "the general public" and published by Hodder to coincide with the launch of Miranda Hart's book, Is It Just Me? (Hodder & Stoughton, £20). "I once got totally, utterly stuck under the counter of a shop and had to be rescued by security," says one. "I was the manager." Another shares: "I went to a Dick Francis book launch at the Ritz. Took a corner too quickly and fell over the harpist." That's to say nothing of bookseller Josh, A&E and the two grapes. Get well soon, Josh!


Congratulations to Margaret Atwood, who has received the rare honour of having a blend of coffee named after her. Balzac's Atwood Blend is a bird-friendly coffee sold "to help raise funds and awareness for Canada's Pelee Island Bird Observatory", and the author and environmentalist is thrilled to be involved, she says. "We wanted it to be a coffee she loved," the Toronto-based microroaster told "She knows her coffee and was very specific about her preferences. She sent it back a couple of times for tweaking and, I think she nailed it."