Between the Covers 18/03/2012

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

As if John Lanchester's new novel Capital was not scary enough in its portrayal of the expensive, fictional London street, Pepys Road – where postcards start appearing through letterboxes reading "WE WANT WHAT YOU HAVE" – now its publisher, Faber & Faber, has launched an online tool asking readers to put themselves in the position of the novel's protagonists and "think about how your own life will be affected by events of the coming 'lost decade'." Uh oh! The site, pepysrd.com, is a "unique interactive story" based on Capital with which readers can engage over a 10-day process. First, the site asks you your date and place of birth, and where you live now – so that it can tell you how your life expectancy, house price and likely salary have altered over your life so far. Those who register will be sent a total of 10 original mini-stories written by Lanchester, along with a series of choices "that shape the course of your story and determine where on Pepys Road you might end up living". For those who haven't run away screaming by that point, this will apparently offer "a captivating projection of your life in 2021". One user who must already be scared by his life projection in 2021 is John Lanchester himself. Based on his birth date of 1962, in Hamburg, Germany, and the fact that he now lives in Clapham, south London, the site reveals that his life expectancy has dropped from 79.8 years to 79.6 years. Let's hope that he has written himself a slightly happier ending.

***

Thank you to the ace literary agent Jonny Geller for the following: How many blurb writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Three – named "Dazzling", "Stunning" and "Electric".

***

It's all change at Waterstones, which dumped the apostrophe from its name in January and is now planning to move its head office from Brentford to its flagship store in Piccadilly, central London, later this year. Between the Covers has been in this business too long and was at the lavish opening party for Waterstone's (as it was then) Piccadilly back in 1999. At the party, a hack stole the name badge of Alex Garland, then flavour of the moment as the author of The Beach, and spent the evening convincing literary London that Garland was a brat. (He wasn't.) Shortly afterwards, the author Tom Rosenthal, a former publisher and contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of Biography, was browsing the shelves and saw, side by side, copies of Lynne Truss's punctuation masterclass Eats, Shoots and Leaves (left), and a notice recommending a book about "the downfall of the Kennedy's" (sic). Rosenthal told a member of staff about the rogue apostrophe, who argued that it was correct. So, now we know where Waterstones' apostrophes have all gone.

***

James Bowen's A Streetcat Named Bob was published last Thursday, having already gone to No 860 in Amazon's chart (the second most popular book about cats) on pre-orders alone. Hodder & Stoughton bought the book, about a homeless musician and Big Issue seller and a cat that he nursed back to health, last August. Pre-publication publicity has included a video on YouTube (ind.pn/catnamedbob) and signings – or pawings – at Waterstones. Bob, who sits on Bowen's shoulder as they travel around on London Transport, has already been given his own Oystercard by Transport for London. Let's hope that fame does not spoil Bob – we all saw what happened to Cheeta the chimpanzee after James Lever's 2008 book Me Cheeta (the fictional autobiography of Tarzan's ape) went to his head.

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