Between The Covers: Larkin and Dan Rhodes

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

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The Independent Culture

We are not Luddites here at Between the Covers, but as each week brings fresh news about the death of the paper book and the inevitable digitisation of all literature, it is reassuring to see at least one publisher bucking the trend. So thanks to Faber, which is following up the success of its 2009 audiobook of Larkin's The Sunday Sessions with a special vinyl edition to reflect the poet's love of record collecting. The two tapes were recorded by Larkin on several Sundays in 1980, after a succession of lunches with his friend and colleague, the sound engineer John Weeks. They contain 26 of his best-loved poems from the collections The North Ship, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows, and were lost for over 20 years before being rediscovered on a shelf in the garage in which they were recorded. The vinyl edition will be released on 1 March to coincide with Faber's publication of The Complete Poems, and will cost £16.99.


"I write for revenge," said Dan Rhodes in an interview for this paper that was published two years ago this month. "Most publishers are bastards," he added, "they often have an utter lack of regard for their authors." Since his well-published fall-out with his former publisher, Fourth Estate – he declared after it that he would never write again, but soon admitted, "I've downgraded my plans from 'definitely never' to 'dunno'" – the author of prize-winning books such as Anthropology and Timoleon Vieta Come Home has found a happy home at his current publisher Canongate. So it surprised us to read a strange scene in his rather brilliant new novel, This is Life (Canongate, £12.99, 1 March) which seems like another fictional but blatant dig at publishers. In it, our heroine, Sylvie, works a shift on her friend's book stall on the banks of the Seine and takes a fancy to a handsome, male customer.

"He had even chosen to buy a copy of her favourite book of all time, Timoleon, chien fidèle [the title of the French edition of Timoleon Vieta] ..." it reads.

"'I love the ending,' she had said, as she handed him his change. 'It's not easy to read, but it says something that needs to be said. I don't think I could ever really be friends with anyone who didn't get this book.'

'I've lost count of how many times I've read it,' he said, his smile revealing great teeth and dimples ... Sylvie laughed, and they fell into a conversation about the brilliance of the author, and how underappreciated he was, and she told him she had heard a rumour that the last time he had been translated into French his publisher ... hadn't even bothered to send him a copy of their edition.

'It's a scandal if it's true,' said the handsome man."

Happily, we can report that this odd fictional exchange is not the result of a contretemps with Canongate, where Rhodes is still a very contented author, but represents the settling of another old score. "The business [about the French publisher] is a satisfying bit of revenge," Rhodes tells us in an email from his home in freezing Buxton, Derbyshire, where we interviewed him at his kitchen table two years ago. "They published The Little White Car, but never sent me a copy, even though they were contractually obliged to, and copies were requested many, many times. I still haven't seen it. I'm hoping they'll find out about this mention in This Is Life, and be so ashamed of themselves that they'll wind up the business (either that or just send me the frigging copies I'm due)."

Not only has Canongate come up with another beautiful new cover design for This is Life; we're sure that publishers there are far too wise ever to do anything to cross the long-memoried Rhodes.