The best little library in Mayfair
Still, you might be lucky. If you are, have a look at the exciting We Think You Are All Morons book-cataloguing system. Gone are the old Dewey decimal numbers which made it all so easy once you'd memorised the fact that, for example, 187.22 meant Ancient History/ Etruscan Ruins/Shards/Muddy/Written by German Author with Grumpy Wife and Piles. Now you get books labelled "HIS" for history and "SPO" for sport and, best of all "GOO". When I first saw GOO I thought it was a critical disparagement; turns out it stands for "GOOd Read"; so it is.
But it doesn't go far enough. We need GOO/SUR (Good Read in which SURprisingly unappealing woman somehow wins the heart of a widowed brain-surgeon) and GOO/WEA (Good Read in which WEAlthy people tart around without any indication of where their money comes from) and GHO/DIC (GHOst-written book by idiot celebrity in which palpable DICkheads annoy the hell out of us for 120,000 leaden words).
Most of all, we need a third sub-category, the "strike-through", if we are to avoid depression and despair. I could have done with it the other day, when, all unsuspecting, I read New Grub Street by Gissing. If only it had had NOV/MAU/HAC on the spine: a NOVel by a rather MAUndering writer which should never, ever be read by aHACk. Because it shouldn't be. You might enjoy it, but I ... I was flat on the floor with dismay, particularly when the terrible pompous columnist starts going to pieces because he feels the pressure of younger, more talented men coming up behind him, and knows his powers are failing.
Not, you understand, that I identify with him. My powers are at their height and the younger men are all bollocks, personifying vapidity with their gritty chins, ironical spectacles, hep cat jive talk and what-have- you. But all the same ... well, I've been giving it some thought, and I'll tell you one thing: I'll not just fade away, ending up doing Out and About with Signalman on the Upper Wallop Bugle. No. None of that.
What I will do is open a brothel. A scandal? I should say so. The number of times I have been embarrassed when entertaining distinguished out- of-town visitors and, towards the end of dinner one's guests say, "Why don't we go and get laid? Why don't we go to some really top-of-the-range whorehouse, preferably somewhere where men's wives go to earn a bit of money on the side, not to mention the sheer erotic charge of offering themselves for sale to all comers, leaving the house saying they're going to pop round and spend the evening with Laetitia and Annabel but they've got the Fogal hold-ups on under the Armani jeans, and the special underwear tucked in their handbag, and they're all excited about what's going to happen to them later - who knows what it could be? - and never even mind the money, the money is just a bonus? Why don't we go somewhere like that?"
And I have to say "But my dear chap, this is England. We don't have places like that." And they look at me amazed, and I have to explain about Mr Blair at prayer, and the Chelsea Flower Show, and chintz, and dogs, and the Queen, and it's all too embarrassing for words.
So, in due course, I shall open one myself. I'll need a nice house, somewhere elegant, Mayfair perhaps. I'll need a butler, and a factotum, and a dwarf, because if you're going to run a brothel you have to have a dwarf. We'll have a damn fine chef, and a damn fine cellar (some of which will be used to keep the wine in, though), and the whole place will be decorated just like a brothel should be, and everyone will be happy. And I will sit there in my book-lined study, a Patricia Nicolai vaporiser perfuming the room with Route du Vetiver, Bach playing gently in the background and the air dancing with sighs of delight and the agreeable chatter of the credit- card machine.
I think I could be very happy. I think we could all be very happy. In fact I can hardly wait, and may have to increase my already astounding level of turpitude in order to hasten my decline and thus my apotheosis. See you there (but Members Only).
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