Between The Covers: 21/08/2011

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

Sunday 21 August 2011 00:00

*A bookshop founded 60 years ago by AA Milne's son Christopher Robin is to close.

The Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, Devon, was created in 1951 by Milne junior, who inspired the boy character in his father's famous Winnie the Pooh stories. But present owners Rowland and Caroline Abram have experienced a steep drop in revenue in the past three months, and have been forced to cease trading in September, exactly 60 years after the shop was founded. Four staff members will be made redundant. The Abrams, who have run the shop for 15 years, are blaming factors that will be familiar to independent traders across the country: rising rent and rates, and increased competition from the internet and supermarkets. A reminder to us all that, when it comes to independent bookshops, it's a case of use it or lose it.

*With Stephen Bayley for a father, it was perhaps inevitable that Bruno Bayley might take an interest in design. The 25-year-old has launched a trendy publishing house called Ditto Press, which specialises in making books look like works of art. So far, Ditto's titles have been fairly left-field, but next month he publishes How to Disappear, A Memoir for Misfits, by the novelist and writer Duncan Fallowell. Fallowell is excited after years of working with "dandruff" publishers. "They are all under 30," he says. "Until now, this kind of design-led publishing has been about repackaging out-of-copyright books, or classics, but this is the first time they are publishing a new book." Fallowell's book is far from conventional, however, being part memoir part travelogue, and designer Nicky Haslam is an early fan. Fallowell is typically modest about his seventh book: "Young publishers seem to know what quality is," he sniffs. "Even if older publishers have forgotten."

*Helen Dunmore is one of three leading poets performing at what has been dubbed "The Poetry Prom". It's not at the Royal Albert Hall, and there won't be any music – but it is cheap if you can bear to stand. Taking place on Tuesday at Snape Maltings Hall, in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, the prom allows anyone happy to stand to pay just £6. For that you get to see Dunmore, Jackie Kay and Alice Oswald read their latest works. Seated tickets cost between £10 and £14 – so you could just treat yourself to a seat.

*Alex Clark has kept a low profile since stepping down as editor of Granta in 2009, but don't imagine she hasn't been busy: the reviewer and one-time Booker judge has turned publisher, launching Union Books with fellow Granta ex-employee, Rosalind Porter. Union's first book will be published in February, and is an "environmental memoir" called Moby Duck, about what happened when 28,904 plastic ducks fell into the Pacific. Union's first list has yet to be announced, but it will certainly be eclectic: we learn that they have bought a book by Elisa Segrave, whose memoir of surviving breast cancer, The Diary of a Breast, was a hit in the Nineties. Blue Lady Dancing is a memoir of Segrave's relationship with her mother, a guano heiress who worked at the Bletchley Park code-breaking centre during the Second World War. The book charts how, as Segrave struggles to cope with her mother's alcoholism and Alzheimer's, she finds a stash of her private diaries, in which she reads of her confused sexual past. "I was immediately captivated by it," says Clark. "It's a vivid portrait of a certain time in England, and a very unusual mother-daughter story."

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