I went to Half Price Books yesterday. It's near the University District, so good to get to see a different part of the city, of course. The university does have its fair share of monolithic buildings, Neal Stephenson's The Big U and all that. I preferred Half Price to the Elliott Bay Book Company, mostly because the books are priced to sell, although as a secondhand shop, there's no chance to be surprised by the unexpected. They have a huge fiction section and I could have spend hours there, but there is only so much time. I should go back and just do the fiction section. You never know what you'll find.
I pulled a (seemingly) random book off the shelves. This was Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler. I hadn't heard of the novel or the writer. Thinking about it, perhaps subconsciously I was attracted to the title because it was similar to the book I wrote 95% of, Sixteen Short Stories About Love. It turns out that Butler is British and came up wth the idea whilst on an Arvon course in 2007 at The Hurst with Maggie Gee.
Now, I've been to The Hurst (In 2010) and Maggie Gee was the tutor of the other group on my Faber Academy and she once talked to me in the lift and praised me for some question I'd asked at one of the talks. So there's a connection of sorts there.
But it always seems odd to find British books in America. When I was a child, America seemed impossibly exciting, exotic, glamorous and frightening. They were days when primetime TV was stuffed with US shows. We were very familiar with the US (or an idea of it), but we never expected Americans to know or care much about us. I remember being in a bookshop in San Francisco, probably that legendary Friday, 31 August 2001 (although it could possibly have been on my first visit in 1990) and coming across a hardback novel written by someone who lived in Aberdeen. I have no idea what novel it might have been, some kind of Hampstead novel by some kind of academic type probably and probably not set in Aberdeen. But I wondered why someone in San Francisco would want to read a novel by someone from Aberdeen (or why a publisher would want to publish it). It seemed an awfully long way from Aberdeen to San Francisco.
Of course, it's not. There are no doubt many people who have made their way from Aberdeen to San Francisco over the past decades and even some who have gone the other way (there's oil in California, after all). But I didn't go, unbelievable as it might seem now, abroad until I was 21 or fly till I was 22. It's only a few hours from Aberdeen to San Francisco (or Preston to Seattle, natch), but the psychic distance? There is one.
I also spotted a copy of Mark Barrowcliffe's Girlfriend 44. Now, that's a book I have actually read, back in the days when I was interested in dating and lad lit and, of course, writing 16SSAL. But didn't the Weasel contact Mr B about something to do with his book on D&D, The Elfish Gene, possibly related to the economics of publishing and the Men Do Stuff genre? And furthermore Mr B is one of the tutors on the Arvon course on Science Fiction and Fantasy in October. He writes fantasy under pseudonyms. But the other tutor is Emma Newman. I must have come across her before because I was already following her on Twitter, but was reminded by bagging a book via BookBub that she has a story in Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales From Shakespeare's Fantasy World. With me failing to sign up for the Hugo House course that started yesterday (perhaps I will have better luck with the latter course on the City), it might make more sense to save my money from the other possible Seattle course and do the Arvon one in the autumn. It seems to be what the World is telling me!
There was also a copy of S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep. That's not such a surprise. It was runaway bestseller now ubiquitously found in every charity shop in the UK, and made in an execrable movie I saw. But Watson was the Faber Academy's first poster child and my tutor (Richard Skinner) helped him a lot with the book and is name-checked in the acknowledgements. Even a continent away and on the far side of that, the world is not always as large as it looks.
Which is the thing. As the Weasel says "Wherever you go, that's where you are". You can take the boy out of Preston or Aberdeen, but not Preston or Aberdeen out of the boy. Not this boy anyway. If it's the same here as there, you might just as well be there as here. Or vice versa, of course. The world is a much smaller place now that it was in 1990, much less the 1890. But people have been crossing the Atlantic for hundreds of years, even if they weren't making it to San Francisco or Seattle until the C19th. I can never get to 1990 or 2001. And yet I have another 20 years ahead of me of working career assuming no personal or global existential crisis and something like the present technoeconomic paradigm continues to operate. Preston is still there and here I am in studio apartment in Seattle. You have to make your home where it is to found.