The Ghost Writer Archives
During last month's discussion of The Ghost Writer, we couldn't help but focus on the stories within the story because they play such a large role in the progression of the overall plot. "Seraphina" and "The Revenant" are written by Viola Hatherley, an author who didn't exist until John Harwood invented her. Other past BookBlog selections also contain stories within the story. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino [May 2004] refers to novels that never were. And Cervantes' Don Quixote [November/December 2002] would have stayed home if it were not for tales of knights errant and their noble adventures.
Keeping track of virtual books requires a virtual library:
The Invisible Library - The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library's catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound.
You won't get to read any of the books cataloged in The Invisible Library, but it's a fun web site nonetheless. For book geeks everywhere.
Good-Bye John Harwood, Hola Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Iím sure all the participants in our discussion of The Ghost Writer would agree that it has been a good one. The novel has a complicated plot structure that discusses well since we were able to help each other figure out what happened when and who did what to whom. A great book club choice, Daisy!
For future discussions, I changed the way the homepageís left sidebar looks so everyone would have access to both new and used copies of the books. I also added links to first editions and signed copies in case thatís your thing.
As of right now, there are six copies of Chronicle of a Death Foretold signed by Gabriel García Márquez available on abebooks.com. The prices range from $450 to $1,000. Whoa! I realize heís a Nobel laureate and wonít be signing too many more books since heís nearly 80 years old, but damn. Thatís a lot of money for an autograph.
In contrast, Harwoodís signature is currently going for a paltry $35 to $45. Heís a good writer. The Ghost Writer is his first book. Anyone else seeing an investment opportunity here?
The Ghost Writer
I loved re-reading The Ghost Writer. The first time I read it, it was near Halloween, so the creepiness was perfect, but even in the sauna-like heat of a New Orleans July, it gave me goosebumps.
A few questions to get us started:
1. Why did Gerard never wonder how Penfriends International got his address in the first place?
2. Why did Alice present herself as paralyzed and orphaned? Why couldn't she just have been a regular kid Gerard's age?
3. Viola's stories mirror Gerard's life at the time he reads them: he read "The Gift of Flight" in the British Library, where it was set; he read "Seraphina" at the same time that he was chasing a redheaded girl only he could see. Was this too much of a stretch, or a useful literary device?
4. The end of the book leaves us a lot of questions. It seems that Phyllis slept with Anne's boyfriend and then purposely (or not?) caused her to suffer radiation poisoning. Does this fit with the Phyllis we knew as Gerard's mother?
5. Why was Anne/Abigail/Alice so determined to get revenge on Gerard? He was, after all, innocent. Was it related to the other baby Gerard that was probably Anne's boyfriend's son?
6. Many critics say that the book really fell apart at the end, with the dramatic cellar scene and the fire. What do you think?
Yesterday, I had a very nice conversation with the very nice manager of online marketing at abebooks.com. The phone call came about because he sent me an e-mail about doing some promoting here on BookBlog, and I didnít delete it like I normally do when I get requests for advertising. See, the difference was that he said nice things about BookBlog rather than the usual pitch to sell or review crappy books for a crappy publisher. (In a former life, I worked for a crappy publisher for eight years. I know crappy books.) I think the phrase that made me keep reading his e-mail was ďpersonal fan of your blog.Ē You have to pet the pony before you ride it.
Intrigued, I took a look at abebooks.com and instantly liked it. Itís sort of like the Amazon used book marketplace except that the sellers are real used bookstores and not joe schmoes trying to clear out some shelf space in order to make room for the next Harry Potter book. And I love used books. I really do. When I go on a pilgrimage, my Mecca is Strand Book Store, the most fabulous shop ever for real book lovers. Now that most of the independent bookstores have been squashed by latte-pushing super retailers, the used bookstore is the only place to go for that great musty book smell. Online shopping for used books isnít quite the same as doing it in person since you canít run your hands over all of the old bindings, but it isnít half bad because you can easily find exactly what you want.
For example, letís say youíre interested in buying this monthís selection, The Ghost Writer by John Harwood. By doing a quick search on abebooks.com, you can find:
Wasnít that easy? A trip to the used bookstore usually involves climbing over mountains of old books, scaling 20-foot shelving units being held together by one rusty screw, and dealing with employees who canít find anything since theyíre all classics graduate students only working there for the discount. I enjoy an adventure when Iím browsing, but Iíd rather get what I want and get out when Iím looking for something specific.
And I put my money where my mouth is. My copy of Noir from the BookBlog library (currently housed in a pile next to my bedroom door) has gone missing. Itís out of print, and I have already placed an order for a gently-loved replacement from abebooks.com.
So, donít be surprised if you find a bunch of abebooks.com stuff popping up around here. I wouldnít suggest the site if I didnít think it was good for books.