Can’t Even Give ’em Away by Colin Cotterill

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I have an impressive bookshelf in my studio. It is filled from ground to ceiling with – wait for it – books. There are hard backs and paperbacks and falling-off backs and no backs at all. I have to say that they are all wonderful books even though there are a number I can’t read, not because they have big words in them, but because they are written in foreign languages. I think we should all feel sorry for people who have to read books in foreign languages because those other languages are so troublesome. Take German, for example; all that spitting and throat raking. Then there’s Japanese with all its huffy expectorations and the firework display of Cantonese. Thankfully, before their translations, all of the books on my shelf were written in English and all of them, without exception, were written by me.

One may consider it vane to have an entire wall of ones own books and I may be that one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go to bookshops and buy them, neither do I sneak them under the flap of my raincoat and run out without paying for them. They are sent to me absolutely free of charge whether I want them or not. It is included in contracts that the creator of the ‘product’ shall be entitled to twenty free copies of said ‘product’. In the beginning it was fun. I’d give them to friends as birthday presents or hand them out to relatives who gleamed when they read their names on the acknowledgement page. The following birthday or Christmas the smiles were less enthusiastic. And then it got to the stage that you’d hand over your gift and they’d feel the shape of it through the paper, throw it on the pile and change the subject. “Not another one of his books?” they’d say that night in bed. “Who does he think he is?”

So, not only did I run out of friends to give books to, I also lost a percentage of the friends I’d started with. I tried donating my books. As I don’t have the je ne sais quoi to read anything in French I handed cinq copies of Le Dejeuner Du Coroner to the library in the university French department. They handed me back quatre. I have twenty copies of Dr. Siri Und Seine Toten (That’s German) and I don’t even understand the title. After days of searching through all the fishing villages to the north and south of us, I finally found a German. He was seventy-nine and married to a twenty-two year old whom I saw laying on his back veranda in hot pants and a bikini top. I was prepared to give him the lot plus the ten CD audio books and every other shipment that arrived on these shores. He was very frank(furt) and told me he didn’t expect to live long enough to make it to the end of a book.

There was recently a competition on this blogsite and the prize was an autographed copy of one of my books. I’d sent the Moore bloke 397 to give away as prizes. It was a hard competition and nobody could answer it – I supposed. So the blogcatcher simplified the question and still nobody replied. He dumbed it down again to the point that even I could answer it but what would I want with one of my own books? Still they held back, those millions of people who read the blog, lurking, waiting for the moment when the prize was changed to something they actually wanted. In the end the question was whittled down to something akin to, “What colour is a blue tit?” Two gentlemen at the extremities of the earth who had obviously just woken up, sent in half-hearted replies and won themselves a copy of my book. As the prize was just the one book I’m afraid they’re under a time-share agreement. But my heartfelt but wary congratulations go to the following two gentlemen; Norman Price of Exeter, England, and John Murphy in Hawaii in the USA. I don’t know about you but they sound like made up names to me.

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