There I am in the bookshop, the one we all love, looking for a book. No one is around (I am in the poetry section, after all.) I scan the shelves, searching for the book I Absolutely Must Have, having read a review of it in Brilliant Poetry Now. The book is not there of course. And no one is around. So I slump in the corner of the bookshop, waiting, pretending to read The Book Everyone Is Talking About, hoping that someone will come. No one does.
I shuffle down the stairs and make my way to the till. When it is my turn to come to the front of the queue I notice that words suddenly seem very reluctant to leave my mouth.
‘Ltkeo bk ptr please,’ I say.
‘I’m sorry?’ says the person at the till.
‘I’m sorry,’ I begin again. ‘I’m looking for a book of poetry please.’
‘Second floor,’ they say.
‘I know. I mean, thank you. I was there, looking. And it wasn’t there. I was wondering if you have it on your system.’
‘Who is the author?’ the person sighs.
I tell them the author.
‘And the title?’
I tell them the title.
‘You mean you haven’t got it?’
‘I mean it’s not even on our system,’ they say.
‘Not at all?’
‘Nothing at all,’ they say. ‘There is nothing here by that author. According to the system they don’t exist.’
‘But they’re a really amazing poet!’ I say. ‘Genuinely amazing. Poems you’ve spent your whole life waiting for. Funny, moving, the real thing.’
‘No, I’m sorry,’ they say again, eyes still on the screen in front of them. ‘They’re not here. Sorry.’
‘What would you suggest I do?’ I say.
‘Go online?’ they say.
‘But I don’t want to go online,’ I say. ‘I want to support you,’ I say. ‘My local bookshop.’
‘Sorry,’ they say. ‘That’s all I can think of.’
So I go home and go online and order my book from the retailer we love to hate and in two days (two days) there is my book by an amazing poet, with no questions asked.
And I ask you: who has the better reputation? Which of these has the more impressive reputation?