On reputation (2)


It’s complicated.

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.

‘No, sorry.’

‘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?



  1. I’ve been following your blog, especially since you started back writing new entries in the fall. I have done this bookstore search for poets I love who are “not in the system.” In fact, I myself am one of them. Last year I wrote this poem about the experience:

    Passed Over


    As a gold coin
    buried in the dirt,
    as the primary leaf of
    a crabgrass plant
    in the garden.

    I feel sad and angry,
    questioning my worth,
    knowing I shouldn’t care
    if I don’t get chosen
    for that residency,
    or that other residency,
    or the last eight residencies
    I’ve applied for.
    I ask myself: what is it about my work
    that makes it get passed over?
    is it mediocre , slipshod, shallow?
    Or is it me, the old lady,
    Who lacks a promising career?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad to say that my favourite local bookshop goes to the ends of the earth to order stuff in for me. The idea of being told to go online would have me hot-footing off to find a new favourite local bookstore.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a great post about reputation.
    As a side issue – my penultimate novel ( currently selling better than my last one) is no longer available on Amazon, but anyone can order it from an independent bookshop.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so sad, can’t believe it! Someone with only the slightest sense for business would have ordered the book for their customer (even if they do it online) just to appreciate the gesture. I’m so glad my local bookshop always makes an effort. Hope they remember the author you were looking for next time…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.