A couple of months ago, somebody shoved something called Monocle under my nose. Some kind of style magazine, it didn’t really interest me until I found its tiny books section. (Sadly, I mean a tiny section about books.)
One of the titles mentioned was The White Room, from the new independent publisher, CB editions. It was unusual to see a small press book mentioned in a glossy magazine (or anywhere else, for that matter), and so I looked online and started to find out more about them. What I discovered was very interesting…
More about CB editions in a future post; for now I want to talk about one of their books, Days and Nights in W12 by Jack Robinson.Days and Nights in W12 is a collection of fifty mundane photographs with creative captions. I didn’t like the idea either, until I read it.
The concept isn’t especially original, but the execution is. Normally with this kind of book, you would expect something a bit, well, a bit awful. Cheap, facetious captions, all fifty of which could have been knocked out on scrap paper in a single afternoon. So, as I looked through CB editions’ list of launch titles, I thought this would be the weak point.
What should be a terrible idea, the kind of novelty book that Waterstone’s couldn’t sell to careless sons on Christmas Eve, becomes something rather special in Robinson’s hands. Perhaps it’s his background in poetry, which will have taught him that “short” isn’t synonymous with “flippant”.
Instead, Robinson does what a good writer should do. He looks at the world around him, uses his imagination, and interprets what he sees, according to his own perspective. In that respect, this would be a terrific book for learning creative writing. Instead of buying the latest Ten Spiritual Steps for a Dreamy Writer, buy this book, and look at what he’s done. Then ask yourself: How can I be that imaginative? That perceptive? That concise?
Is it humorous? Yes, frequently, but—and this is what makes it special—it’s not vacuous.
It really is worth picking up and reading, and at £6 it’s very reasonable. As a small press book, it won’t be in the window of your local Waterstone’s, but you can buy it direct from the publisher here.
I’ll leave you with a shed, taken from Days and Nights in W12, by Jack Robinson:
(There’s also a superb interpretation of a photograph of two dogs, which I’d love to include here. But if I quoted all of the amusing, interesting, or unusual pages, this wouldn’t be a review; it would be an e-book.)
A woman lives in this allotment shed. She mixes her tobacco with the dried leaves of some plant she grows here, and she drinks vodka in which the leaves of some other plant have been infused. She wears many layers of clothes and the colour of her eyes changes: green when she laughs, red when she’s angry, yellow when sad, a kind of deep purple when her memory is playing tricks. So many different colours and shades. She has friends who sit with her and talk, and sometimes in winter, when the allotments are untended and there may be snow on the ground, I take a vodka contribution and join them. Often I end up staying the whole night: when her eyes are blue or green the hours pass quickly, and no one wants to leave her alone when they’re yellow.