My publisher has asked me to write a brief letter to you about my new book, Paper: An Elegy.
The book is a cultural history of paper in its many forms and functions.
It is an attempt, I think, to show how and why humans became attached to paper and how it in turn became engrafted into our very being – or at least how it became engrafted into my very being.
I am, I will happily admit, a paper kind of a person. I grew up reading comics and then books, and more books, and for many years I worked as a bookseller in Foyle’s bookshop on the Charing Cross Road in London, loading and unloading boxes, organising and arranging books on shelves, dispensing invoices and receipts. Foyle’s was my unofficial university. It was the place that made me the writer I am today.
I suppose all writers have some kind of ideal reader in mind: their mother, maybe, or their father, their friends, or other writers they want to sound like or impress. My ideal reader is probably myself, back in Foyle’s, sneaking a quick look at all the new books as I unpacked them from the truck in the loading bay and wondering if I might one day be able to write a book myself. Well, I have, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s a bookseller kind of a book.
With many thanks to you for considering stocking Paper: An Elegy, this letter comes also as an open invitation that if you ever find yourself in Ireland, to get in touch, and I will buy you a pint of Guinness and we can talk books, and stocktaking, and invoicing, and weep for the plight of Western civilisation.