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The Trade


Two new book proofs have arrived in the office:


Both are to be published by Faber early next year. One is a history book, the other a novel. Guess which is which.

Comments on “The Trade”

  1. outofdate says:

    I tend to score very low on these test-your-reasoning quizzes, either because I’m thick as two short planks or because I try to second-guess them (which may just be another way of saying I’m thick as two short planks). So, you’d think the Stalin one’s a bad thriller and the China one history, so it’s the other way round.

  2. philip proust says:

    Is there a prize?

  3. Bob Beck says:

    The China one is more prolix and clumsily-written, so I’ll guess it’s the history.

  4. alex says:

    I’ve done this with students using openings to novels & non-fictional reportage. Plenty of speculation but in the end there was nothing conclusive anyone could point to.
    Here I’d agree with Bob, for related but not identical reasons: “Poland 1939” is lettered/designed more professionally. But that in itself isn’t conclusive.

  5. Samuel Lisi says:

    Google answers the question quickly…
    Daniel Soar’s piece from a few weeks ago comes to mind.

  6. alex says:

    Who needs Google? We of the generation who flipped channels to avoid hearing the scores in advance of Match of the Day are made of sterner stuff.

    • Bob Beck says:

      And flipped channels by turning an actual dial on the television set, no less. Remote controls, even if available, were for rich kids and effete snobs.

      • outofdate says:

        You were lucky. We had to carry the TV over to the new channel, across two mile of burning slag, etc.

        • Harry Stopes says:

          And if you told the young people today, they wouldn’t believe you…. I certainly don’t.

          • Bob Beck says:

            No reason they, or you, should. Even though we couldn’t afford telly. We had to take it in turns to stick our heads through a hole in a cardboard box, and act out programs. When we could scrounge a box, that is.

            • alex says:

              you could scrounge a box? We had to take the wire from old coathangers and bras and bend it into a cuboid shape and imagine the sides of the box and then unbend it and put it back in time for tea. It were terrible work. Still, if it meant we saved time over Googling in later life I’m grateful.

              • Bob Beck says:

                … you had tea?

                • alex says:

                  Tea is a time not a commodity. You know the cockney joke:
                  – ‘Ow full is a li’re bo”le of Earl Grey?
                  – Empty – it’s got no t in it.

                  • Bob Beck says:

                    Oh aye; but y’see, we had neither t’ time, nor t’ commodity. Alienated labour, wi’out even t’ illusory compensation of commodity fetishism. True deprivation, and no mistake.

                    I didn’t know that joke, but from your transcription, Cockneys pronounce “bottle” much as outport Newfoundlanders do. Instead of a “t,” a glottal (glo”al?) stop.

                    • Harry Stopes says:

                      Forgive me for taking this conversation seriously for a second, but I think that “the” in Yorkshire/Lancashire speech isn’t quite like that. Writing “neither t’ time” implies that the contraction only takes place at the end of the word ‘the’. I think it’d be more accurate to say that as well as hardening the /ð/ sound into something more like a /t/, my fellow countrymen also cut out the gap between the end of previous word and the ‘the.’ It’s better illustrated with a sentence involving “to the” (which is more representative of this sort of thing anyway). Instead of “Are you coming to the pub?” you could write “are you coming tut pub?”

                    • alex says:

                      I had trouble with the transcription. I put in two apostrophes one for each ‘t’, ends up looking like a double quote mark. But as the joke suggests, there’s no t there.

  7. outofdate says:

    Just for the novels Faber has three in a row. First up is our Inspector Pekkala here, then: ‘It’s summer, 1936 [it’s commas, all the, way]. The writer, Josephine Tey, joins her friends in the holiday village of Portmeirion to celebrate her fortieth birthday. Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville…’ and then the clincher: ‘Baghdad 1917. Captain Jim Stringer, invalided from the Western Front, has been dispatched to investigate what looks like a nasty case of treason. He arrives to find a city on the point of insurrection, his cover apparently blown – and his only contact lying dead with flies in his eyes.’

  8. Daniel Soar says:

    Nice work, people, and I like Bob’s reasoning. What I thought might give it away is the tense in the non-caps text — ‘as the fighting rages in Poland’ v. ‘as Mao lay dying’. But that’s about it.

    • Bob Beck says:

      Shucks, ’tweren’t nuthin’ — though it was a guess I wasn’t all that confident in.

      But then, between history studies and my current employment, I’m quite familiar, alas, with clunky writing. (My dentist says I grind my teeth. I’m not aware of it, but not surprised either). Of course, plenty of thriller writers crank out slaphead material. Take Dan Brown — please. But that’s why marketing departments were invented.

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