The Trade

Daniel Soar

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.


  • 5 November 2011 at 2:29am
    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.

  • 5 November 2011 at 9:30am
    philip proust says:
    Is there a prize?

  • 6 November 2011 at 10:38pm
    Bob Beck says:
    The China one is more prolix and clumsily-written, so I'll guess it's the history.

  • 7 November 2011 at 12:43pm
    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.

  • 7 November 2011 at 5:53pm
    Samuel Lisi says:
    Google answers the question quickly...
    Daniel Soar's piece from a few weeks ago comes to mind.

  • 7 November 2011 at 9:52pm
    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.

    • 7 November 2011 at 10:34pm
      Bob Beck says: @ alex
      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.

    • 8 November 2011 at 12:01am
      outofdate says: @ Bob Beck
      You were lucky. We had to carry the TV over to the new channel, across two mile of burning slag, etc.

    • 8 November 2011 at 12:42am
      Harry Stopes says: @ outofdate
      And if you told the young people today, they wouldn't believe you.... I certainly don't.

    • 8 November 2011 at 2:50am
      Bob Beck says: @ Harry Stopes
      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.

    • 8 November 2011 at 9:16am
      alex says: @ Bob Beck
      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.

    • 8 November 2011 at 2:23pm
      Bob Beck says: @ alex
      ... you had tea?

    • 8 November 2011 at 5:18pm
      alex says: @ Bob Beck
      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.

    • 8 November 2011 at 8:09pm
      Bob Beck says: @ alex
      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.

    • 8 November 2011 at 8:28pm
      Harry Stopes says: @ Bob Beck
      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?"

    • 9 November 2011 at 8:15am
      alex says: @ Bob Beck
      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.

  • 8 November 2011 at 2:56am
    Saffy says:

    • 8 November 2011 at 2:59am
      Saffy says: @ Saffy
      ' Course, I was replying to you, Bob Beck..

    • 8 November 2011 at 3:12pm
      Bob Beck says: @ Saffy
      'Course -- bah goom.

    • 8 November 2011 at 9:32pm
      Bob Beck says: @ Bob Beck
      ... and, since the software won't let me reply to Harry Stopes directly (too much nesting or something), I'll reply here -- at least to say, I'll happily defer to you on this. Unfortunately I've never been to Lancashire or Yorkshire, and (since alex mentioned Cockneys) only once even been within sound of Bow Bells.

      For what it's worth, Alan Bennett writes somewhere that the shortened "the" or "to the" can resemble a short pause, or syncopation, rather than a positive sound. Does that accord with your experience?

    • 8 November 2011 at 10:19pm
      Harry Stopes says: @ Bob Beck
      Yes, that sounds about right. Actually though, to be precise I'm from Manchester.

    • 8 November 2011 at 11:18pm
      Bob Beck says: @ Harry Stopes
      Of course! Clarke (Cooper Clarke?) is brilliant. I assume that you've seen this as well?

    • 8 November 2011 at 11:49pm
      Harry Stopes says: @ Bob Beck
      No I hadn't seen that, thanks. Is the audio track a real Joy Division TV performance? The bit with the presenter sounds like the guy who played Tony Wilson in Control, rather than the real deal.
      The comments are quite moving somehow: "I was healed for the first time in the tune of Joy Division. I'm sorry for my poor English." for example.

    • 8 November 2011 at 11:58pm
      Bob Beck says: @ Harry Stopes
      It is a real performance, evidently; and the Playmobil video is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the original:

      I haven't found a YouTube version with the presenter's comments, but this clip begins with a bit of "Evidently Chickentown."

    • 9 November 2011 at 12:12am
      Bob Beck says: @ Bob Beck
      A little searching persuades me you're right, and they've spliced the "Control" introduction onto the beginning of the original "Wedge" performance.

  • 8 November 2011 at 3:13am
    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 November 2011 at 12:48pm
    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.

    • 8 November 2011 at 8:17pm
      Bob Beck says: @ Daniel Soar
      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.

Read more