Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Casual Wait - Further Musings from the Daughter of a Mad Book Collector

Despite all the indifferent to bad reviews, I still want to read JK Rowling’s "The Casual Vacancy". However, with no desire to start reading the 500 page tome straightaway, today I reserved a copy at Cambridge Central Library. Now, according to their online catalogue the book isn’t actually on the shelf yet but is ‘on order’. The system is clever enough to allow me to reserve it for when it does arrive – though to my horror, I discovered that I am in a queue with 102 people ahead of me. Considering that you’re allowed to have the book at home for 3 weeks this means that – assuming people borrow it for the maximum period – it will be at least 6 years before I can check it out. Of course, taking into account the book’s not inconsiderable length, plenty of people will need longer than 3 weeks to read it and will be more than happy to incur the modest daily fine the library charges. In other words it might take up to a decade before I start reading it! Now the library might decide to order more copies considering the demand is so high – though I note that there are still 126 holds on "Fifty Shades of Grey" so they haven’t quite kept ahead of trends in adult fiction (or perhaps, just aren’t willing to succumb to it).

Now there is another option for getting a copy of "The Casual Vacancy" without going down the Amazon or Waterstone’s route. I just might find it in one of the many charity shops that line Cambridge’s Mill Road before it gets to the library, and if so, I’m unlikely to pay more than £1 for it. (In fact you can buy a whole set of Harry Potters for not much more than that in the RSPCA shop.) A recent scan of books in Salvation Army and Arthur Rank Hospice indicates that it takes around 4 years for books to make it into one of the 3 for £1 book boxes. For example, I picked up a copy of Heather O’Neill’s "Lullabies for Little Criminals" (publ. 2008) the other day, and recent publications by John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, and Jodi Picoult are never hard to find. "One Day" was first published in 2009 and you can easily spot its distinctive orange cover in nearly every charity shop, but according to the library catalogue, there are reservations on every copy in the Cambridgeshire area (except in fact for St Neot’s, where the large-print format is available). So, will "The Casual Vacancy" arrive in the charity shop or the library first? We’ll have to wait and see …

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