Delicious/terrifying detail of my buying Berryman's The Dream Songs
from the legendary Scarthin Books
: the book was in the new poetry section (as opposed to second-hand), but a little dusty and grubby-looking. The man on the till noticed this (unprompted – I'd thought it myself but didn't mention it) and checked – yes, it was definitely down in the stock list as a new book, but he knocked £2 off the cover price. Smashing.
Later as I was reading the book, I found tucked inside the back cover the little distributor's sales slip that came with the book when it was first ordered. Which was in late 1992. So it was indeed a 'new' book – it's just that it had lain on the shelf for just over seventeen years
before somebody bought it.
It's almost incomprehensible. The week the book came in and they put it on the shelf (slightly ahead of the book's official publication date in early 1993), I may well have been in the shop browsing, a few months before I did my GCSEs. But I didn't buy it then, even if I saw it. Nobody did. If it was Waterstone's, at some point they would have taken it off the shelves and returned it or fed it to the giant rabbits or whatever it is they do (there sure as hell aren't any copies of The Dream Songs
hanging around the shelves of the Sheffield Orchard Square branch – I looked). That might have seemed the smart commercial decision; it probably was. But if they'd done that, it wouldn't have been there, waiting patiently, when I arrived nearly two decades later. Good books are a slow business.
The more I think about it, the more grateful I am that such things can happen. I wish I'd refused the discount.