So, a trip to Tunbridge Wells at the weekend turned up three good finds, all of which came from the Oxfam Bookshop there. Oxfam Bookshops have come in for a fair bit of stick recently from more traditional booksellers; the charge is that Oxfam have been opening up dedicated bookshops right on top of existing secondhand bookshops and thus undermining them and, in some cases, leading to their closure. And you can see why that might be the case: Oxfam get their books for free and can therefore undercut other bookshops. I know the one in Tunbridge Wells is very close to the other secondhand bookshops in the Pantiles district, and I've also seen one in Eastbourne that is just over the road from that town's biggest secondhand bookshop, Camilla's (and I've heard the owner of Camilla's bemoaning the Oxfam shop).
You can read more about this situation all over the internet – there's a good roundup here – but I have to say, the Oxfam in Tunbridge Wells is rather good. They had a good stock (my other half, Rachel, also found a really nice book there), reasonably priced, with modern firsts getting their own section. They also have more stock behind the scenes, which they advertise on AbeBooks. I went in there with the intention of asking about a book I'd seen listed by them on Abe (which I'll deal with in a separate post), but I found a few other things too just browsing the shelves (and at least one book I decided not to buy but wish I had now – c'est la vie).
First up, I nabbed this for a few quid:
A first edition of Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, published Jonathan Cape in 2007 (jacket photo by Chris Fraser Smith). It's not exactly hard to get hold of first editions of this at low prices, but this one was in immaculate condition, and I've been wanting to try a McEwan for a while (either this or Saturday), so I figured, why not? But I was more chuffed with this:
A first edition of Kingsley Amis' I Want it Now, published by Cape again in 1968, with a jacket by George Coral. I've got quite a collection of Amis firsts now, and much as I love Lucky Jim (which I only have in a Penguin paperback first), I prefer the mid-period Amis novels, like The Green Man and (my favourite so far) The Anti-Death League, where Amis was experimenting with genre and different approaches. I Want it Now focuses on pop music and the permissive society; this copy was in really good nick – a bit of edge wear on the jacket, but otherwise bright and with clean pages. And I couldn't argue with the price: £3.75. Bargain.
So, what was the other book I got there? Well. See above...