We live among a host of stories; all our narratives are laid bare, they are written, they are published, and then they are forgotten. At my last count, there were 67 books in my local Waterstone’s bearing the grand label ‘Sunday Times No. 1 International Bestseller’. I don’t take the Sunday Times, and so I can only speculate as to their system of lists; but what I want to do is to write a No. 2 Bestseller because, as far as I can judge, there are none on the market, which would make it paradoxically unique. What would happen, I wonder, if it sold more copies than one of the 67 No. 1 Bestsellers? Might it then appear that I had ‘sold out’? I think of the fragile hopes of B.S. Johnson, with his wholly novel ideas for books (his wholly bookish ideas for novels) and of his fate, and shudder. It does not do to upset the established order which, after all, supports such a catalogue of wealthy interns to do publishers’ heavy lifting. That’s what Terry Pratchett said, isn’t it, when asked why he’d become a writer – ‘Well, it doesn’t involve any heavy lifting’. I’m sure there have been times when it did.

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