Just because you are a successful author doesn’t make you a nice person.
Susan Hill CBE author of such novels as The Woman in Black and The Mist in The Mirror recently cancelled a scheduled appearance at my local bookshop the Book Hive in Norwich for its apparent “anti- trump bias”. Instead of informing said bookshop she wrote a vitriolic and utterly fictitious (obviously) account of the London Street establishment for Boris’s erstwhile organ, (The Spectator), demonising them for not conforming to her idea of what a bookshop should be and condemning them for apparent “censorship.”
Needless to say, her skewed idea of censorship and the practice of independent retailers has caused something of a backlash, which could only be expected from an institution citing the likes of Stephen Fry and Simon Armitage amongst their supporters. Incidentally the resonating frequencies of this particular situation bring to mind Alan Partridge’s celebrity interview ordeal captured brilliantly in season one episode five at The Linton Travel Tavern on Junction 9 of the M11.
The Book Hive have offered continuing support for tmrw magazine and it is only right that we decry the injustice that has been served by the piece that The Spectator have allowed to be published. Independent businesses, specifically those dealing in literature have a duty to offer a wide range of opinion but it is important to note that they also have the right and the privilege to honour their own ideals and reflect the ideals of the village, town or city they inhabit.
To criticise an independent bookshop for not adhering to the odd view that “business should be neutral” essentially means that Ms Hill has not grasped what either “independence” or “book shop” really mean. Book shops are places of wonder and imagination filled with fact, fiction, fantasy as well as social and political comment. They are one of our last bastions of quiet collective culture slowly being eroded away by market forces and technology.
In a 2013 article in The Guardian, Hill lambasted book shops saying “they must work harder to survive”. I can assure her that The Book Hive crew work themselves to the bone providing a breadth of literary genres to their customers whilst reflecting “the prevailing political temperature”, to quote The Book Hive’s online statement. They undermined her journalistic pretensions further by adding: “She would know this had she ever visited, which she hasn’t.”
It has been my honour to live in a city like Norwich where independent business owners vocalise their opinions not in the name of commerce but because in most cases it is the right thing to do. Ms Hill, despite your literary standing you have made an ill-informed choice to fabricate a story about a business whose sole aim is the facilitation and preservation of literary choice in Norwich. As a respected author (of books) It really shouldn’t take a 20-year-old boy to tell you that.
Words by Aaron Powell