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The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale

Arts & Culture Podcasts

THE BIBLIO FILE is a podcast about "the book," and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by Nigel Beale it features wide ranging, long-form conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and many others inside the book trade and out - from writer to reader.




THE BIBLIO FILE is a podcast about "the book," and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by Nigel Beale it features wide ranging, long-form conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and many others inside the book trade and out - from writer to reader.







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Christopher Long on the Genius Graphics of Lucian Bernhard

“Lucian Bernhard (1883-1972) was one of the great founders of modern graphic design. In a career spanning nearly five decades in Berlin and New York, Bernhard laid the foundation for a new language of form and communication. His brilliant posters, advertisements, book designs and typefaces created the very look of the twentieth century and beyond. In this lavishly illustrated book, noted design historian Christopher Long traces Bernhard's life and career, uncovering new truths and demolishing old myths.” Long studied at the universities of Graz, Munich and Vienna, and received his doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 1993. Trained as a cultural historian, his dissertation was a study of the Viennese architect and designer Joseph Frank. He has since written extensively on various aspects of Central European Modernism and has published monographs on a number of notable central European emigre architects and designers in the United States. We talk about his latest, Lucian Bernhard. I learned about it from Steven Heller’s essential Daily Heller, and was thrilled to see that it was published by Kant Books, based in Prague. All I had to do was to walk about ten minutes from my apartment doorstep to my favourite bookstore, Kavka Books, to pick up a copy.


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Nick Anthony on AI, and writing his first Novel

I interviewed Nick Anthony a year or so ago about his experience writing a first novel and getting parts of it work-shopped. Today I catch up with him to find out what he’s been doing and where he’s at now on the road to getting his first book published. We talk about, among other things, how AI has helped him in the writing process; subjective and objective readers; the difference between screen writing and novel writing; Noam Chomsky on plagiarism; Elon Musk on Harry Potter; chess; photography; Joyce’s Ulysses; Marcel Proust writing about me going to the corner store to buy a bag of milk; and more. The “Josh” I reference towards the end of the conversation is Josh Dolezal, who was a recent guest on The Biblio File podcast. He talked about, among other things, the experience of trying to find a literary agent.


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John Sargent on beating Amazon & Google, and saving Books

John Sargent was too young to fight in WW ll but he spent years battling Amazon and Google in the trenches on behalf of publishers and authors, protecting copyright and defending book prices. John grew up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. Over forty years he worked at six publishing companies, including Simon & Schuster where he was the publisher of the Children’s Division, and Dorling Kindersley where he was CEO. For the last half of his career he was the CEO of Macmillan. He’s the author of three children’s books and is currently chairman of The Ocean Conservancy. We met via Zoom to talk about some of the fights he’s had over the years and other stories presented in his new memoir entitled Turning Pages, The Adventures and Misadventures of a Publisher. We also talk about crying and bravery, McDonald’s, Monika Lewinsky, George Bush Sr., suicide, Donald Trump, fucking sea urchins, and more.


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Joshua Doležal on being a Book Coach

Joshua Doležal is a writer and award-winning teacher with 20 years of experience in publishing and editing. His mentor was Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prize winner. Josh's work has appeared in more than 30 magazines including The Kenyon Review and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His memoir Down from the Mountain Top: From Belief to Belonging was short-listed for the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize. He writes at The Recovering Academic on Substack, AND...he's a “book coach”. What’s a book coach? We met via Zoom to answer this question. Topics discussed include: the roles of a book coach and the qualifications you need to be one; writing tools that Josh recommends his clients use; the concept of defamiliarization; horror films and the element of surprise; three-step strategies for drafting manuscripts; Lisa Cron; James Paterson; turning points, resolutions and reckonings; tent poles and cairns; the importance of discovering things while you write; literary agents; advice for me on my podcast catalogue “book” project; Sting's backlist; pertinent questions to ask yourself if you want to write a book, such as: ‘why are you writing this book?’ and ‘why should readers care?’; plus, much more.


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Andrew Franklin "the best of the best in U.K. publishing"

James Daunt calls him "the best of the best in U.K. publishing, constantly challenging the industry to move on when it drags its feet." Listen to my conversation with Andrew Franklin to learn why. Andrew is founder and, until recently, publisher of Profile Books, an award-winning British independent publishing house which launched in 1996. Best-selling authors on its list include Mary Beard, Margaret Macmillan, Simon Garfield (Just my Type), and Lynne Truss, whose Eats, Shoots, Leaves (2003) sold more than three million copies worldwide and won Book of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2004. Serpent’s Tail, founded by Pete Ayrton in 1986, became an imprint of Profile in 2007. It publishes distinctive, award-winning international fiction. Viper Books, a crime imprint, was added in 2019. I met with Andrew at Profile's offices in London. We talk about, among other things, how much he made off Eats, Shoots, Leaves; selling paperbacks at Hatchards; Tim Waterstone; my tee-shirt; admiration as a key component of successful publishing; conviction and effort, judgement and horse-racing; taste and fashion; tee-shirt designer briefs; "content before commerce;" risk; rom-com; Hilary Mantel; the importance of style versus substance; Goethe; marketing, distribution and sales; taking books seriously; getting the right books into the right hands; freedom of the press; Butler to the World; non-conformism; and Mary Beard's Emperor of Rome. You might want to pay special attention to how Andrew speaks about Mary Beard and her book. And Margaret Macmillan for that matter. The enthusiasm, vigour, conviction. Belief. They're trademarks of all great publishers.


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Michael Schmidt on 50+ years publishing poetry

Here’s how the Carcanet Press website describes him: Michael Schmidt FRSL, poet, scholar, critic and translator, was born in Mexico in 1947; he studied at Harvard and at Wadham College, Oxford, before settling in England. Among his many publications are several collections of poems and a novel, The Colonist (1981), about a boy’s childhood in Mexico. He is general editor of PN Review and founder as well as managing director of Carcanet Press." Michael has been applying his judgement publishing poetry and fiction for more than fifty years “discovering” and rediscovering, along the way, many of the greatest writers of our age. We met at the Carcanet offices in Manchester to talk about, among others things, what he does; Germans in Mexico; the love of poetry; The Harvard Advocate; magazines as good tools for book editors; the importance of the past; the difference between editing books and magazines; poets John Ashbery and Edgell Rickword; writers starting on the left; generous patrons: Baron Robert Gavron; prosody; syllabics; leaving room for the reader; overproduction being a straight path to bankruptcy; an education at Oxford; Milton; the Understanding Poetry anthology; writing letters; the centrality of politics; notions of balance and continuity; principles of permanence and change; the difference between taste and judgement; catalysts; the Yiddish saying: “One word is not enough, two is too many.” Changing literary culture; Wallace Stevens; enhancing, extending and revitalizing the language…all this in tandem with a chorus of Manchester trams piping in, in the background, throughout the conversation.


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Andrew Nash on the value of Publishers' Archives

Andrew Nash is Reader in Book History at the Institute of English Studies, University of London (a leading book history scholar in other words) and Director of the London Rare Books School. We sat down in the stacks at the Mark Longman "Books about Books" Library at the University of Reading (well, actually the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading which is somehow connected to the University and its publishers' archives collections) to talk about a course Andrew teaches ​at the London Rare Book School on how to use/work with publishers' archives. Th​ough this topic may sound a ​tad niche, even for this podcast, it's not. Andrew makes the convincing ​c​ase that publishers' archives are in fact ​of interest to many scholars, and have valu​e precisely because they can be studied from many​ different economic, social, ​and cultural​ perspectives. Publishers' archives​ yield, among other things, fascinating, detailed information about how knowledge and "culture" is “made public” in society. They’re not just about author-publisher correspondence​s, though these in themselves are justly recognized and valued as essential documents of cultural heritage, no, they’re about providing scholars, and the world at large, with rich source documentation, from which all of us can better understand...yes, everything! Archives referenced during our conversation include those of Allen & Unwin, Chatto and Windus, Longmans, John Murray, George Routledge, and The Hogarth Press.


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Sir Tim Waterstone on Building a Bookselling Empire

Sir Tim Waterstone revolutionized bookselling in Britain and changed the country's cultural landscape. He also wrote a memoir, called The Face Pressed Against a Window (Atlantic, 2019). We met at The Garrick Club in London to talk about the book, and about how he accomplished what he accomplished. Topics covered in our conversation include Tim's troubled relationship with his father, his eight children, the creative strategy behind growing the Waterstones empire (starting in 1982); an epiphany in Cambridge’s Heffers Bookshop; Waterstones' "happy" family; W.H. Smith, James Daunt, author support, a combative attitude; offering a huge range of titles for sale and staying open longer hours; Miss Santoro's bookshop in Crowborough; seeing a market and making accessible an unprecedented selection of literature; the brilliance of the John Sandoe Bookshop in Chelsea; the "perfect stock, perfect staff, perfect control" mantra, bookstores as literary festivals, and the importance of book sales per square foot.


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Novelist David Mitchell on What he Does and How he Does it

I was in Ireland recently to interview two of the best novelists on the face of the planet. John Banville, in Dublin, and David Mitchell, in Cork. As a cost-cutting measure I decided to ask them both the same questions: What do you do? How do you do it? Why do you do it? And: Why does it matter? I got diametrically opposed answers. So much for my cherished ambition of capturing definitive, unified explanations of what the best novelists (in this case) do, and how they do it at the dawn of the 21st century. David Mitchell is compelled to make narrative. Better and better narrative. He are his novels, in order: Ghostwritten (1999) Number9Dream (2001) Cloud Atlas (2004) Black Swan Green (2006) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010) The Bone Clocks (2014) Slade House (2015) Utopia Avenue (2020) Ghostwritten takes place all over the world - ‘from Okinawa to Mongolia to New York City’ and is told in interconnecting stories by nine different narrators. It won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (best work of British literature written by an author under 35) and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. number9dream and Cloud Atlas were both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2003 David was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists.’ In 2007 Time magazine included him among their 100 Most Influential People in The World. In 2018 he won the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, given in recognition of a writer's entire body of work. In other words, David is a best practitioner. He lives about an hour's drive from Cork. We met downtown for a taste of the city and a bite to eat. The better part of our afternoon was spent chatting about love and literature, and searching for a quiet place where we could clock our Biblio File best-practitioner conversation. Lovely, colourful city Cork. Tad noisy. We don’t talk much about specific books but we do attempt an "understanding" of the novel writing process in light of how David has gone about creating his wonderful Balzacian oeuvre. Stay tuned for the Biblio File Back-story.


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John Banville on how and why he writes novels

Early on in this conversation there's a dead patch. The mic didn't pick up the glorious seagull call that comes reverberating down the chimney into the room John Banville and I were sitting in. John Banville is an Irish novelist, short-story writer, and screenwriter who hates his own work. He's won a ton of prizes ("hundreds") including the Booker in 2005 for The Sea. He's currently waiting on the Nobel. John published his first novel, Nightspawn, in 1971, and his first book, a collection of short-stories called Long Lankin, in 1970. In addition to the "literary" work he's also written a string of popular crime novels. We met at his home in Howth; Howth, as you’ll know, is located near that meadow in Ulysses where James Joyce has Molly Bloom saying: "…the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountains yes so we are flowers all a woman’s body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes…" "…I was a Flower of the mountains yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him and yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes." John mentions what a curse it is to have Joyce, and Yeats (who, as you’ll also know, wooed Maude Gonne on Howth Head), et al, writing like this, constantly looming in the rearview mirror; I follow on with the regular drill, asking John: what he does, how he does it, why he does it, and why it matters.


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Tim Parks on how to be a better reader

Last year I interviewed Margaret Atwood about "the role" of the writer. No such thing she informed me. So we talked about the "non-role." Combatative she is. Just like Tim Parks. He talks with me here about the other end of the spectrum, the reader. How to be a better one. I want him to be prescriptive, he won’t be. But he does provide a lot of excellent insights, despite the resistence. Tim is an author, essayist, and translator. He was born in Manchester in 1954, grew up in London, and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. Not sure where or if he graduated from anywhere, but no matter. He's written 19 novels including Europa, Destiny, and most recently Hotel Milano, plus numerous works of non-fiction, including Where I'm Reading From, which we reference during our conversation. He's a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. Aside from his own writing he has translated works by Moravia, Pavese, Calvino, Machiavelli and Leopardi from Italian into English. He's a very astute reader. A best practitioner I'd say, which makes him eligible to be a Biblio File podcast guest - given that our mission is to interview the best in the world of books. I invited him to talk about how "best" to go about reading a book. We talk about Borges's essays - notably one on James Joyce's perfect reader; an author's manner of addressing the reader, what the reader brings to the text, having an open attitude about what you read; Thomas Hardy; D.H. Lawrence as one of Hardy's best readers; Mortimer Adler; being argumentative, and more.


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Marta Sylvestrova on Czech Film Poster Design

Marta Sylvestrova is a curator and art critic, and has headed the graphic design department at the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic, since 1986. She is a graduate of Masaryk University where she studied art history, and has, over the years, been involved in the organizing of many Brno Biennieles. They feature and evaluate graphic designs from around the world every two years, alternating for many years, between celebration of book jacket design and poster design. It closed, somewhat controversially, in 2018, I went to Brno to talk to Marta about this controversy, but also, primarily, to talk about a big, beautiful four kilogram exhibition catalogue she edited 20 years ago entitled Czech Film Posters of the 20th Century, published in 2004 by the Moravian Gallery.


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Nic Bottomley on his Reading Spas and the future of Bookselling

Nic Bottomley is a bookseller, and co-owner with his wife Juliette of Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, an independent bookshop based in Bath that has twice been named UK Independent Bookshop of the Year. Prior to setting up shop Nic was a capital markets lawyer. He currently serves as Executive Chair of the Booksellers Association of UK and Ireland. We spoke via Zoom about his innovative "Reading Spas," about approaching customers, and reading related to passions and careers; other topics discussed include: themed displays, arrogant book selection, whether or not the bookselling model is broken, the Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle, honeymoons, butchery novels, work-related reading lists, paying attention to detail, biblio-therapy, work ethics, a bookshop's personality, “the browse,” and way more.


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Nana Lohrengel on booksellers school in Milan

The Umberto and Elisabetta Mauri Booksellers School was founded in 1983 by Luciano Mauri in memory of his father and his daughter, who died prematurely. "In the course of almost thirty years of teaching activity it has trained new generations of booksellers and has become a laboratory for experimentation and discussion on the possibilities of the book. The first example in Italy, second in Europe, after Frankfurt, the School promotes a discussion that does not remain limited to the organization and management of the point of sale, but which extends to all aspects involving the activity of the bookshop: distribution, marketing and promotion." I met with the head of the School, Nana Lohrengel, at her offices in Milan. We talk, among other things, about what's taught at the school, about Germany's bookseller apprentice program, and about the importance of curiosity in bookselling and keeping current; also, about exchanging knowledge with fellow booksellers, "handselling" books via Instagram and Facebook, about Libraccio's bookstores in Milan, and about bookstores and democracy.


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Ricky Cavallero on Book Publishing as Partying

Ricky Cavallero was CEO of the Spanish-language publisher Random House Mondadori for eight years. In 1995 he joined Mondadori as Director of Marketing Books; two years later he was appointed General Manager of the Spanish subsidiary and launched the Alexandros trilogy by Valerio Massimo Manfredi which became a huge best-seller. In 1999 he inaugurated the Grijalbo Mondadori bookshop in Havana​. ​In 2000 he returned to Italy as director of Books Edizioni Mondadori. The following year, the Random House Mondadori joint venture was established ​and Cavallero assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer​ initially ​based in New York and then, from 2004, in Barcelona.​ ​ ​In 2010 ​he was appointed ​General Manage​​r​ of​ Libri Trade Mondadori and Chief Executive Officer of Einaudi​, under which the ​Piemme, Sperling & Kupfer and Frassinelli houses​ operated.​ ​​In 2016​ he launched a new venture, founding his own house,​ called SEM Società Editrice Milanese.​ He sold it in the Spring of 2023. We met in Milan to talk about his take on book publishing. Topics covered include Libya, the Hoepli bookstore in Milan, Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, nipples, different ways of looking at Latin America, atlases, nationalism, the fun of hitting the big one, Sonny Mehta, buying Fifty Shades of Grey, the impact of Covid, travel and understanding the world, meeting people, diversity, Africa, new writers, exiles and revolutions, bars, interesting people, getting 'out there;' listening, and asking questions, participating in life, partying, SEM, weekly dinners being a better investment than advertising, jazz music, Verso Bar and Bookshop in Milan, jamming with Ken Follett, offering stages for new voices, and giving birth.


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Matteo Columbo on Falling in Love with Margaret Atwood

Matteo Columbo is Margaret Atwood's publicist and personal magician at the Ponte alle Grazie publishing house in Italy. We met in Milan to discuss, among other things, the relationship between magic and publicity, the things that Margaret's handlers insist must be present in her hotel rooms; banana tricks, surprises, examples of how to gain the attention of journalists, Ponte alle Grazie's eclectic backlist, Luigi Spagnol, books as unique entities, the impact of Margaret's in-person Italian appearances, comparisons between publicity and photography; trustworthiness, syntax, and more.


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Dan Fridd on the latest in Bookselling Technology

I saw Dan Fridd in action promoting Edelweiss "the book industry's platform to market, sell, discover, and order new titles" at the RISE Bookselling Conference in Prague a few weeks ago and knew I had to have him on the show. Dan is Client "Success" Manager for Edelweiss. We talk about the company, his career in bookselling IT, and how "Above the Treeline" provides booksellers with the big picture; about book sales, inventory management, pie charts, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, the John Sandoe Bookshop in London, Ann Arbor, Michigan, book conversations opening up your world, marina management software, yachts, coding, data splicing, browsing publisher sales catalogues, analytics, creating your own catalogues, the Book Bugs and Dragon Tales bookshop, Norwich, Mitch Kaplan, and gigs in the Cayman Islands. Sure this may all sound a bit stodgy to non-booksellers, but I'm telling you, Dan gives dynamite interview.


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Maria Hamrefors: Sweden's James Daunt

Maria Hamrefors was appointed chairwoman of the Swedish Booksellers Association in 2019 after a long career in the book industry. Previous positions include CEO of Akademibokhandeln, CEO of Bokus, CEO of Norstedts Publishing Group, CEO of Thomson Corp in Sweden and director of Sweet & Maxwell Group in the UK. She is the treasurer of the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) and a member of the EIBF executive committee.​ We met at the RISE Bookselling Conference in Prague last month to talk about, among other things, how to turn around a chain bookstore, difficult cost cutting decisions, showing books face out, active curation, customer clubs, loyalty, fourth generation family businesses, ​discovering "best" information, trust, conspiracy theories, critical thinking, shared love of books, and the best life advice ever.


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Barbara Hoepli on how they love Bookstores in Italy

Putin is murdering Ukrainians. Xi is likely perpetrating a genocide on the Uyghurs. He's also threatening to murder Taiwanese, and he's crushing democracy in Hong Kong. Trump is ignoring the rule of law. Florida is censoring books. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why have I interviewed more than 600 people about the book? Well, precisely to help contribute to a better understanding of how best to stop these types of things from happening; how best to come up with and fashion good, big complex, ideas and make them public, get them discussed, motivate people to act on them, get governments to make the world a better, safer place. These are dangerous times. Books and bookstores are more important than ever. Despite the country's relatively low literacy rate, relative to other countries in the EU that is, Italians do understand this, and their government has done something about it. I met Barbara Hoepli in Prague last month at the RISE Bookselling Conference. She'd just delivered a talk on the Italian bookselling business which referenced Italy's Levi (Fixed Price) Law. It limits the size of discounts that can be "levied" on books sold in the country. It's designed to help grow and support the book sector, and literacy, and culture - tangible proof, it is, of the importance Italians assign to books and bookstores in their society. I figured it was worth talking with Barbara, not only because she has a beautiful voice and accent, but, primarily, because she's been in the book business all of her life directing both a major educational publishing house and a sizeable bookstore in Milan. We talk here about, among other things, market regulation, books being the cornerstone of our society, learning from the past, the name "Barbara," her family's 150 year history with books, and how books help us to grow and create. And yes, I left in the sound of her phone ringing (apologies, it's loud and startling). I figured it provides an extra peel of information - one that helps the listener better understand who she, Barbara, is as a person. Maybe not. You tell me.


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Jeff Deutsch on a new kind of bookstore and the paradox of the browse

Jeff Deutsch is a devoted reader, browser and lifelong bookseller. He's the director of Chicago's iconic Seminary Co-op Bookstores, and has written a book entitled In Praise of Good Bookstores (Princeton, 2022) in which he calls for a re-imagining of the current bookselling model, one that incorporates more than just retail, that adequately values the important work done by booksellers for their communities and democracy, and that appreciates the incomparable experiences that bookstores offer their patrons. We get into what "good" means, how a new model of bookselling might be funded; establishing new institutions and supporting the cause; about the ephemeral and the eternal, stars and blossoming fruit trees, William Blake, Robert Musil, mammon, Socrates learning to play the flute, the gift of finding something, or one, to love and knowing that this too shall pass; about the joys of "the browse," and thrift stores; capitalism, socialism, what people value, and civic-mindedness; Amazon, and underpaid work; James Daunt; Blundstones; old cowboy shirts, "slow time," Stendhal; bottling enthusiasm, Leon Forrest's Divine Days, Jaipur, and so much more. Photo Credit: Sally Blood