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Chapman's Odyssey

Chapman's Odyssey - Paul Bailey At the front of this book, Paul Bailey expresses his "deep and abiding gratitude" to the Royal Literary Fund. He had had to turn to them for financial support in 2009 when publishers showed no interest in publishing it, despite his belief that it was as good as anything he had done since Gabriel's Lament (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1986).As Philip Pullman said in his rousing speech in defence of libraries recently: "the greedy ghost of market madness has got into the controlling heights of publishing. Publishers are run by money people now, not book people. The greedy ghost whispers into their ears: Why are you publishing that man? He doesn’t sell enough. Stop publishing him. Look at this list of last year’s books: over half of them weren’t bestsellers. This year you must only publish bestsellers. Why are you publishing this woman? She’ll only appeal to a small minority. Minorities are no good to us. We want to double the return we get on each book we publish." Harry Chapman, a melancholic 70 year-old writer who describes himself as 'a common or garden queen', finds himself in hospital with stomach pains. He drifts in-and-out of consciousness: lapsing between the here-and-now and the there-and-then. Conversations with the nurses, to whom he recites poetry, blur with the internal voices of long-departed family and friends - and various literary characters, including Pip, Emma, Prince Myshkin and Bartleby the Scrivener. Having finished Chapman's Odyssey - and it was one of those books I really didn't want to end - I would like to offer my thanks to the Royal Literary Fund as well. And also Bloomsbury for using some of the money they earned from another Harry to allow us to get to know this one. Everything Ali Smith is quoted as saying on the cover is spot on. No reviewer could fail to use the words beautiful and moving.The reminiscences of a life. So many memories, so many people, so much poetry: treasures stored in a mind destined to be lost? Like this book nearly was? Imagine living in a world in which beautiful, moving books like this go unpublished. Like Bartleby, I would prefer not to.