Monday, 17 May 2010

Book of the Week and Bibliography - Jonathan Coe, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

Jonathan Coe is a well respected and critically acclaimed writer, born in Birmingham in 1961. He has a solid reputation and his early books have become very collectible, but he has not yet quite reached the top ranks of literary fiction in terms of the major prizes. “The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim” is his ninth novel. The book is issued simultaneously as a hardcover and paperback, with the print run of the former relatively small (1200 copies, some going to libraries). I have read only one review so far (The Times), which was encouraging. I have ordered a signed copy, since I have enjoyed several of his previous books. If he maintains his current trajectory he is likely to have a major success sooner or later, in which case this book will be relatively scarce and prices will rise. The tendency towards small first print runs, especially when books are issued simultaneously in paperback, is increasing, and has resulted in some very high prices for books recently shortlisted for major prizes (see, for instance, Wolf Hall and The Glass Room from last year). This trend seems likely to be maintained, and will increase the challenge for collectors in this area.

“Maxwell Sim seems to have hit rock bottom. Estranged from his father, newly divorced, unable to communicate with his only daughter, he realizes that while he may have seventy-four friends on Facebook, there is nobody in the world with whom he can actually share his problems. Then a business proposition comes his way – a strange exercise in corporate PR that will require him to spend a week driving from London to a remote retail outlet on the Shetland Isles. Setting out with an open mind, good intentions and a friendly voice on his SatNav for company, Maxwell finds that this journey soon takes a more serious turn, and carries him not only to the furthest point of the United Kingdom, but into some of the deepest and darkest corners of his own past. In his sparkling and hugely enjoyable new book Jonathan Coe reinvents the picaresque novel for our time.”


The Accidental Woman, Duckworth, 1987. Reasonably common, at around £100.

A Touch of Love, Duckworth, 1989. Extremely rare, probably £100+.

The Dwarves of Death Fourth Estate, 1990. Readily available, £15.

Humphrey Bogart: Take It and Like It Bloomsbury, 1991. Biography, readily available, £15.

James Stewart: Leading Man Bloomsbury, 1994. Less common than the Bogart biography, £20.

What a Carve Up! Viking, 1994. Simultaneous paperback and hardcover. The hardcover now very scarce. I can only find one non-library copy at present, on sale at £400. Published by Knopf in the US as The Winshaw Legacy, which is much more common.

The House of Sleep Viking, 1997. Readily available in acetate dustjacket, at around £15.

The Rotters' Club, Viking, 2001. Very common, at around £10.

Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B. S. Johnson, Picador, 2004. Biography, common, around £10.

The Closed Circle, Viking, 2004. Very common, at around £10.

9th and 13th, Penguin, 2005. Four short stories, paperback. Common around £5.

The Rain Before It Falls, Viking, 2007. Very common, at around £10.

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, Viking, 2010. £18.99.


Anonymous said...

not a good review from the guardian:

Book might be nevertheless worth investing in

Trapnel said...

Will let you know what I think when I read it. I suspect Jeremy Paxman tends to be a harsh critic of most things, and he does at least conclude by calling it an engaging parable!

Trapnel said...