On the book trail, intersecting with Alex Ross

On the book trail, intersecting with Alex Ross


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2010

Why Mahler? had some signings lined up at West End book stores today, only to find that Listen to This had either preceded him, or was about to follow.

‘We have more for you to sign than Mr Ross,’ said an encouraging manager at Foyles, one of my favourite boyhood haunts. Much smarter now than I remember it, though ringed by major construction works, Foyles feels like a place you would visit for easy pleasure, as well as urgent enlightenment. 
Miriam, a marketing manager from Colorado, had thoughtfully warmed up a room to unfreeze the author’s fingers. 36 copies were beautifully piled in a semi-circle. It was too early in the day for a single malt, but it was that kind of atmosphere. Here’s the Foyles website: http://www.foyles.co.uk/book-shops-in-london
Crossing Charing Cross Road, I dropped into Blackwells, the Oxford-based, academic-led chain. Seeing no copies of Why Mahler? I asked for its availability. ‘We sold one last week and have another on order,’ said a slumped young man in a sweater. ‘Should be in by the middle of next week.’ Thank you kindly.
At Waterstone’s on Piccadilly, a 20-something assistant exclaimed, ‘did you write Why Mahler? I bought it yesterday, for myself. It looked so interesting.’ Four piles of the book were nicely displayed around the music and arts section on the third floor. Classier than I expected from a national high street chain.
Hatchards (http://www.hatchards.co.uk) were having me back for the third time in as many months to sign another 50 copies. The bookshop sits on the site from which Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, once ran a wine store. He went bust. They won’t. Hatchards knows its customers better than any bookstore I have ever come across, and knows its authors too. A respectable pile awaited Mr Ross. When my arm seized up, I asked how many I had signed. ‘About 100,’ said the assistant, who turned out to be a creative weaver with several exhibitions to her credit. Classier still.
Apparently, Why Mahler? is flying out of the store with many copies ordered online – three in a single call from Santiago, Chile. I wonder how Alex is doing.


  • M.Villeger says:

    He should be doing well since he seems to be the exclusive provider of musical witt for national broadcasters in Canada…

  • Well, in the Amazon.co.uk links you included, your book is currently ranked #15,237, and Ross’s is #731. I suppose it means he’s doing fine?
    NL replies: Not a good measure, Marc. We have been leapfrogging one another on amazon charts all season. Alex has just done a big promotional push in London, hence his current high UK ranking. Check again in a fortnight.

  • Much smarter now than I remember it, though ringed by major construction works