On King’s Day in Amsterdam, anyone can encroach on a small part of the footpath and set up a shop there. No pesky paperwork, no licenses and most importantly, no taxes on sales. People start marking the square footage they are going to occupy on the footpath on King’s day a few days in advance by drawing the word ‘bezet’ (occupied) with insulation tape.
All manners of things show up on King’s Day – from homemade lemonade to antique lampshades to vinyl records. It’s a citywide garage sale of sorts. And it’s not just the families – commercial establishments join in too. Most goods are priced between 1 € and 5 €.
The wife and I usually keep an eye out for old books. This year we came across an old man selling a collection of back issues of Nation Geographic. The wife spotted an issue going back to Jun 1957 – not quite her Mother’s birthday she was aiming for, but close enough. At a bargain basement price of 1 €, it was money well spent.
We drifted along with the crowd for some time and eventually settled down at a Starbucks near Vondelpark. While I flipped through the 1957 issue, the wife spotted a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling on a book exchange shelf behind me. I vaguely knew of the controversy surrounding Rowling’s latest work but the specifics had long escaped me. It all came back. Basically, Rowling had written her latest work under the pen name Robert Galbraith and wanted to keep the true identity of the author hidden. Then somehow the media got a whiff of the truth, and the first work by an obscure author became an overnight success.
The wife thinks that the anonymity was just to gauge the true reception of the book without it having the formidable reputation of the author to ride on. If the book were to be received well, she’d reveal herself to be the author, but if it were to be panned, no harm done to her reputation.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is a detective/crime novel. For me, one essential trait of a good who-done-it is that even when you are more than half way through the novel you suspect everyone of the crime (including yourself, the wife adds). In that sense, it is a good who-done-it with a likable caste of characters. I did find it a bit long in parts, but I hear that we’ll see more books in this series so Rowling might just be laying the foundations in the first book.
And may be one day, BBC will run with it.
P.S. Goes without saying that we swapped our National Geographic for The Cuckoo’s Calling without the slightest trace of contrition.
P.P.S. The book carried a boarding pass in it. Turns out a certain Mr. Karnik had purchased it at the airport in Pune, and then left it at this Starbucks in Amsterdam. Did it change more hands in between? If only books could talk, they’d tell a story more interesting than what is usually printed on their pages.
P.P.P.S. Oh! the next book is out already!