‘Never apologise, never explain’ may be good advice in general but the appearance of the title of my 1977 book, Approaches to Archaeology, immediately underneath my arty web-page entry is so embarrassing that some comment is demanded. As Mr Corbyn so memorably declared in another context, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this.’
Why draw attention now, Mr Amazon, to a book published nearly 40 years ago, especially as it wasn’t all that good then? And why pick on that fairly undistinguished book in particular when it was both preceded and succeeded by books for which I am much happier to stand up and be counted? Furthermore, don’t you think it’s a bit below the literary belt to draw attention to two rather humiliating facts? -one, that the book has not been reviewed in nearly four decades (and I have to admit, now I come to think of it, that I can’t remember ever seeing a review); and two, that it can now be purchased, albeit second-hand, for 1p. I’m very tempted to buy up your stock of ‘penny dreadfuls’, so to speak, to force you to stop advertising it at that price, and then to accept your invitation to all and sundry to become the first reviewer by quickly keying a 300-word review myself to fill the aching void in archeo-literature to which you so meanly draw attention.
Note I use the word ‘keying’ there: anyone under the age of 50 will be amazed to learn that, as one did in the 1970s, I wrote the whole book in long-hand, page after lined page. These were then typed up by my wonderful secretary at the time and, with only very minor corrections, this typescript became the publisher’s text and, shortly afterwards, the first proofs and then the text of the book, hardly changed from the long-hand version. All that and more is done on the author’s screen nowadays, of course, and the one good thing I can think of in being reminded so cruelly of my Approaches to Archaeology is the publishing revolution it has been my privilege to work through.
Actually, there’s another humiliation that Amazon cannot resist bringing to the attention of a gagging world. Best if I’m quite open about it: Approaches is ranked 3, 710,774th on Amazon’s list of best-sellers. Well, there you go.
Which bitter-sweet revelation rather takes us away from the visible clash of my two worlds, art and archaeology, which provoked this note. Courtesy of the other god of this IT world, Mr Google, who brought about the juxtaposition of ‘Painter’ and ‘Archaeology’ on his page in the first place, the visual evidence of that clash is visited upon anyone visiting my web-page. I regret that such is the case – but I doubt there is anything I can do about it. In this case, probably things do have to be like this.