Kenny’s Book Shop presents a unique edition of The Magician, by Colm Tóibín
What is it about a special edition that makes it, well, special?
For a start, many readers have strong feelings about their preference for paper books or digital. With a book in your hand reading is a tactile experience. There is the pleasure (or horror, depending on your perspective) of cracking a spine, turning down corners, writing notes in the margins, underlining— and of course the smell of fresh print, or old paper.
Alternatively there is the practicality of reading an adaptive screen in the sun, purchasing a book and having it in front of you as fast as it takes to click your heels together, the expedience of packing a sliver of metal and plastic in your case instead of heavy reams of paper.
Some readers fiercely hold the reins of one horse, others are happy to mix their metaphors, and sit on the fence. But when it comes to the hard copy of a book, is it a thing of beauty, or does it really matter, as long as what’s inside works?
The typeface! The layout! The font! I hear from the back, and it’s true: a good book can be marred by Calibri size 9, or margins so small you peer into the crease of the spine for the end of words.
Sometimes there is no breath in a book, no blank pages that you only miss if they aren’t there, like being hurried through a kiss. Or perhaps there are squeaky pages, or the thin paper you used to get in old school jotters that somehow can set your teeth on edge when you touch it.
Then, of course, there’s the cover. If you search for a cover designer’s name it’s often hard to find. Sometimes it’s not there at all. And yet the cover is everything when you are browsing in a bookshop. It’s the first thing that catches your eye. (See our feature Under the Covers, where we bring designers onto the stage).
So here we are then, with the layout expert, the cover designer, the printer, and all the other work that goes into making—as the kids say—a literal book.
You’ll see some of these books in the supermarket, where, as one independent bookseller told us recently, they can sell at less than the price of their wholesalers. So when popular or well-publicised books are sold in this way, how can a bookshop possibly compete?
Value is a loaded word. It can entail, simply, buying your book for a euro less. But it also means to add beauty, to add significance. This is why special editions are so important, not only for the author, who can see their work presented in a unique way, but the bookseller, who can offer a reader something beautiful, and something finite. (We humans like a bit of mortal beauty, if we’re to go by all the novels and poetry written with those two things in mind—readers probably more so.)
A new novel has just been birthed by one of Ireland’s best known, most loved, and widely respected writers: The Magician, by Colm Tóibín. You will see this book everywhere by September, in airports (lucky you if you are there with your case), and in supermarkets, in between homeware and electrical goods.
But you will also find it at your independent bookshop, where no doubt you will also come across interesting people, a warm recommendation for another book to pick up on your way out, and an atmosphere that makes you want to stay (rather than drugs you with fluorescent light to do the same, and where you will most likely end up with a pack of socks you don’t need and a seasonal vegetable you won’t cook).
You will also find a limited, special edition of The Magician in Kenny’s Book Shop, who from time to time offer a volume like this, a book that you won’t find anywhere else. They have done this with poetry collections, anthologies, and now with The Magician they are doing the same (and you can pre-order).
This time the book has a unique cover, is signed and numbered by the author, has marbled endpapers—and most importantly, has an Afterword written by Colm Tóibín that is only available in this book.
It might not last forever, as none of the best things do—but it is a thing of beauty.
The Magician, by Colm Tóibín, at Kenny’s Bookshop
About the book
From one of our greatest living writers comes a sweeping novel of unrequited love and exile, war and family.
The Magician tells the story of Thomas Mann, whose life was filled with great acclaim and contradiction. He would find himself on the wrong side of history in the First World War, cheerleading the German army, but have a clear vision of the future in the second, anticipating the horrors of Nazism.
He would have six children and keep his homosexuality hidden; he was a man forever connected to his family and yet bore witness to the ravages of suicide. He would write some of the greatest works of European literature, and win the Nobel Prize, but would never return to the country that inspired his creativity.
Through one life, Colm Tóibín tells the breathtaking story of the twentieth century.
As with everything Colm Tóibín sets his masterful hand to, The Magician is a great imaginative achievement — immensely readable, erudite, worldly and knowing, and fully realized
‘No living novelist dramatizes artistic creation as profoundly, as luminously, as Colm Tóibín . . . reading him is among the deepest pleasures our literature can offer
This is not just a whole life in a novel, it’s a whole world