21 NOVEMBER 1992, Page 48

Books of others, opinions of his own

John Whitworth


This arrived with a videotape and was followed by an announcement that it had been banned at W. H. Smith's. Drif is Drif Field, who says his profession is bookfinder — that is, he will find any book you care to name for a (rather large) fee. He says he has visited most of the listed bookshops (there are about 1,000) and is pretty accu- rate about my local ones, at least. He tells you most of what you would want to know about each — size, specialities, price-range, opening hours, how you can get to it from the railway station, and other, odder bits of information — ETGOW (Easy To Get On With), NETGOW, FARTS (Follows Around Recommending The Stock), with occasion- al libellous asides (`Complete and utter creep; I refuse to describe this shop.'). Indeed it was threat of a writ that led Smith's to clear their shelves of DIV.

This part of the book accounts for about half, and could be quite useful. The other 250 pages contain Drif's life and opinions connected, often extremely loosely, with the book trade. I should say this was worth a tenner of your money. Sometimes it's boring, and sometimes it isn't, and it modu- lates unexpectedly between one and the other. In this respect it is rather like read- ing Sir Thomas Browne or Tristram Shandy, though I gather one should not say things like this, since Drif has come to believe he is the new anti-novelist.

Drif has bees in his bonnet, about the foolishness of British Rail, about the ghast- liness of the Republic of Ireland, about the wickedness of Oxfam. He has met the world's most boring people like the man whose life work is collecting the tram tickets that he finds in secondhand books. His ill-spelled, ungrammatical prose can rise to heights, usually of invective:

Glasgow looks like Gotham City with lep- rosy. It smells like catfood diluted with vin- tage urine. It sounds like Billy Graham being sodomised. It has taste the same way as Barbara Cartland; in moderation. I like it.

I watched the video while doing the iron- ing. There's a dodgy old Etonian author, an ex-rock star who's lost all his teeth, a poet,

a philosopher, an associate of the Krays, the man who's written half the published SF and signed the other half, and there's Drif. It ends with a nice bonfire of books, and was made by a journalist, Chris Petit CI shot 40 hours of film and there was a plot'), and Ian Sinclair, a novelist, the Dickens of Dalston, according to Chris Petit. I gather Channel 4 are dithering about whether to show it.