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Tuesday, November 13, 2001

So I'm reading James Thurber's The 13 Clocks to my daughter right now.

I mentioned the fun I was having reading the book to American friends, expecting a chorus of "yes, it was our favourite book as children" and got nothing but blank looks and people shifting uncomfortably in their chairs.

My copy, an old Puffin books Ronald Searle-illustrated paperback copy of The 13 Clocks & The Wonderful O (two books in one, although the Wonderful O is a lesser work) is falling apart. It's the copy I had as a kid.

Ah, I thought, I'll order a new copy.

To my surprise, and to my dismay, I discovered that it's more or less out of print (there's a hardback that may be in print, but Amazon have it listed as unavailable and won't let you order it), and even the rare bookfinder services don't have any Ronald Searle illustrated copies. Which leaves me perfectly gobsmacked. I mean, it's one of the great kids' books of the last century. It may be the best thing Thurber ever wrote. It's certainly the most fun that anybody can have reading anything aloud (I'm doing the Duke as Peter Sellers doing Olivier doing Richard III, and the Golux as Marty Feldman). If I ever wrote something half as good I'd be over the moon. And it's out of print.

And the Searle illustrations are magnificent. (The Golux! The Golux's Indescribable Hat! The Duke!)

How can something that good be out of print? (And the audio version is abridged. Abridged! For heaven's sake, there's hardly enough of it as it is.)

If any enterprising small press publishers are reading this, I'll happily write an introduction to the book if you can bring it back into print -- especially with the Ronald Searle illustrations. (And the same goes for big publishers.)
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