On Wednesday a press release from Penguin fell into my inbox, announcing the launch of the ‘Penguin English Library – 100 of the best novels in the English language.’ I clicked through to their beautiful website and watched the animation film with the penguin on youtube.
“Did you see this? Isn’t it well done.” I glanced over to Peirene’s desk, catching her quickly closing the link to the Penguin Library website.
“I haven’t got time for such gimmicks.” She replied with a careless air.
We went for a run later that evening. As we were heading through Highgate village on our way to the Heath, Peirene suddenly stopped.
“There is that arctic creature again.” She pointed at the Penguin mugs in the shop window of the bookshop.
“The mugs have been there for a while,” I replied.
“That’s irrelevant.” Peirene caught up with me, slightly breathless. “The point that I like to make is: what is this penguin actually doing to enhance modern culture, modern literature? Nothing. Do you understand: No-thing. Classics sell. So it’s easy to throw money at such books and make them look even better. And sure enough they will sell even better. But is this enhancing our present day culture? Is that diversifying our reading culture? Adding new, vital blood, new impulses, new ways of expression? No, it’s not! But readers will queue to buy these books and then tell us, they have too many books and can’t buy ours any more, sorry.”
Peirene stopped again and stamped her feet. I looked over my shoulder.
“Peirene, keep on running. You’re just envious. A run will do you good.”
“And one more thing. This penguin has persuaded Whistles to put him into their shops. Did you see it? Whistles sells elegant women’s clothes, what on earth are they doing with a penguin? Why not me – a Nymph? I could promote their clothes at our salons and our books would add a modern, creative edge to their shops.”
I arrived at the next street corner. Peirene was lagging behind.
“Do you want to go home?” I called back.
“I’m quite out of breath. I think I will go home,” she admitted
I waved and turned the corner, relieved to be on my own. When I came back to the house, Peirene received me with a smile.
“I have found our marketing niche. Tomorrow I will talk to some designer shoe shops. That’ll show the penguin. No shoe shop would ever get a penguin with his huge feet to promote their shoes. But I am sure they’d love to put a pretty nymph in their shop windows.”