In London, ‘Sally Rooney Week’ ended in style with a pop-up shop in fashionable Shoreditch, east London dedicated to Beautiful World Where Are You, the new novel by the Irish writer. The promotion – a joint effort between her publisher Faber, and Waterstones – saw a derelict event space transformed into a giant book cover and cool, upstairs bookshop. From Dubai to Delhi, this must surely be a publishing first – it is certainly very hard to think of another contemporary novel that has been given this kind of exclusive treatment.
As well as the new novel, the shop also sold Rooney’s two earlier titles and, intriguingly, a selection of titles that are mentioned by characters in Beautiful World and a selection of titles that Rooney herself recommends. The first selection included Dickens’ David Copperfield, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot, Henry James’ The Golden Bowl, Rilke’s Selected Poems as well as the much less well-known The Little Virtues and Happiness as Such by Natalia Ginzburg; and Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde.
The table of Rooney’s recommended titles saw a similarly eclectic mix and included Blind Spot, a collection of photographs and prose by the Nigerian-American writer and photographer Teju Cole, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Jane Austen’s Emma, Zadie Smith’s NW and Heike Geissler’s Seasonal Associate. The latter is by a German novelist who takes a temporary job at Amazon’s distribution centre in Leipzig, Germany. She is critical of the online behemoth – and critical of much else too, the reviewers note.
But Rooney’s sales are certainly making Waterstones and Faber very happy. The retailer says Rooney’s new novel is already its bestselling hardback novel this year.
Sadly the author herself was not able to drop by the pop-up shop after a busy launch week of events and talks. She was on her way back to Ireland – by train and ship because she dislikes flying, and reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. She has said that she much rather reads classics than contemporary literature.