By Nina J P Evans

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets

Meeting Jessica Fox (after recently reading an article about her as part of World Book Day 2013) was delightful. She was giving a talk about her debut novel: Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets (based on her own love story). At The Bluecoat Chambers, Liverpool as part of the ‘In Other Words,’ Literacy festival. She told us about how she gave up her job working for Nasa in sunny California, to co-run a used bookshop in Scotland with her partner in a literacy village of Wigtown; where there are 12 other bookshops and a village of 1,000 residence by the sea, which she compared to her high school in LA with 1,800 pupils.

It was funny hearing her stories about her customers, sometimes finding their way into her living quarters. And, the layout, in order to get out of the TARDIS like property she mentions “you have to walk through the bookshop each time.” She says “people have seen me in different moods and very sickly a few times”. She’s gorgeous, her American vanity is hilarious. She said that another bookshop near hers has just closed, and is up for sale. No one in the audience jumped up ready to take on such a thing! At question time we were speaking about the value of books as objects, compared to reading e-books. An elderly guy in the audience said how he went to Shakespeare & Co in Paris, and stayed there; and did readings when old American George Whitman was proprietor. He didn’t go back again to Paris for another 30 years by then George was very old indeed. But when the two met again George remembered him and shock his hand; you could hear from his voice that he felt a little emotional. To sum up, he said, “the relationship with a bookseller is not something that you can purchase online.”

I have a romantic ideal in my head about Jessica’s story as there are so many parallels to the film Notting Hill, staring Hugh Grant as a proprietor of a travel bookshop, near Camden Lock Market. The shop is painted cobalt blue the same colour as the background to Marc Chagall’s La MariĆ©e; which is referenced in the film. Writer and director Richard Curtis describes the concept of the film: “The idea of a very normal person going out with an unbelievably famous person and how that impinges on their lives.” I especially like the space scene as metaphor for Julia Robert’s character needing personal space, in contrast to Hugh Grant trying miserably to get over her. He and his flat mate, Rhys Ifans watch a Film staring Julia Roberts, what could possibly be worse, other than have Rhys Ifans company offering little comfort whilst seeing the love of his life staring as a space commander—is just a brilliant filmic moment!

Maybe this book will launch Jessica Fox’s career as a writer and bookshop owner, or there’ll be a film adaptation of her story. She may have left Nasa behind, but she is still reaching for the stars!

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