I never take much notice of publishers. I don't go into a bookshop, stride up to the counter and ask, 'Do you have anything published by Penguin?' They've always seemed to be ghost brands, like film studios or record companies. Of course there are occasional exceptions - Arden Shakespeares and Longman editions of poetry - and there's a certain kudos to making it onto the Penguin Classics list. But on the whole I neither know nor care.
However, I am moving house, and in order to move house I have to pack all my books (it turns out I have several), and in order to pack my books I thought it would be efficient to arrange them in order of size, and in order to do that I have just begun pulling them off the shelves by publisher.
I was working on the basis that publishers would print all their books in a standard size which isn't quite true, but almost is. And thus I have discovered that there is a difference between brands. Picadors are all high-brow and foreign. Routledge is a scholarly fellow and Vintage seem to do the bestsellers. But the great discovery is Flamingo. I own only six Flamingos but they include Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley and Et Tu, Babe by Mark Leyner which are just about my two favourite novels. They've even got The Third Policeman, which is pretty damned high up the list.
That's rather impressive, I thought. Maybe I ought to go into a bookshop, stride up to the counter and ask, 'Do you have anything published by Flamingo?'
In fact, I thought, why don't I just Google them and order the entire bloody back catalogue?
Turns out Flamingo was an imprint of HarperCollins and is now, so far as I can descry, defunct.
Pretty, isn't it? Unfortunately that's only the tip of the cliché.