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Checkout 19
Cover of Checkout 19
Checkout 19
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
“Bennett writes like no one else. She is a rare talent, and Checkout 19 is a masterful novel.” –Karl Ove Knausgaard
Named a most anticipated book of 2022 by Vulture, Glamour, Bustle, and Lit Hub
From the author of the “dazzling. . . . and daring” Pond (O magazine), the adventures of a young woman discovering her own genius, through the people she meets–and dreams up–along the way.

In a working-class town in a county west of London, a schoolgirl scribbles stories in the back pages of her exercise book, intoxicated by the first sparks of her imagination.  As she grows, everything and everyone she encounters become fuel for a burning talent. The large Russian man in the ancient maroon car who careens around the grocery store where she works as a checkout clerk, and slips her a copy of Beyond Good and Evil. The growing heaps of other books in which she loses–and finds–herself. Even the derailing of a friendship, in a devastating violation. The thrill of learning to conjure characters and scenarios in her head is matched by the exhilaration of forging her own way in the world, the two kinds of ingenuity kindling to a brilliant conflagration.
Exceeding the extraordinary promise of Bennett’s mold-shattering debut, Checkout 19 is a radical affirmation of the power of the imagination and the magic escape those who master it open to us all.
“Bennett writes like no one else. She is a rare talent, and Checkout 19 is a masterful novel.” –Karl Ove Knausgaard
Named a most anticipated book of 2022 by Vulture, Glamour, Bustle, and Lit Hub
From the author of the “dazzling. . . . and daring” Pond (O magazine), the adventures of a young woman discovering her own genius, through the people she meets–and dreams up–along the way.

In a working-class town in a county west of London, a schoolgirl scribbles stories in the back pages of her exercise book, intoxicated by the first sparks of her imagination.  As she grows, everything and everyone she encounters become fuel for a burning talent. The large Russian man in the ancient maroon car who careens around the grocery store where she works as a checkout clerk, and slips her a copy of Beyond Good and Evil. The growing heaps of other books in which she loses–and finds–herself. Even the derailing of a friendship, in a devastating violation. The thrill of learning to conjure characters and scenarios in her head is matched by the exhilaration of forging her own way in the world, the two kinds of ingenuity kindling to a brilliant conflagration.
Exceeding the extraordinary promise of Bennett’s mold-shattering debut, Checkout 19 is a radical affirmation of the power of the imagination and the magic escape those who master it open to us all.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover I.

    A Silly Business

    One cannot see the future of something learned. —A Girl's Story, Annie Ernaux

    Later on we often had a book with us. Later on. When we were a bit bigger at last though still nowhere near as big as the rest of them we brought over books with us. Oh loads of books. And sat with them there in the grass by the tree. Just one book, in fact. Just one, that's right. Lots of books, one at a time. That's it, one at a time. We didn't very much like tons of books did we. No, not really, and neither do we now. We like one book. Yes, we like one book now and we liked one book then. We went to the library for instance and we soon lost the habit didn't we of taking out lots and lots of books. Yes. Yes. Yes we did. First of all of course we took out all the books we possibly could. Which was probably eight books. It's always either six books or eight books or twelve books. Unless it's a special collection of books of course in which case it might only be four. And to begin with we took out as many of them as we could. That's right. We'll take this one and this one and this one, this one, and that one too. And so on. Yes. In a pile up on the high counter for Noddy Head to stamp. And we read not one of them all the way through. It was simply impossible. We couldn't get engrossed. No matter what book we had in our hands we found it simply impossible to refrain from wondering incessantly about what kinds of words exactly were inside the other books. We couldn't help it could we. We just couldn't stop ourself from thinking about the other books and the different kinds of words they each contained and when we picked up one of the other books in order to find out it was just the same. It really was just the same no matter which book we picked up. As long as there were other books we thought about the sorts of words they might contain nonstop and were thus precluded from becoming engrossed with the very book we had in our hands. The very book. A silly business. Yes, it was a silly business. Tossing one book down and picking one book up and tossing that to one side and picking up yet another and so on and getting nowhere. Nowhere at all. Over and over again. And we went on like that for quite some time didn't we until we realised that just because we were allowed to take out six books eight books twelve books four books didn't mean did it that we had to.

    No, of course it didn't. So then we took out one book. And of course this aggravated people. Yes. Yes. Yes it did. No end. Is that all you're taking out, they'd exclaim. Go and get some more. Just one-you'll have that finished by tomorrow, they'd say. And we're not coming back again this week. So what. As if the only thing you could do with a book was read it. That's right. We could sit for a long time couldn't we with a book beside us and not even open it. We certainly could. And it was very edifying. It certainly was. It was entirely possible we realised to get a great deal from a book without even opening it. Just having it there beside us for ages was really quite special. It was actually because we could wonder couldn't we about the sorts of words it contained without getting ourself worked up into a ridiculous state. With just one book in the grass beside us we sat there wondering about the sorts of words it contained in a really tranquil and expansive kind of way that in fact enabled distinct images to emerge all of their own accord from who knows where. That was nice. It was actually. The images rarely resembled anything we had seen for ourself directly yet they were not in the least bit vague or far-fetched. Not remotely. From time to time, perhaps to make sure that...
About the Author-
  • Claire-Louise Bennett is the author of Pond, which was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, and winner of the inaugural White Review Short Story Prize. Her short fiction and essays have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and other publications. She lives in Galway, Ireland. 
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 3, 2022
    Bennett’s idiosyncratic and arresting latest (after Pond) explores a woman’s tenacious attachment to the written word. The unnamed narrator describes her peculiar experience of reading as a young bookish girl: she thinks “the left page nearly always has better words on it,” and, given the readerly urge to turn the page, typesetters are “irresponsible” for allowing “important sentences to appear at the very end of the right page.” As an adult, she studies literature, works weekends at a grocery store, and scours books for words that feel “as if they are being written as you read them, that your eyes upon the page are perhaps even making them appear.” Along with the narrator’s recollections are accounts of her early efforts at writing fiction, “the quickening revolutions of my supremely aberrant imaginings.” She recreates the intensity of artistic inspiration and then, from a distance of years, recomposes the lost or abandoned stories themselves, an exercise that proves much more successful than one might expect, as seen in, for instance, a Borgesian tale about a library of blank books concealing one transformative sentence only visible to the collection’s owner. Bennett’s narrator also recounts interactions with men: a charismatic teacher who senses her fierce talent; vindictive and entitled friends and lovers; and a Nietzsche-toting grocery shopper who, in a scene that demonstrates the destabilizing joy of this book, fills his cart in an “exquisite sequence of sublime prestidigitation.” Encompassing literary criticism, suggestive fables, feminist polemic, a portrait of the artist, and a phenomenology of reading, this transfixes on both the right page and the left. Bennett marvels once again. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency.

  • AudioFile Magazine In this tour de force, author and narrator Claire-Louise Bennett presents language with such precision that the listener is astounded at the power of the spoken word. In a town in southwest England, a young woman who works as a supermarket cashier on Checkout 19 reads relentlessly, absorbing literature as she keenly observes the world around her. Bennett expertly delivers the teen's internal musings as she makes up stories to bring to her teacher, Mr. Burton. In one story, Bennett brings to life a protagonist named Tarquin Superbus, who searches his library for the one sentence he is told contains "everything." The listener steps inside Bennett's mind as she finds the similarities between books and life in this stunning and original performance. D.H.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2022, Portland, Maine
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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Checkout 19
Checkout 19
A Novel
Claire-Louise Bennett
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