Choose your own adventure

John Lanchester's Capital is being marketed through a nifty personalised website - but will it work?

Book marketing has taken a new, digital turn. To accompany the release of John Lanchester's novel, Capital, a 500-page brick of a book tracing the diverse lives populating a street called Pepys Road in south London, Faber and Faber have, with the help of Storythings, created a website: pepysrd.com created to encourage readers to interact with the themes of the novel, and ultimately buy it.

Click on the link and you'll see that the site plays immediately to the greatest of English middle-class weak spots: financial self-interest and obsession with house prices, as it asks you to fill in a form saying where and when you were born and where you live now, and then tells you how much property value has inflated. To gain such insight you have to fill in your email (obviously) and in return, receive a free download of the book's preface, and the promise of ten original Lanchester mini-stories delivered to your inbox, in a choose-your-own-adventure style process where you eventually discover how your life pans out over the next ten years, and, I presume, if you are destined to live in splendid wealth or lounge in the gutter.

Still - despite the wince-inducing initial hook, the process seems to be genuinely interactive and cleverly thought out. On the Storythings site there's some interesting background to the idea - including the obvious point (but they're right that not enough sellers think of it) that any marketing device should encourage people to engage with the thing they're being sold: "The first and most important goal in Pepys Road is that we wanted people to read" -- hence Lanchester's new stories. The creators also credit the online diary site, Ohlife, as inspiration in the way it encourages the user to repeatedly use the service, and connects you with your previous interactions. Storythings want to lock you into the world of the novel over an extended period of time - a neat idea, but I can't help but think people might enjoy playing with the website and receiving mini-stories without feeling the need to go to a shop and buy the actual book.

The other question is whether such a cute device would work for any other novel. There's something about Lanchester's work - reviewed by Leo Robson here - that lends itself perfectly to such an idea. It is, as Robson says, preoccupied with the "surface" of life - where we live, how much we earn, what we do. Faber are also lucky to have a writer willing to engage so proactively with a marketing process. A more elusive piece of writing, and more retiring author, might struggle with such gimmickry.

Still, as gimmickry goes, it's original and engaging, and feels more carefully considered than some of the tricks publicists pull. It's encouraging too that reading and writing are the central, motivating ideas - for all the changes in how, where and in what format we read, it will always boil down to there being a writer and a reader, and words on a page.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Casting the Brexit movie that is definitely real and will totally happen

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our screens, or just Farage's vivid imagination.

Hollywood is planning to take on the farcical antics of Nigel Farage et al during the UK referendum, according to rumours (some suspect planted by a starstruck Brexiteer). 

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our big or small screens, a DVD, or just Farage's vivid imagination, but either way here are our picks for casting the Hollywood adaptation.

Nigel Farage: Jim Carrey

The 2018 return of Alan Partridge as "the voice of hard Brexit" makes Steve Coogan the obvious choice. Yet Carrey's portrayal of the laughable yet pure evil Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events makes him a serious contender for this role. 

Boris Johnson: Gerard Depardieu

Stick a blonde wig on him and the French acting royalty is almost the spitting image of our own European aristocrat. He has also evidently already mastered the look of pure shock necessary for the final scene of the movie - in which the Leave campaign is victorious.

Arron Banks: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais not only resembles Ukip donor Arron Banks, but has a signature shifty face perfect for the scene where the other Brexiteers ask him what is the actual plan. 

Gerry Gunster: Anthony Lapaglia

The Bad Boys of Brexit will reportedly be told from the perspective of the US strategist turned Brexit referendum expert Gerry Gunster. Thanks to recurring roles in both the comedy stalwart Frasier, and the US crime drama Without a Trace, Anthony Lapaglia is versatile enough to do funny as well as serious, a perfect mix for a story that lurches from tragedy to farce. Also, they have the same cunning eyes.

Douglas Carswell: Mark Gatiss

The resemblance is uncanny.

David Cameron: Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is widely known for his portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock, where he indulges in elaborate, but nationally destructive strategy games. The actor also excels in a look of misplaced confidence that David Cameron wore all the way up to the referendum. Not to mention, his forehead is just as shiny. He'll have to drink a lot of Bollinger to gain that Cameron-esque puppy fat though. 

Kate Hoey: Judi Dench

Although this casting would ruin the image of the much beloved national treasure that is Judi Dench, if anyone can pull off being the face of Labour Leave, the incredible actress can.