- Apart from the stock, Parnassus Books' shop dogs would be a major draw for me, if I lived in Nashville; booksellers of Britain, take note!
- From Tennessee to the neighbouring state of Alabama, and today is the 54th. anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. I've written before about the book's significance to me, but by any standards it is a very special novel, so I'm glad to hear that it has now been released as an e-book. If you have never read it you are in for a wonderful experience, and if you have, re-readings only enhance it.
- Lastly, posting has been sporadic of late as other things have claimed my time and attention. That's set to continue for a while, so apart from popping in to update my current reading and the like, I'm going to take a wee break.
While the house has been turned upside down over the last couple of weeks I've found I cannot put my mind to a book, and all I've managed by way of reading has been a page or two at bedtime, precious little of which I've actually absorbed.
Meanwhile, I'm re-organising books and disposing of a lot (and bearing in mind the advice of Marie Kondo as I go) - it's all to the good!
While the purging has been going on, I have bought the odd thing, and the bookmark pictured here came with an order from The Book Depository; do click on the image to enlarge it as you should read the various 'passport stamps'. The design was one of the winners in a recent competition.
I trust you're faring better with your reading than I am (and I must say that my lack of concentration is no fault of the book's); I hope to be back to normal soon!
Following on from Friday's post, I can report that I've now moved 300 books, sorted them, and got rid of around 100 so far - there will be more as I'm fairly getting into my stride and being quite ruthless/sensible, depending on your point of view, regarding what stays and what goes. Apart from the need to clear the study for the workmen who are coming this week, and the fact that, this lovely thought notwithstanding, I have far too many books to comfortably house, one motivating factor here was the realisation that, as it stands, my tbr 'pile' represents six to seven years' worth of reading, and given the current acquisition rate, things are out of hand.
While I was doing the sorting and looking forward to the help of a strong man to load the boxes into the car, etc., Mr. C. went to play cricket, threw himself after a ball (preventing the other team scoring four runs), landed heavily and tore a muscle in his side*. A visit to the minor injuries clinic at the hospital ensued, and he's been confined to light duties for the next little while, but the painkillers and rest are doing the trick and he's feeling a lot brighter this evening, despite the relative lack of sympathy from his otherwise loving family.
*That'll larn him.
The painting is Emmeline 'Nina' Mary Elizabeth Welby-Gregory (1867–1955), Mrs Henry John Cockayne-Cust, in the Library at Chancellor's House, Hyde Park Gate, London by Florence Seth.
I shall be spending the weekend moving hundreds of books in advance of some work being done to the house - after which all will be order and calm as above*, I hope! I doubt I'll get much reading time, but such as I have will be given over to Joanna Rakoff's memoir (see Wednesday's post) which I am enjoying enormously. I'm so pleased to see Litlove's comment there that it's a contender for her books of the year list; that's praise indeed.
I hope you have something very good to read over the next few days, or something equally diverting to do - please tell us if so, because I shall be popping back here for some light relief in the midst of all the fetching, carrying and sorting (or I could rope in the chaps from Foyles and put my feet up ...).
*In the Library, St. James' Square, c. 1805-06, attributed to Thomas Pole.
I have a lot of books that I should be talking about but somehow today I'm 'fusionless', uninspired and disinclined to make the effort, so as we haven't had a 'good words' post for some time, this will suffice. If you click on the link above and then on the wee recording you'll hear how the word is said when it has an 'h' in the middle; my Highland grandmother used to say it, but with a longer 'u', no 'h', and a harder 's', and indeed the Scots dictionary gives many spellings and examples of usage - I can't link directly but if you're so minded you can put the word in the search box here and you should find them.
Smeddum is another very good word meaning "spirit, energy, drive, vigorous resourcefulness” (there's more on it here), and of course it was the title of a short story by Lewis Grassic Gibbon; let's hope I have some of that tomorrow.
I can't close today, though, without reference to at least one book. My wish list has grown a little longer thanks to all the collections of letters you kindly recommended in response to Sunday's post, and it was further augmented this morning by a book I hadn't come across before I saw it mentioned on Twitter, and that is Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne-Jones, a collection of 25 of her articles on topics including "literary criticism (such as a study of narrative structure in The Lord of the Rings and a ringing endorsement of the value of learning Anglo Saxon), autobiographical anecdotes about reading tours (including an account of her famous travel jinx), revelations about the origins of her books, and thoughts in general about the life of an author and the value of writing". It sounds fascinating.
"A junkyard of the mind", "literary mushroom compost", a record of "thwarted intentions", a "repository for obsessions", a "transitional" medium .... some of the many descriptions of writers' notebooks given by Lawrence Norfolk, A.S. Byatt and others in this programme which I flagged up a few days ago and which was broadcast last night.
I know her books are great favourites with a lot of us and are often taken up when some escapism or comfort reading is needed, and although it's been some years since she published her last novel - and at the age of 97 that's not surprising - I am so sorry to hear that she's gone.
I have linked to this television interview with her once or twice before, but if you haven't seen it, do give it a look and discover the lovely lady behind the books.
Most recently I've read Touch Not The Cat and Thornyhold and enjoyed both enormously, and happily I have others still to read including The Crystal Cave, the first in her acclaimed Merlin series, as well as some re-reads first encountered as a teenager. As her books have been so spread out for me I couldn't pick a favourite, but if you have one, please let us know.
- Books to look forward to: the publication date for Anne Tyler's next novel A Spool of Blue Thread was announced recently; the book won't be out until spring next year, but while we wait for it you may like to listen to this interview in which she talks a little about it and her work in general.
This coming week sees the publication of Friend & Foe, the fourth book in Shirley McKay's series of mysteries featuring young lawyer Hew Cullan, set in St. Andrews during the reign of James VI. The arrival of that book reminded me that despite having had them on the shelves for ages I've still to read the earlier ones, so at long last I've made a start.
Click to enlarge
Hue & Cry is the first one, and it begins in St. Andrews - a place I'm very happy to visit either in real life or on the page - in 1579. Hew has returned to Scotland from studying in Paris, to find that his friend, university regent Nicholas Colp, is accused of murdering a boy who was a private pupil of his. Hew investigates what appears to be an open and shut case, and in so doing he uncovers "a dark tale of duplicity and passion amidst a world of religious piety and the chilling austerity of university life."
The book has been described as "not only a gripping mystery that holds the reader to the very last page, but also a marvellous portrait of St. Andrews in the sixteenth century," so I'm greatly looking forward to getting deeper into it, and to seeing the present day town through fresh eyes when next I'm there.
Where's your reading taking you this weekend? The past, the present, the future? Close to home or far away?
On an unrelated note, I was in a charity bookshop today and I happened to find a copy of Told by Eileen, a children's novel written by my great-grandmother's cousin Alice Massie. I didn't buy it as I already have one, but that's the first of Alice's books I've come across 'in the wild', and I was very pleased to find it. I'll continue to look out for her work.
Today is the 450th. anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare and we shall not let it pass unmarked.
The Folio Society have issued a limited edition of the poems, sonnets and plays, printed by letterpress and bound by hand. The complete set will cost you £11,555, but if that's beyond the budget, you can read all about it here, and watch these videos of the craftsmen and women involved in the project at work:
The Treasures of William Shakespeare by Catherine M.S. Alexander has been produced in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is large and lavishly illustrated, and begins by setting the Elizabethan scene into which Shakespeare was born; it follows him to London, looks at his contemporaries, the world of the court and the theatre, and then moves on to his works themselves, examining the "infinite variety" with which the plays have been adapted for stage and screen.
The book includes 20 removable facsimile documents such as extracts from the First Folio of 1623, and from the prompt book for a 1965 production of Twelfth Night directed by Sir John Gielgud; Shakespeare's marriage bond and will, and the entry of his burial in the parish register; and in addition there is a 53-minute CD of classic excerpts from the plays.
The play's the thing, and Shakespeare's Globe are going to take one of the plays right around the world over the next two years, performing Hamlet in all 187 countries. Their Globe to Globe Hamlet project is looking for funding via Kickstarter, so click here to watch the video about their plans and back them if you will, and here for more information including tour dates and venues.
I like the autobiographical lines Heywood Hill have chosen for their page -
"Anyway, for whatever reason, the bug of the senachie, the Highland teller of tales, seems to have bitten me early, and has never let go."
and on editing:
"I am not normally receptive to suggestions, which I suppose makes me an editor’s nightmare. I make no apology for this; they're my books..."
George MacDonald Fraser's daughter Caro Fraser is a writer, too, and I have on my shelf, though as yet unread, The Pupil, the first of her series of novels of legal life, all of which look very appealing. Do you know them?
Thank you to all who read it and left comments, and hurrah for all those who have said they'll now go on and read more Trollope - that is gratifying. To anyone who has been dithering a bit, unsure as to whether he would appeal, I'd say by all means give him a try.
I'm overdue with reviews of one or two books, but until I write them, let me just give the thumbs-up to both William Nicholson's Reckless and Louise Levene's The Following Girls.
In other recommendations from this neck of the woods, Son-of-Cornflower is re-reading William Dalrymple's Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, so good did he (and Mr. C.) find it first time round, and Mr. C. has been completely hooked - forgive the pun - by Niall Williams's History of the Rain which I loved and which I'll be writing about closer to publication.
"When I was writing my first thriller," says Guy Walters, "my editor was insistent that I tied up all the loose ends in the final chapter. To do so, she argued, would bring the type of ending that was satisfying for the reader. At the time, I baulked – and I still do – because I do not think it necessarily the job of writers to bring satisfaction. But her point was fair. People do want closure, and they want it badly."
If you read the rest of that article you'll see that the context in which the above point is made is the disappearance of flight MH370, but taking that paragraph in isolation, I wondered what your views were: are you a reader who likes the loose ends tied up at the close of a book? Always assuming there is not a sequel in the offing, do you typically crave that sense of 'satisfaction' which the editor felt the novel should engender? I can see why the writer might hold a different view, but I, for one, do like a neat finish with all ends woven in.
(On a related note, see this piece on 'true ends' and happy endings.)
Oliver Pritchett has written a witty introduction on 'the literary fox', and has furnished each drawing with a commentary, but the sketches themselves show a great deal of humour and often not inconsiderable talent for the medium!
Just as an example of their work, below are foxes drawn by Alexander McCall Smith and Diana Athill,
while other contributors include Tracy Chevalier, Alan Garner, Andrew Motion, Isabel Colegate, and Michael Palin (there are 26 in all).