Skip to main content

Good Haul This Year

While my mother was here last week, I bagged a cache of fabulous finds. (She was kindly, defeatedly, long-sufferingly, patient.) While strolling through the subterranean hallways of Pike Place Market looking for the moomin postcard shop and a headband for my brother, we found a used book store which coughed up a postcard of Graham Greene and this:




Iris M's first novel in the hottest incarnation of a paperback.

The proprietor, who may or may not have been 1) Russian and 2) possessed by the devil, commended Iris Murdoch and said she was one of his favorite writers, but as he had been literally coughing up a hairball not a moment before and was rhapsodizing about Dover publications, I took it to mean he was an enthusiastic salesperson, nothing more, and had no special affection for Iris.

In Victoria we stopped by Renaissance Books, a treat for the soul. I could have spent $350 in a moment. Sadly, I couldn't. I had to leave Dostoyevsky's writing notebooks and the biography of Sylvia Townsend Warner, and the memoirs of Malcolm Muggeridge, and the thousands of penguin trade paperbacks I could have put in a sandwich and consumed on the spot.

However, I did pick up three: the second volume of Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage novels (read more here), another of Ivy Compton-Burnett's razor-sharp novels (more here), and Summer Will Show (already finished).




I also saw at the counter a few of Enid Blyton's Noddy Books. Noddy, like Nellie the Elephant, the Wombles, and the Famous Five, was a big part of my childhood. Noddy is a relic of different days (like Postmand Pat, who I hear was finally kicked off the Royal Mail...)

"No one knows who Noddy is," I said to my mom, fingering the books.
"Excuse me," said the proprietor of Renaissance Books, "Everyone knows who Noddy is."
"Oh pardon me, on the Other Side."
"Aha!" (With scorn.)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Private Life of the Diary

I’ve kept a diary since I was twelve. While I composed nearly illegible autobiographical scratchings in my first years of primary school at my teachers’ request, it wasn’t until I was on the brink of becoming a teenager that I felt I needed a more permanent arrangement. I suspect it had to do with reading The Diary of Anne Frank. My diary’s function has changed over the years – it once had a name (having discovered that Zoe was the Greek word for life, I thought my choice extremely clever), and I used to like my diaries in a variety of shapes and sizes, spangled with glitter, ruled with wide lines, shackled with locks and keys. For at least eight years my diary was the space in which to vent my feelings, and offered some form of therapeutic comfort. This meant it was largely about boys and is, as a result, very tedious to reread. But while the function of my journal has changed, each volume has been a solution to the manic desire to scribble. As I discovered reading Anne Frank, each e…

The Short Story Season I

The New Yorker Fiction podcast, which I’ve now gobbled up in its entirety, has recently been a lifeline while I’ve been travelling from house to house, city to city. It’s been responsible for kick-starting my renewed interest in the short story – more to come – and for introducing me to writers I’ve long known by name but never read: like Elizabeth Taylor.

Paul Theroux read Taylor’s ‘The Letter Writers’ this past January for the podcast and the story remains one of her best, alongside (and forgive the list) stories such as ‘Taking Mother Out’, ‘Swan-Moving’, ‘A Sad Garden’, ‘The Ambush’, ‘The True Primitive’, ‘The Little Girl’, ‘Hare Park’, ‘The Prerogative of Love’, and ‘The Thames Spread Out’. Travelling with the hefty paperback on planes, trains, and automobiles, I feel I’ve dragged round my little plot of England to keep me company.

(A quick note on editions: an NYRB edition of her stories has just been published but it is a selection, rather than Virago’s Complete Stories. Forgo t…

Blast-beruffled plumes

I’ve returned to Minnesota to find it transformed into a Brueghel painting.



Our hunters are gone north or even south, wherever there are more deer. This has been a bad year for deer, threatened by the cold of last year’s polar vortex and the high population of coyotes, which now carry a bounty on their heads.

So, while it’s still autumn in England (I’ve been assured), winter has come. The nights are long, the wreaths are out. I’ve been reading restlessly – Robert Walser and GB Shaw. But some nights, Thomas Hardy feels just right for November melancholia. Here’s ‘A Darkling Thrush’:

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
Th…