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Books, books

January 29th, 2011 (06:31 pm)

My intention of working today has been balanced by the need to have some sort of weekend. I rose late but only after finishing New Grub Street. George Gissing had a pessimistic outlook on human nature; the characters I felt led to support do not end well. Its lessons are still relevant, though.

Afterwards I went shopping in Woodstock. The stock of the secondhand bookshop in the former Savills office seems to have become more concentrated, but they still have a good range of old Penguin English Library and other series upstairs. Despite still having many other books to read (including a couple of William Morrises bought at St Mary Mags sale in Oxford over a year ago) I picked up a 1972 Penguin Modern Classics edition of The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories and a 1970s printing of the Signet Classic version of Thoreau's Walden (complete with a New English Library price sticker on the cover) for £1 each. The shop is a 'social enterprise' established to support the proprietor's charity interests, at the moment helping support a young woman in Africa through her education.

I then went on to The Woodstock Bookshop, which still stands proud on our Oxford Street. I failed to buy anything, but can at least give them some publicity with this link; they have a strong children's section and also stock a good number of titles from smaller specialist imprints like Eland or Little Toller Books, and are worth visiting.

ETA: I didn't mention that one book I didn't get at the secondhand bookshop was a hardback of Mark Gatiss's The Devil in Amber, complete with bookplate identifying it as a prize book awarded by a convent school. Lucifer Box would be entertained.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: January 30th, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
Radcliffe Camera

If it's anything like Prize Day at my school, the pupils were probably given book vouchers and allowed to buy what they wanted. One year I bought The Bible According to Spike Milligan and only discovered on reading it after Prize Day that it was not really a suitable prize from a Jewish school. It wasn't so much the irreverent attitude to the Bible as the prolific use of the f-word, which, knowing Milligan mainly from The Goon Show, I didn't expect.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 30th, 2011 01:52 pm (UTC)

No, I wouldn't have expected that either! Isn't The Bible... one of his later ones..?

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: January 30th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure when he wrote it, but I think I had only read two of his books at that point, and at least one of those was specifically written for children.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 30th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)

The first Milligan I came across was Silly Verse for Kids, which was either a fifth or sixth birthday present.

Posted by: Adilo Creamon (the_marquis)
Posted at: January 30th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)

The Bible, Lady Chatterly, and Hound of the Baskervilles are all very late Milligan. Fun poems & kids stuff is middling Milligan. IIRC

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 30th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)

I thought so - the ones he turned out for Virgin (at least one of them anyway) not that long before his death.

Posted by: ms_rebecca_riot (ms_rebecca_riot)
Posted at: March 18th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Bernard Black

I've always meant to read New Grub Street as it was mentioned in many books I read for my thesis. It was from the same strand of lower middle class vic/edwardian lit that produced the cheery Three Men in a Boat which was still grounded in that socio-economic context. TMIAB had an unexpected discovery of a young unmarried mother who'd drowned herself,- that streak of bad things happening to sympathetic characters.

People are still sold the idea that idealism & hard work will conquer all, it turns up in new age philosophies all the time. In my experience, it doesn't,- no reason not to try, but to tackle things pragmatically (or change course altogether).

Great to hear The Woodstock Bookshop still stands, as an indie, its an achievement in itself. Hereways, indies are at least briefly looking comparatively better, as Australasian Borders is in receivership taking subsidary Whitcoulls (like WH Smith) there with it. Meanwhile a local indie is expanding its floorspace. Nice.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 18th, 2011 09:38 am (UTC)

Hello! I really must read Three Men in a Boat at some point. The 'idealism and hard work' myth is indeed potent, not least because those who are successful propagate it.

Oxford Borders still exists in my head. I imagine looking at new books on its shelves. However, in the real world all that I would find there would be a Tesco.