Sunday, April 29, 2012

Souvenirs, part 3

More souvenirs from our holiday a few weeks ago. You would think, travelling with a Kindle (and, OK, one large-ish paperback), that the proverbial suitcase-full-of-books issue would not arise. But that would be to reckon without York’s booming second hand book trade, in particular Ken Spelman, whose shop accounts for the bulk of the pictured booty, and the Minster Gate Bookshop, which provided the two Virginia Woolf books (The Common Reader, Second Series and The Death of the Moth, a posthumous essay collection). The Moomin book, the first to have Lars Jansson’s name on the cover (a bit unfair as he wrote the whole of the previous volume), came from the Travelling Man comic shop, and it is certainly as good as its immediate predecessors, even if it never reaches the heights of ‘Moomin on the Riviera’. How could it, really? The artwork is indistinguishable from Tove’s, and a good deal less sloppy than some of her later comic strips, after she’d got bored with the process. Is there a point to it? Well, it’s still fun. I wondered whether Lars’ success at imitating his sister’s style might have influenced her switch to scratchier illustrations in the later Moomin books.

Most of the rest of the books spring, in one way or another, from Virginia Woolf. Duncan Grant crops up frequently in her diaries, and Quentin Bell’s Bloomsbury is about the Bloomsbury set, of course (Quentin, Woolf’s nephew, features in the diaries too). Woolf’s Common Reader essays were what got me thinking about other essayists, such as William Hazlitt and Charles Lamb. Another tributary here was Arnold Bennett, who picks out Lamb’s ‘Dream Children: A Reverie’ as a good place to start when forming literary taste. It is heartbreaking. In fact, I’d just like to pause and say with Bennett,
At this point, kindly put my book down, and read Dream Children. Do not say to yourself that you will read it later, but read it now. When you have read it, you may proceed to my next paragraph.
You can find the essay here, here or as part of Essays of Elia.

As for the rest, Addison is another name which features frequently in Woolf’s musings on essayists, and Samuel Johnson – isn’t, as far as I remember. I think she may even take him to task for hiding behind too regular a style. But if I am ever going to read Boswell’s Life, it has to be portable, and this two-volume Everyman edition will do the job nicely. When did publishers stop dividing books into volumes? It’s really annoying. Caricatures by Max (Beerbohm) was in the art section of Ken Spelman’s, alongside Quentin Bell and Duncan Grant, and his spherical G. K. Chesterton made me laugh; it also features Wilde, Churchill, Aubrey Beardsley and – Arnold Bennett, strangely enough. It probably deserves a post of its own, with illustrations. Finally, there was a book I didn’t buy at the Wightwick Manor second hand bookshop, but which I had apparently written. Isn’t it strange what you forget?


Anne said...

Are you happy with the Kindle? I am considering getting one to read more books in English.

Chris said...

Now there's a question I spend too much time debating. Yes and no - it is great to have all those free classics to hand (with built-in dictionaries in several languages if you want them, though only the first is free), and it would be a life saver for someone who travels a lot, I imagine. But I'd still rather read a paper book if I can. Partly because of design / character etc., but mostly because you can flick through a book and get some tangible idea of where you're going and where you've been. It sounds trivial, but if you're reflecting on a book after reading it, paper beats e-ink, for me.

If you do get one, have a look at Adelaide University's ebook page, there's lots of good stuff there, with better formatting than Project Gutenberg:

Anne said...

Well, I don't travel a lot, but my apartment is already cluttered with many books. I borrow all I can from the library, but it doesn't have much in English. Reading more in English means ordering more online, so it might as well be in digital format... Now I have to decide whether to get a Kindle or a Kobo or yet another e-book.Thanks for the link, I've bookmarked it!

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