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Three Things… #2 – documentaries, and the price of books…

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I quite enjoyed my first go at this nice little meme, thought up by Paula, where we post about what we’re Reading, Looking and Thinking. So I thought I would share again where I am – a little snapshot of my state of mind today, you might say!

Reading

Choices, choices…

I’m dipping into a number of books at the moment, mostly shorter ones after the epic, mammoth, involving and wonderful read that was “The Aviator”. There are the next couple of Penguin Moderns and a pair of lovely review classics from Ampersand. Also on the immediate TBR is “Flights” and a very interesting-sounding British Library Crime Classic, “The Division Bell”. As well as books, I’m trying to catch up on the issues of the London Review of Books which have been massing on the coffee table, along with copies of the TLS (a Russian special) and the latest “Happy Reader”. Plenty to keep the avid bibliophile amused….

Looking

Great excitement chez the Ramblings, as BBC4 (finally!) decide to repeat one of the Documentaries that Distracted last year – and probably my favourite. The three-part “Utopia: In Search of the Dream”, written and presented by Professor Richard Clay, was one my viewing highlights of 2017, so I’m glad to see it getting another airing. The series was a bracing and eclectic mix, looking at utopias, dystopias, repressive regimes (from both sides of the politic divide), architecture, art, music et al – very broad indeed. I’d recommend catching the series while you can if you have access to BBC4 or the iPlayer – thought-provoking stuff!

Which obliquely leads on to…

Thinking

A topic vexing my mind lately has been the cost of books. Not just ordinary new books, which do of course vary according to where you buy them, and in what format; but older, out of print or rarer titles that seem to fluctuate madly according to the day of the week.

Of course, we all know that a certain big river store’s prices are often slashed wildly and that real bookshops struggle to compete. There’s the issue also of local shops not always stocking what you want, but as they now all seem to be able to order in quickly I’m finding myself drawn back to Waterstones and the like, and if I have to order online I tend to go for Wordery nowadays who seem quite a decent lot.

The iconoclasm books continue to breed…. =:o

However, old or rare books are a different kettle of (vegan) fish. It was the “Iconoclasm in Revolutionary Paris: the Transformation of Signs” book by the aforementioned Richard Clay which got me thinking about values. As I’ve posted about on here before, I had been unable to find this one at a sensible price anywhere, so I resorted to getting Youngest Child to borrow it from her University library over Christmas. With second-hand copies going at over £1,000, I wasn’t going to be owning a copy any time soon.

But I set up alerts on a number of online booksellers and one morning, ping! A load of messages starting to come in with Reasonably Priced and Brand New copies available at under £100. So as I’ve posted, I picked up a copy and was dead chuffed. However, the interesting follow-up to this is that I never got round to cancelling all the alerts and messages are still rolling in with copies for sale – and the price since I bought my copy has been gradually creeping up and up, until a recent email dropped in offering a second-hand version for an eye-watering £8,792.58…. Yes, really…. And it seems to keep going up…

One of my rarer Viragos…

So WHY is it that some book prices vary so intensely and what sets the value? I know this one is an academic book, published in limited quantities by a smaller publisher, but is it simply the rarity value? It’s not only academic books that can have rare prices – I know Jane at Beyond Eden Rock has written about Margery Sharp’s “Rhododendron Pie” which is almost impossible to find at a decent price; and when I first wanted to read A.A. Milne’s “Four Days’ Wonder” it was prohibitively priced so I didn’t bother. I guess it’s some kind of complex calculation of the rarity of the book vs the amount of people who want to read it; when Simon at Stuck in a Book first blogged about “Guard Your Daughters”, the price of second-hand copies rocketed; and Anne Bridge’s “Illyrian Spring”, long sought after by Virago devotees, commanded silly prices before its reprint by Daunt Books.

I guess the moral is simple: if you want a book, and you see it at a price you’re prepared to pay, grab it. Certainly, I’m very glad I got hold of my iconoclasm book when I did – because there’s no way I could afford getting on for nine grand!!!!

*****

So there’s a snapshot of where my head is at the moment – full of books, magazines, documentaries and iconoclasm – the usual rambling and eclectic mix! 🙂

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Shuffling the shelves – again….. #books #MountTBR

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I had a minor bookish crisis at the weekend when I took a look at the piles of books all over my workroom (which holds most of Mount TBR) and realised that I had really lost track of what was in there. A quick rummage revealed not only several titles I had actually read, but also a great number I’m not planning to read immediately. I realised it was time for a shuffle (and those of you on social media might have seen this picture appearing…)

The main problem (which is the problem with *all* of the books in my house) is the randomness – the different types and authors and genres were all muddled together and that annoyed me on Sunday… So I resolved to have a bit of a sort and try to bring some order to the piles. Which took a little time…

The first thing I wanted to get organised was the poetry books and unfortunately they’ve had to be double shelved. This is the back row:

(You can see the general state of disarray on the other shelves while I sort things out).

And this is the front row when I’d done more shuffling:

This is, of course, not all the poetry I own. For example, all my Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes books are upstairs in the spare room that houses much of my collection. But I wanted to gather all of these together so they’re handy for dipping into – reasonable, no?

The next thing to do was to try to group the remaining books loosely together (and my sorting of books is always a little eclectic). This involved Books All Over The Floor, which always makes me a bit nervous – here are some of them:

The Russians, of course, took up a huge space of their own – I think they might be trying to take over….

Finally, after much shuffling and stress, things began to look more organised (if a little precarious at points):

And the main shelves have come together nicely:

The bottom shelf is Russians (and believe me, this is only a fraction of the Russian books I own). The next up is the poetry books. The third shelf up is slightly heavier tomes (not physically, but in content) including Penguin Little Black Classics, Penguin Great Ideas and lots of things from Verso and the like. And the top shelf has my Penguin Modern box, a number of books vaguely related to art and the French revolution, as well as my Iconoclasm books.

It seems that the Iconoclasm books have been quietly reproducing when I wasn’t looking…. 😀

Any road up, this group of books is now a little more orderly. I sent some images to the Offspring while I was mid-shuffle, and Middle Child commented that I had a book problem. I did remind her that I’ve never denied that (and if she knew how many books have spread into her old room, she’d probably have a fit…)

But never mind – I feel a bit clearer-headed about what’s on the immediate TBR and things are notionally together, which was the point of the exercise. Success! :)))))

A few quick literary links…. @lithub @parisreview @guardian

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A lot of lovely blogs tend to have regular features with links to all the exciting posts, articles and features that pop up on the InterWeb. It’s not a thing I generally do, but today’s newsletter from LitHub had some links I just felt I had to share!

By Ginny from USA (book sale loot) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Feminize Your Canon – a really interesting initiative from The Paris Review (which has been widely shared on Twitter today). It’s a new monthly column celebrating neglected woman writers, starting with Olivia Manning, and deserves to be read and applauded. You can subscribe to receive daily updates from the PR which are always worth reading as well.

Top 10 lost women’s classics – an interesting piece from the always-interesting Guardian newspaper in a similar vein, which has some very intriguing books featured.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Penelope Lively on Virginia Woolf – on LitHub this time, a fascinating extract from Lively’s book, “Life in the Garden”.

If you don’t subscribe to LitHub’s daily newsletter, I’d suggest signing up. A daily dose of literary links can be just what the doctor ordered – although always potentially bad for the wishlist and TBR…. 🙂

 

A Scary Statistic…

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So, WordPress just reminded me that it’s 5 years ago today that I uploaded my first post to the Ramblings!! And that’s pretty scary because I find it hard to believe I’ve been babbling on about books here for that long – it seems only yesterday…. 🙂

I confess I’ve enjoyed every moment of that five years of blogging: as well as taking pleasure in sharing my thoughts about books in general, actually sitting down and reviewing them has not only deepened my enjoyment and engagement with them, but has also helped fix them more in my mind (and given me a good reference tool for what I’ve read!)

But I think one of the most delightful parts of blogging has been meeting, either virtually or in real life, with other bookish types. Some of these have been from the Virago LibraryThing group and others who have blogs, or just follow what happens on them. It’s a real joy to share bookish love and so I wanted to thanks everyone who’s ever taken the time to read my witterings or leave a comment – these latter are always appreciated as I love to interact with anyone who loves books as much as I do!

Onward and upward – here’s to more reading and sharing our bookish love!

Fun and books in London!

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When Liz (who I also know through LibraryThing) pointed out that although we’d known each other for ages we hadn’t actually met and wasn’t it about time that we did – well, what better excuse did we need to arrange a lovely meet-up in London? Fortunately, some other friends from the LibraryThing Virago group were able to come along too, so in the end there was Liz, Ali, Claire, Luci and I (plus a flying visit from Middle Child who was in London to see a show and was able to catch up with us for a while – which was lovely!)

The day started with a couple of detours: after a hideous wait to top up my Oyster Card at the mainline station (thanks Network Rail for having no ticket offices any more and inadequate machines), I popped through Covent Garden to pay a flying visit to the kikki.k stationery shop – which was very, very beautiful and resulted in a small amount of spending:

kikki-k

Well, I *did* have a 25% off voucher!

Then another flying visit, as I met up briefly with Simon from Stuck-in-a-Book to take a quick look at a very lovely Dufy exhibition in a private gallery – and on the way back to Charing Cross Road to meet the ladies, I may well have stumbled into Waterstones Piccadilly, and this may have happened:

jacobI feel no guilt about this one, as my original copy of “Jacob’s Room” from 35 years ago had such brown, crumbly pages when I took it out the other day that it would have fallen to bits had I attempted to actually read it. And I *do* want to re-read it, so there you are!

We lunched at Gaby’s, a rather wonderful deli at the bottom of Charing Cross Road, and then headed for the bookshops, but only after Liz and Luci had managed to increase my book stash a little:

from-liz

These two were from Liz – “Belinda”, because I’d expressed a keeness to read it and she had finished it; and the Laxness because she thinks it’s a little odd and that somehow I am an expert on odd European books! We shall see! 🙂

from-luci

Lovely Luci always comes to gatherings laden with books to give away or donate. It’s hard to restrain yourself in the face of such generosity, but I was very pleased to have a Nemirovsky I didn’t have, and also a novel by Mavis Gallant, about whom I’ve heard very good things.

The rest of the day was spent happily mooching in bookshops – Any Amount of Books, Henry Pordes (who have dramatically cut down their stock of paperbacks, alas), Bloomsbury Oxfam, LRB Bookshop and then finally onto the Persephone shop as the light was fading – and here we are!

dav

Needless to say, we didn’t get out of the shop without some serious spending – and I would guess it’s a toss-up between Liz and Ali as to who was the winner in the book-buying stakes! Apart from Jacob’s Room I only actually *bought* these:

bought-booksThe Persephone is “The Sack of Bath” by Adam Fergusson; the Duras and the book about Angela Carter were from Any Amount of Books; and the Sitwell from the Bloomsbury Oxfam.

After repairing to a nearby pub for a sit down, a drink and the use of the facilities, it was time to head home. It was a lovely day and a real pleasure to spend it with some wonderful friends – let’s hope it won’t be too long before we can have another bookish day-trip to the capital! 🙂

The Bookish Time Travel Tag!

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As I rule, I don’t often get tagged for memes and the like, but englishlitgeek mentioned me in connection with a rather nice bookish time travel tag and I really couldn’t resist. The tag is created by The Library Lizard and you can see their site here. Apparently all you have to do is answer the questions as best you can and suggest some other bloggers who might be interested in taking part – with no pressure and no obligation of course! So here goes with the questions!

1. What is your favourite historical setting for a book?

rare_russian_books

The most obvious setting that springs to mind for me is Russia – a country I have a great fondness for in the form of its culture, literature and art. Reading books set in either Tsarist or Soviet or modern Russia is one of my favourite things, and you can guarantee that I won’t go for long without reading a Russian! I still don’t quite know where the fascination comes from – maybe I have distant relations there…. J

2. What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Virginia Woolf

Well, how long is a piece of string? Some of my favourites will be obvious to readers of the Ramblings, and spending time with Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Mikhail Bulgakov, Mervyn Peake, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Colette and Georges Perec, to name but a few, would be such a wonderful experience. I’m the kind of reader who, when they really like an author’s books, feels they have a kind of personal relationship with that author so actually meeting them in real life would be kind of wonderful!

3.What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

lifeperec

That’s a hard one, but I would probably pick out Georges Perec’s “Life: A User’s Manual”. I read this fairly recently and it engendered a huge obsession with Perec’s work. It’s a book I wish I’d discovered earlier in my life so I would definitely like to send it back to myself!

4.What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

I don’t think there are *any* books I would rather have read now than when I was younger; and I certainly revisit the ones which had the most impact on me at the time. That’s the joy of reading – you can go back to your favourites…

5.What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?

viriconium

Another tricky one… I’m very fond of M. John Harrison’s “Viriconium”; I read his novels and stories of the place back in the day and I’m intending a re-visit when I have the right reading moment. The sprawling, undefined and ever-changing city is endlessly fascinating and vividly created, and I can’t recommend these books strongly enough. Ballard’s futuristic settings are of course wonderful and I do need to get back to reading his short stories again.

6.What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

mervynpeake_gormenghast

I’m not going to be able to pick just one – impossible to pick favourites! – but I would like to mention Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books. As I’ve said before, I read these back in the late 1970s and was transfixed. The setting is nebulous, but obviously somewhere else and sometime else, the writing is glorious, the characters fantastic and larger than life, and it’s a series of books like no other. In fact, I suspect that a re-read might be due some time soon….

7.Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Very rarely… I’d rather read the book through and watch what happens, because even if you read the end of a book, you don’t necessarily find out the complete solution. Fortunately, I’m a fairly fast reader so even if the book is very suspenseful and I’m desperate to get to the end, I can usually hold out until the last pages!

8.If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

break of day

Ooooh, so many temptations! I’d be very keen to visit the Cote D’Azur before it became what it is today – Colette’s “Break of Day’, possibly my favourite of her books, features the south of France before it became the commercialised millionaires’ playground it is today, and I would absolutely love to see that. Popping into post-revolutionary Russia to visit Mayakovsky and Bulgakov is tempting – as is visiting every single author I’ve ever liked, actually! I’ve always fancied early 20th century Britain, and in fact living through the 20th century from the very start must have been a fascinating experience. Choices, choices!

9.Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

half a life

Again, I don’t like to pick favourites; but I read Connie Willis’ “To say nothing of the Dog” pre-blog and liked it very much. Another work I like that straddles time periods is the short story “May I Please Speak to Nina” by Kirill Bulychev which I reviewed here and absolutely loved.

10. What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

if-on-a-winters-night-a-traveller

Well, the Gormenghast books and The Lord of the Rings are obvious choices – both are series I’ve read many times over the years and both have had a big effect on me. And I would like to encounter Italo Calvino’s “If on a winter night a traveler” for the first time again – it was one of those life-changing reads and I still love it to bits.

Phew! An interesting tag, which really made me think about some of the books I’ve read! As for other bloggers who might like to take the tag up, I’ll mention a few below who could well be interested – though as I said, no pressure and I don’t like to drop people into things they don’t want to do. But thanks to englishlitgeek for mentioning this tag to me – it’s been fun! 🙂

Annabel’s House of Books

Adventures in Reading, Writing and Working from Home

Beyond Eden Rock

HeavenAli

JacquiWine’s Journal

Scratching the book itch

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I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the worst things you can do as a bibliophile is read book blogs – especially if you’re a reader who’s as fickle and impressionable as I am! Unfortunately, book blogs are one of my favourite things, and I *love* a good recommendation or discovering a book/author I haven’t come across before. It’s not good for the TBR or the bank balance (or indeed the space in the house!) and it’s something I’ve been trying to address lately.

The trouble is, I think, the ready availability of (often cheaply priced) books. The minute I read a review that enthuses me, it’s tempting to just order a copy to have ready for when I want to read it. This way, I’ve ended up with shelves of wonderful (unread) books and I’m constantly being distracted from them by the next shiny recommendation. So I’ve hit upon a couple of ways to try to counteract the mad urge to buy.

First, there is the library. If a book is there, I’ll reserve it – chances are it will be available just as quickly as one I’d order online, and more often than not I’ll decide I don’t need to read it at the moment, add it to the wish list and then take it back.

basketIf it’s not in the library I go to phase 2. I add it to the shopping basket of a selected online retailer and then leave it there – usually all day, while I’m working or doing something else. Most often, when I go back to it, I’ve decided I can wait so I add it to the aforementioned wish list and don’t buy it.

Both approaches are working fairly well (!) and help to deal with that book itch I get when I read about an intriguing volume.

However, I don’t know if this book urge is exclusive to me, as when I was packing my shopping bag to take a library book back the other day, OH asked me if I’d read it. I replied that I hadn’t, but I’d got it out to see if I’d like – I thought I would but I didn’t have an urgent need to read it right now. He queried if I got “urgent needs” to read a book as if it was unusual. Well I do – and I hope I’m not alone in that!

But in the meantime, I’ll use the above methods to scratch the book itch and hopefully keep the TBR down! 🙂

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