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Clearing the shelves – it’s time for a giveaway or two! :D

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The parlous state of my TBR (and in fact my shelves in general!) is probably notorious by now; and the pictures I’ve posted of new arrivals on social media recently probably hint that even more books have made their way into the house. In mitigation, I have sent some off to friends, sold one or two and I have three large boxes in the hall awaiting collection by the Samaritans Book Cave! Nevertheless, I have half a dozen or so lovely titles that I really don’t need (owing to having duplicate copies in the main) and so I thought I would offer them to readers of the blog in a giveaway – it’s a little while since I’ve done one of these! 😀

And these are the books concerned:

Eight in total, now that I count them… Here’s a closer look at some:

These are all lovely Alma Classics editions which I’ve read but are duplicated or I won’t read again; so it makes sense for them to go to someone who would! The Jerome K. Jerome is great fun; Poe and Gatsby need no introduction from me!

Next up some Russians:

A pair of Turgenevs, which I have duplicated somehow; plus Fardwor, Russia! which was a great read!

And finally a Virago and a fragile Picador:

The Virago is a new style cover. As for the second book, much as it pains me to get rid of a Calvino, I already have the exact same edition from back in the day, so it’s a bit silly to hold onto it. Apart from this one, all of the other books are brand new.

So if you think you’d like to read one of these, give me a shout in the comments and let me know what book or books you might be interested in. I will have to restrict to the UK and possibly Europe, as postage costs anywhere else are going to be a bit awful. But speak up if you’re interested – if I can donate these to new, happy homes I won’t feel quite so bad about the books that keep sneaking their way into the house… ;D

Getting Past Gatsby

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F. Scott Fitzgerald was in the news at the end of last year owing to the discovery of a batch of “lost” stories which are apparently due to be published this year. He was an astonishingly prolific writer, producing stories for magazines on a regular basis, but it’s very much for “The Great Gatsby” that he’s remembered. I first read the book in my teens, after having been seduced by the Mia Farrow/Robert Redford film, and I’ve returned to it several times. And as you can see, I already own several copies…

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However, I dipped back into GG recently courtesy of this beautiful review copy of the new Alma Evergreen edition and I’ve really been enjoying re-engaging with the story.

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Like most of their Evergreens, this has a gorgeous cover, and comes with excellent supporting material on the author’s life and work, as well as a section on film adaptations of his books, plus some photos. It was reading about Fitzgerald’s other works that made me wonder why I’ve got so stuck on Gatsby and never managed to move onto any of his other novels (I have read some of his short stories). I have a huge shelf of his works, many volumes of which I’ve owned since my teens, so there’s absolutely no reason not to pick up another Fitzgerald and get reading. But I found myself wondering if it’s because Gatsby is such a perfect book that I’ve found myself unable to get past it and immerse myself in his other works.

The trouble is, when an author has written a book that’s regarded as iconic, there’s a danger that everything else they wrote will be judged against it. “Gatsby” stands so high in the pantheon of American literature that a reader might think there’s no need to read anything else written by Fitzgerald, and that’s a great shame.

I do, however, have an awful lot of Fitzgeralds on my shelves which are begging to be read:

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And I had forgotten that I own one of the beautiful editions produced by Alma that’s available in their Fitzgerald Collection:

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So there is no excuse for me not to read more Fitzgerald in 2017! However, in the meantime I shall continue to enjoy my Alma Evergreen edition of Gatsby, with its tale of the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby and his great love for Daisy Buchanan, and I thought I would share a few favourite quotes with you.

I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

*****

There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

*****

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

Recent Reads: #1 – The Cruise of the Rolling Junk – F. Scott Fitzgerald

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I’ve been reading madly lately, and this was one of my favourite finds. Put out by Hesperus Press, who are one of my favourite publishers, it’s a lost volume of pieces written by F. Scott Fitgerald. They were written for magazine publication but were apparently hard to place and eventually ended up in a motoring magazine and haven’t been seen since, until rediscovered by Matthew J. Bruccoli, a Fitzgerald scholar who seems to have done much over the years to bring FSF’s shorter works back into the public eye. Kudos to him for making all these available!

Rolling Junk is a road tale of Scott and Zelda on a madcap drive to the South, the ostensible reason being that Zelda is missing Southern biscuits and peaches. This is obviously not a completely factual tale (the excellent introduction discusses the differences) but it is a wonderful read. It’s humourous and thoughtful and very entertaining – Scott takes on the role of fumbling, hopeless car owner, unable to fix anything on the vehicle and very much at the mercy of the many garages at which they have to stop as the Rolling Junk seems to be practically falling to bits.

It’s also a fascinating tale for the glimpses of the American South in the early part of the 20th century, not so long after the Civil War and the ghosts of this conflict are still available. Even changes since Zelda had last visited move her to tears. There is hidden depth to this story and indications not only of what a great writer Scott would become but also of the tragic direction the Fitzgeralds’ life would take.

The only negative comment I can make is about an element which seems to turn up in quite a few introductions to Hesperus volumes – the necessity the publishers seem to feel to apologise for the fact that writers from 100 years ago are not always politically correct. I do find it insulting as a reader that I am not assumed to be intelligent or grown up enough to deal with this.

But I highly recomment this beautifully produced little book and thanks goodness Hesperus have made it available to us again.

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