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A close-up and personal encounter #FridaKahlo #V&A

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I can’t believe we’re into September already; as usual the summer has flown by and I’m facing the looming spectre of going back to work and wondering what I did with my time! (Well – I read a lot and amassed more books, amongst other things, so not much changes…) Anyway, I *did* manage to have a lovely day out on Saturday when I popped up to London to meet up with my BFF J. to take in a very special exhibition. Mind you, ‘popped’ is the wrong word – as there were hideous rail replacements, which meant I had to do a train-coach-train kind of journey and what normally takes an hour and a quarter took two… It was also fairly unsettling as not only can I not read on a coach, but I managed to forget my phone! I didn’t mind not having social media and the like, but I felt a bit insecure not being able to call anyone in case of problems; and I was also very cross at not being able to take photographs. Oh well…

c. V&A Museum

Anyway, this is the rather wonderful exhibition that J. and I were off to see. It’s a show that’s garnered a lot of media attention, and basically the story is that when Frida died in 1954, Diego Rivera (her husband) ordered all her things locked away. In 2004, 50 years later, they were opened up and clothing, cosmetics, corsets and all sorts of personal effects were found. The exhibition is drawn from these, with the clothes taking centre position, and this is apparently the first time these objects, intimately connected to Frida, have been seen outside of Mexico. Of course, as Frida-lovers, both J. and I were desperate to see the show, but it was impossible to get tickets for 21st July (when we had our early summer meet up) so I suggested 1st September as a treat before I went back to work. I just wish I’d checked the trains beforehand…

Anyway, J. booked us entry at 10 a.m. and so we rocked up at the V&A promptly. It was busy – a lot of people were queuing for the limited tickets left for the day, so I was very glad J. had booked. And the exhibition was worth any amount of (minor) hassle getting there – it was absolutely stunning! The initial sections of the show had photographs, images and videos which gave an outline of Frida’s life, including some marvellous footage which I’ve seen online of Trotsky with Frida and Diego, as well as some family background. We were gently led through to the first of the costumes, in a display case set up to resemble her painting “The Two Fridas” as well as some of her collection of shawls; and then into the first of the main parts of the exhibition, that of her personal effects.

The display cases were constructed in the shape of four-poster bed frames (modelled on Frida’s own, I believe, a bed that was a central part of much of her life). Spread through these were a most touching and moving collection of items: her comb, her sunglasses, her nail varnish, a variety of plaster and leather corsets and casts which helped to support her during her life; and heartbreakingly, the prosthetic she wore after the amputation of part of her polio-damaged leg towards the end of her life. Seeing these small, personal objects – often decorated by Frida herself – really brings you close to the woman herself, and of course with Frida (who constructed her own self image daily) the person and the art are inseparable.

The final room of the exhibition contained the centrepiece – a huge display case full of Frida-type mannequins wearing her outfits. They were, of course, stunning as she had such a personal sense of style. Both J. and I had our own favourites, and again it was moving to consider how she chose her clothes for the practical reason of covering her corsets, supports and wounded leg, and yet insisted on creating such a beautiful personal style for herself. The room (and indeed the whole exhibition) was enhanced by the wonderful photographs on the surrounding wall which showed Frida wearing the outfits and jewellery on display, and the colour ones were particularly striking – have a look at the postcards I bought (above) for example.

Obviously, I can’t recommend this show highly enough; definitely one of the best put together I’ve seen and I came out of it stunned and a bit emotionally drained. In fact, I  have to say that the culture shock of stepping out of what was a  profound and moving experience into the gift shop was quite alarming; the latter was stuffed to the gills with souvenirs that frankly at best were tangential and superficial, and at worst could be seen as exploitative – a paper dressing doll book with a Barbie-shaped Frida with ‘perfect’ limbs actually struck me as a bit offensive. I suppose organisations have to make money to be able to put on exhibitions, but the commodification of tacky fake flower headdresses sat a bit uncomfortably with me. And if I ever decide to channel my inner Frida I hope I would do it by constructing my own personal items and spin on her style. Hey – that’s a cool idea for a back-to-work look….. ;D

Anyway, after a couple of emotional hours in the company of Frida, we felt in need of sustenance and decided to head off in the direction of the British Library. On our previous visit to the area, when we discovered the lovely Judd Books (more of which later), J. remembered seeing several eateries. Unfortunately, we incorrectly remembered Judd Books as being in Judd Street and ended up at the Brunswick Centre… Fortunately, there was an Itsu which came to our rescue with several vegan options (and I was getting a bit desperate as breakfast had been early because of train-coach-train meaning a very prompt start today). And it would have been rude not to visit Skoob as we were in the area (and we eventually rediscovered Judd Books in the parallel Marchmont Street where there are indeed plenty of eateries!) I was priding myself on having a very restrained day, despite the infinite temptations of both bookshops:

The small book is from Skoob and is another Penguin Modern Poets I didn’t have – two in a week must be good! The Anna Akhmatova book was from Judd and was a no-brainer – it’s by Elaine Feinstein, who translates Tsvetaeva so beautifully, and so I really had to pick it up. And restraining yourself in Judd Books is difficult – they have a *lot* of second-hand stock, but also what I imagine is remaindered stock of US books and there were some wonderful temptations. However, I was priding myself on doing so well and turning to leave when I spotted something that I really could *not* leave behind:

This behemoth of a box of books came out in the USA: a beautiful, three hardback set of Primo Levi’s complete works. I coveted it like mad when it was first issued, but couldn’t justify the £100 upward cost plus postage, especially as I have a lot of  his works already (albeit in different translations). But it’s too long since I read him, and I *did* really covet this set. Well – it was in Judd and I had to stare in disbelief, because it was £17.95. Yes really – £17.95!!! J. looked a little disbelieving when she realised the weight, but as I told her this was not negotiable – I wasn’t going home without it. I had come armed with rucksack this time as we were exchanging books (and I ended up carrying more than J. did!) but this wasn’t going to sit comfortably in there, so the trusty and very sturdy KBR tote bag sprang into action and did the job!

*Definitely* the most useful present Middle Child ever gave me, and I certainly don’t think I could have lugged that set of books round London in any other bag!!!

By this time, our endurance was rather coming to an end so we bused back to Foyles via Tiger in Tottenham Court Road for a welcome browse amongst the poetry and tea in the cafe (whilst taking it in turns to hold/guard Primo) – the Foyles cafe is *such* a lovely place. After that we went out separate ways to negotiate the complexities of the journey home (train-coach-train was *not* fun when loaded with books and surrounded by football fans manspreading everywhere). I’m pleased to report that Primo and I arrived home safely (if exhausted and footsore) and OH seemed surprisingly understanding about the reasons why I had to have this particular box of books (although he did express vague concerns about shelves of books falling on us while we sleep….)

I haven’t been able to put many photos in this post because, dammit, I couldn’t take any and I don’t want to pinch anyone else’s. However, if you have a quick search online you’ll find plenty up there which will give you an idea of what’s in this exhibition. It really is stunning, a kind of once in a lifetime chance to see these items, and it’s running until November. If you get a chance to go I urge you to do so – J. and I certainly had a wonderful day out encountering the presence of Frida Kahlo!

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Why a visit to London is *very* dangerous for a bibliophile… #bookfinds

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Those of you who follow me on social media might have noticed I shared a little photo of a pile of books in the lovely Foyles cafe yesterday. I met up with my dear friend J. for a day out to celebrate the start of the summer break (a little tradition we seem to be developing), and by that point we were hot and laden with books. I’m afraid this is going to be a bit of a book haul post, as we *both* got a little carried away!

The joy of train travelling is being able to read – I devoured this marvellous book over the outward and return journey!

Often we meet up with a tight agenda of an exhibition to see and specific places to go, but yesterday we’d kept things loose. I had specifically said I wanted to pop into the British Library – apart from the fact it’s just a place of worship for anyone who loves books, they had a little display in their Treasure Room devoted to Karl and Eleanor Marx. Both are fascinating figures, and I recall in my teens seeing a rather wonderful BBC drama on the life of Eleanor. So we started at the BL (after a stop for coffee and stationery in Tottenham Court Road) and the Treasure Room was just wonderful. I found it ridiculously exciting to see Marx’s Reading Room slip from all those decades ago and the whole room itself is inspirational. As I pointed out to J., there was a perfect trio of manuscripts for us on display next to each other in one of the cases – Woolf, Peake and Plath. Such an inspirational place to visit, and we managed to successfully get out of the shop without purchasing after spending some time admiring a lovely display of British Library Crime Classics!

In keeping with our plan of no real plan, we ambled off and J. suggested that as we were quite close to Skoob Books we could drop in. It’s a dangerous place which I’ve only visited once, but I couldn’t resist the idea. However, as we flaneured our way in the general direction of the Brunswick Centre we happened upon a likely looking bookshop I don’t think I’ve been aware of before – Judd Books in Marchmont Street. It would of course have been rude not to go in and so we did. And this was the result for me…

The shop is a mixture of second-hand and what look to me to be remaindered books, including a lot of US editions, and was oh! so tempting. I was distracted by a number of titles, but ended up with the two above. I couldn’t not come home with the Orwell – ’nuff said. As for Khodasevich’s poems, that one was a must. I’ve only stumbled across him recently and whilst havering away trying to decide I flicked through the book. A stunning poem called “Look for Me” hit me in the eye and I was sold. It’s a beautiful hardback Overlook/Ardis edition in dual language, with translations by Peter Daniels, and so even though I can’t read Russian I can gaze in awe at the beauty of the cyrillic script while appreciating the efforts of Daniels. J. was very happy with Judd as well as she tracked down a lovely hardback edition of Willa Cather’s letters from her wishlist. So we thought this was a propitious start and drifted on in the direction of Skoob.

And as you can see, I didn’t get out unscathed… The Machado de Assis was a no-brainer as I’ve really enjoyed all of his books I’ve read so far, plus it’s a pretty little Peter Owen edition. The Maigret has a relevant year to an upcoming event (!) – plus will also give me a chance to try one of the new translations. I thought I was getting off quite lightly until I saw the Penguin Russian Writing Today anthology on my way to the till. Oh well…. J. was even happier than earlier as she found a nice edition of a Cather novel she doesn’t have – it was a Cather kind of day for her.

After this it was a bus to Foyles for tea and regrouping. Foyles itself (and its tea!) is always such a delight, and I was sorely tempted by a gigantic biography of Eleanor Marx (a Verso edition) but decided that my shoulders wouldn’t take it. J. however was seduced by a Thames and Hudson book on Frida Kahlo (we’re visiting the V& exhibition later in the year) so added to her bulging rucksack. We decided to take a break from bookshops and trotted (well, strolled at a very leisurely pace) down Charing Cross Road to make a detour into the Cas art shop (again, I bought nothing although J. invested in some art materials) and then on into the National Portrait Gallery.

This was just a flying visit, as we both have a fondness for the wonderful Allan Ramsay self-portrait that hangs there and always pop into the NPG to say hello. As the heat was increasing, we decided to bus back up to Tottenham Court Road and got distracted again by a shop called Hema – a new one to us, but it had Stationery Which Could Not Be Resisted – oh dear… After more drinks and sitting down, we decided we were too close to the LRB bookshop and the craft shop next door to say no, and paid both a visit. Again, I succeeded in restraint, but our decision to drop by the lovely Bloomsbury Oxfam was not so successful…

I thought the two Bowles books I own comprised her meagre published output, but not so it seems. This lovely volume from Sort Of collects stories, plays, sketches and letters. Again, not to be resisted…

We had just about reached our limit of endurance of heat and heavy bags, but I was still vaguely irked that the only options for books about Eleanor Marx were mahoosive. So I persuaded J. into Bookmarks, the left-wing bookstore over the road and hurrah!

Bookmarks publish a little series of “Rebel’s Guide” books and one of their subjects was indeed Eleanor Marx! It was the last copy left and of a much more manageable size!

So these were my bookish purchases yesterday:

And I don’t regret a single one! However, the story doesn’t end there, because J. arrived with some books for me which were charity shop finds she’d read and was passing on to me. However, she didn’t tell me she was bringing six.… And unfortunately I hadn’t brought a backpack so she very bravely and stoutly carted them round all day until we exchanged books at the end of the day (I had brought one for her to borrow) – now that’s friendship. And here they are:

There are only five in the picture as one of the six was a return of my copy of Guard Your Daughters which J. had borrowed.

Phew! Four nice BLCCs and a lovely Virago edition of Gertrude Stein – how wonderful! But how heavy!! They took a bit of lugging home, I can tell you…

The blog’s trusty tote guarding the books while I have a meal in Leon!

Fortunately, I had come armed with my trusty KBR tote – a gift from Middle Child which always goes to London with me, and which although small is perfectly formed and manages to hold a surprising number of books; and also enables effective smuggling of them past OH who was feeling vaguely tense at the arrival of the six from J. There was a reason for this, as a package had arrived while I was away gallivanting containing these:

I think the BL are going into overdrive, but I’m always delighted to have review books from them – these two are out in September, and I’m very keen to read them, as Symons’ books were about a lot in my younger years. However, I can empathise a little with OH’s concern – he muttered something about having to build an annexe to the house and he has a point. I think this summer will need to see a little more pruning of books….

But all in all it  was a lovely (if warm) day out in London. It’s always wonderful to meet up with an old friend, and J. is great company. I need to put in a word for the Leon chain of restaurants too – a recent discovery for me and to which I was introduced by J. I paid two visits yesterday – one so that J. could get a late breakfast, and one for a meal later before journeying home. Their vegan options are excellent and well worth a visit!

Meantime, I need to have another bit of a book shuffle – oh dear…. =:o

Amongst the Russians

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I had a lovely little jaunt to London at the weekend, mainly to catch an exhibition I desperately wanted to see before it shut; but I also managed to take in some minor shopping and a nice bit of socialising with family, which was a pleasant bonus! 🙂

One nice thing about the train journey is the chance to read, and I made my way through this slim volume whilst travelling; it’s absolutely marvellous, and I’ll get round to writing about it eventually, but it’s definitely another winner from Pushkin Press.

This was the exhibition in question, and as you can see from the dates I was running out of time to get to it. I’d hoped to see the show in December when I was up for the Tove show with my friend J. but we ran out of time – and to be honest, Russian art isn’t necessarily her thing so although she puts up with my obsession very patiently, I decided it was best for me to see this one alone.

And it probably was, actually, because it was a powerful show which I got quite emotional about in places (one particular photo of Mayakovsky on his deathbed, which I won’t share here for fear of triggers, reduced me to a jelly). The exhibition is drawn from the magnificent collection of David King, which the Tate acquired in 2016, and there are some stunning posters, photographs, artworks and mementos.

Particularly effective was the room “Ordinary People” which looked at the impact of Soviet ideology on individual human beings. The Mayakovsky picture was here, as well as one of him with the director Meyerhold (about whose fate, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I can’t think about without wanting to scream). The centrepiece of the room was a glass covered table containing mug shots of those who were victims of the terror and the secret police. Pull out drawers contained a guide to who they were, ranging from ordinary students to former colleagues of Lenin to the poet Mandelstam. It was a chilling and moving memorial.

Evidence of my current topic of interest – iconoclasm!!

So I came out of the exhibition impressed, stunned and thoughtful, and it was probably a good thing I had a bit of a walk along the South Bank to clear my head before meeting up with Middle Child and her Partner for lunch! They were up in London for the weekend as a pre-birthday celebration for her, so we ended up in a lovely veggie/vegan place in Soho called Titbits (as they are both vegan too).

The idea is you choose what you like from the buffet style selection and then pay by the weight of your plate. The food was gorgeous – I’m not used to having so much vegan choice – and I had a bit of an appetite after the amount of walking I’d done (I do enjoy flaneusing around London).

Middle child refuses to be photographed…

After lunch and a wander round the local Wholefoods store, I hit Foyles while the other two went to drop off shopping. I was in search of some of the new little Penguin Moderns which were due out last week, and had come armed with a list. Alas, Foyles hadn’t had them in yet, which was a bit of a blow… I did, however, pick up one book (which I thought was reasonable – as Marina Sofia phrased it so nicely recently, it’s unlikely that I would get out of a bookshop unscathed…)

I’ve read about this pioneering work of speculative fiction a couple of times recently, and so figured I would give it a try. Apparently a precursor to “Nineteen Eight Four”, “The Handmaid’s Tale” and just about everything, it deals with a future world based on a Nazi victory and the total subservience of women. As the (female) author wrote this in 1937 she must have been remarkably clear-eyed about the way the world could turn. So I’m intrigued…

The afternoon was a little damp, so basically the rest of the day was spent in the pub with Middle Child, Partner and my Little Brother, who is now back in the country in the bosom of his family after working in Spain for a year. We had a lovely catch-up, and he had even brought me a gift from a Spanish market:

Isn’t it gorgeous???

I did of course treat myself at the Tate – the exhibition book was just lovely and I have a bit of a passion for picking up art postcards wherever I find them..

“Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” is one of my favourite images ever.

So a lovely day out, mixing art, shopping, reading and family – I don’t think I could better that combination! 🙂

A trip to see Tove’s paintings – plus *restraint*!!

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Timing is most definitely all…

I had a lovely jaunt to London on Saturday to meet up with my old pal J, taking in a wonderful exhibition, some rambling round the city and a little shopping. The weather was cold but bright, which was perfect for us – and by Sunday the snow had hit so I’m glad it waited till our day out was over!

We tend traditionally to meet up before Christmas, but J’s idea was that we should nip down to Dulwich to see the exhibition of Tove Jansson’s paintings that was on at the art gallery there. As I love her work, I was happy to agree, although it did mean getting a very early train at silly o’clock to get a reasonably priced fare and arrive in London allowing time to travel to Dulwich.

And this is what we were going to see. As we both love Moomins, we visited the Moomin show at the Royal Festival Hall in July. However, we both think *very* highly of Jansson’s non-Moonin work, and this exhibition showcased that, with some wonderful paintings, drawings, sketches and illustrations that really emphasised her versatility. Of course, there were some wonderful Moomin things there too, so the experience was fabulous. I did find myself wondering what Jansson could have produced if she’d pursued a fine art course, but then we wouldn’t have had the Moomins – so, swings and roundabouts!

Alas, photos were not allowed inside, but afterwards we visited the *very* well stocked shop, and oh! the temptation! Tons of Moomin things, of course, but books and postcards and memorabilia and… Well, I was pretty restrained in the end and came away with a set of postcards (I rather collect postcards…) plus a Moomin card:

J, however, couldn’t resist the exhibition catalogue as it had her favourite work in it (and it was rather lovely), as well as the Tove-illustrated “Alice in Wonderland”. The latter was particularly stunning, and if I didn’t already own at least two copies (including the Mervyn Peake one, which may be my favourite) then I might have been tempted.

After leaving Dulwich and heading back to the centre of London via Fortnum and Mason (don’t ask…) we ended up lunching at Chipotle in Charing Cross Road (where I could function as a vegan):

and then rambled around the Pushkin House Russian book sale and a very fancy stationery shop called Quill. Amazingly, I bought nothing…. !

Late afternoon found us in Foyles cafe (I *love* Foyles and I *love* its cafe, in case you hadn’t noticed) where there was time for vegan cake and tea before a long browse round the shop. Here again restraint was the order of the day! Both J and I had realised at the exhibition that although we’d read all the main Moomin books, we didn’t actually have the collection of short pieces called “Tales from Moominvalley”. Exploring the children’s book section of Foyles revealed only two copies – which are no longer there….

For me to come home from a London trip with so few purchases is some kind of miracle (and perhaps reflects the fact that Christmas and birthday are coming up, plus I am awash with amazing review books at the moment). However – ahem – towards the end of the day J presented me with two BLCC titles she’d picked up in charity shops, plus my Christmas and birthday gifts for later in the month – which are suspiciously book-shaped… So maybe it wasn’t such a non-bookish day after all!

Incidentally, we spent much of our day getting about London by hopping on and off buses instead of resorting to the Tube as we’ve done in the past. The latter has become so much more manic of late (and I get vaguely claustrophobic in it at times), and how easy are the London buses now!?!? And much more pleasant too – sailing over Tower Bridge at the front of the top floor of a double-decker in the sun on the way to Dulwich is a wonderful memory of our day out! 🙂

So much for good intentions…

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There is a reason I don’t sign up for TBR-only reads or book-buying bans – and that’s amply illustrated by the results of a post-Christmas hop up to London to meet up with my dear friend J… We weren’t able to get together in December owing to a variety of circumstances, and so a plan to hit London in January, taking in bookshops and sales, was hatched. I was vaguely worried that the weather would stymie things, but it behaved for the day and we had a lovely time!

At a pit-stop in Foyles, J presented me with my birthday and Christmas gifts which she’d been reluctant to trust to the postal service, and I can understand why…

beverly-bks-17

What a beautiful selection of Beverley and Beverley-related books she gifted me! “Women…” does have a dustjacket but apparently this has been temporarily mislaid… “Cry Havoc” is very special as you can see:

cry-havoc-sig

As well as being a first edition, it’s also signed, so I am now the proud possessor of three signed Beverleys, thanks to the great kindness of others! A perfect accompaniment to the Foyles Cafe lovely tea. I was quite restrained in the shop itself, only purchasing a birthday present for somebody else – J was not so restrained, but I think she outdid me on the purchasing stakes all day!

crossed-destinies

J also presented me with this copy of Calvino’s “Castle of Crossed Destinies” so I can check if it’s the same as the one I have, and if it is I can pass it on to someone who might be keen to start exploring his work!

The next bookish stop was Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road, one of the last of the old guard. I already had a heavy rucksack so was trying to be a little careful, but I couldn’t resist these:

any-amount-of-bksThe William Maxwell was from the £1 bins outside, and the other two from the paperback shelves. I’ve wanted the Kis title for a long time and I love the cover. The Delafield is a beautiful Virago I don’t have so couldn’t be resisted of course. And I think the nice man at the counter gave me a bit of a discount!

Henry Pordes next door have a lot less paperbacks and Viragos than they used to, though there were a number of tempting titles. However, I resisted more here, and just came out with something I need for a project:

pordes-pmp23I don’t come across the Penguin Modern Poets books that often in second-hand stores, so I do tend to grab them when I see them. I daresay I could chase them down online, but it’s nice to support the actual bookshops.

The Bloomsbury Oxfam was busier than I’d seen it for a long time when we arrived there, and here I had one of the most pleasing finds of the day:

astley-oxam-blms

Having been gifted a beautiful chunky biography of Thea Astley by Trish, my lovely Virago Secret Santa, I’ve been keen to track down some of her fiction. Surprisingly, none of the new bookshops had anything (and we tried Waterstones too). However, this title (one I’d heard of) was nestling on the shelves in the Oxfam just waiting for me!

Final bookish stop of the day was the lovely LRB bookshop, a place I rarely get out of without something and today was no exception:

lrb-berger-debray

The Debray is a title I’ve often mused about and as it was in the 50% off sale I pounced! And the Berger title is one I hadn’t come across before but it sounded fabulous and looks beautiful inside with all sorts of words and illustrations, so I finished the day as I started it – with books!

We *did* do other things apart from bookmania, including taking in the kikki.k shop and Paperchase at Covent Garden, the Cass art shop (where J got quite carried away) plus lunch at Gaby’s deli (yum!) and two visits to the Foyles cafe (the LRB teashop was full and J had developed a passion for the Foyles crushed ginger and lemon tea).

So a perfect day out, and evidence that I can’t stop buying books when the moment is right, and that there’s absolutely no point in trying…

Visiting the Russians at the NPG – plus some bookshop thoughts

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With my well-known love of all cultural things Russian, it was a given that I’d want to visit the National Portrait Gallery in London when they held their exhibition of portraits from the Tretyakov Gallery in Russia. And I was lucky enough to win a couple of tickets (plus some wonderful Russian books!) thanks to a Twitter competition – thanks to both the NPG and Alma Books for this! 🙂

I chose yesterday for the visit as I was hoping the trains would be in sensible mode – for several months at the beginning of the year there were no direct weekend trains to London without hideous bus journeys – and they were pretty much well-behaved, if a little delayed. I could have done with the Central Line being open, though!

I spent the day in the company of my dear friend J. and we met up in the lovely Foyles cafe for a catch up. It’s rather alarming to think that we’ve been visiting the Charing Cross Road bookshops for over 30 years, but nice that we can still do so! J. had very kindly brought me along some Beverley Nichols books she had procured for me, which was exciting:

beveerleys

I was so pleased with these, particularly “Yours sincerely” which still has a dustjacket of sorts. The others are two of his children’s books which will be in their original unedited form – apart from a slight issue in that each has had a page removed! J. is investigating possibilities to find the missing pages…

Of course, I couldn’t resist a look around Foyles, and picked up this:

midnight

I am having a bit of a Victor Serge thing at the moment, as I’m in the middle of “The Case of Comrade Tulayev” which is one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read – so there may be more Serge below…

exhibition

After Foyles, we wandered down to the NPG and the exhibition – and it really was quite magical. I was keenest, of course, to see the famous Dostoevsky portrait in real life. It’s the only one of him painted from life, and it’s quite remarkable – you can see the sufferings of his life in his eyes.

Fedor Dostoevsky by Vasily Perov, 1872 © State Tretyakov Gallery

Fedor Dostoevsky by Vasily Perov, 1872
© State Tretyakov Gallery

Who else was there? Well, amongst others Tolstoy, Turgenev, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky – and Chekhov! The latter’s portrait was also quite amazing – the best portraiture really does make you feel as if you’re in the presence of the subject.

Anton Chekhov by Iosif Braz, 1898 © State Tretyakov Gallery

Anton Chekhov by Iosif Braz, 1898
© State Tretyakov Gallery

We went back to the Dostoevsky and Chekhov portraits a lot, but there was also this very striking image that drew us to it:

Anna Akhmatova by Olga Della-Vos-Kardovskaia, 1914 © State Tretyakov Gallery

Anna Akhmatova by Olga Della-Vos-Kardovskaia, 1914
© State Tretyakov Gallery

All in all, this was a remarkable exhibition – some wonderful and evocative portraits and a rare chance to see them in real life without having to travel to Russia. It runs until 26th June and I really recommend visiting it!

After the culture, we decided to head to Piccadilly, as I had a yen to visit the Waterstones there, and J. wanted to pop into Fortnum and Mason! Waterstones Piccadilly is touted as the biggest bookshop in Europe, sited in a beautiful art deco shop, and it certainly is lovely. Stretching over five floors it even has a Russian language bookshop within it, with some very pretty looking books that I couldn’t read! We decided to lunch on the top floor restaurant, which was a treat:

SDC13905

The bookshop itself is gorgeous, with an excellent selection, some shelves devoted to small publishers and lots of chairs to sit in while you consider what to purchase. I spent a *looong* time browsing while J. sat and finished this book which she then donated to me – how kind!

reader for hire

It was unlikely I would get out of the shop without purchases, and that was the case. As well as finding the perfect birthday present for my brother, I chose these for myself:

graveyard unforgiving

J. picked up a lovely little hardback collection of Akhmatova’s poetry but was much more restrained than I was today.

On to Fortnum and Mason – well, let’s just say it’s the poshest place I’ve ever been! I bought a little something for OH, and certainly thought that this was a glimpse of how the other half live…

After Piccadilly, we decided to head back to the Bloomsbury end of town, and fortunately J. spotted a useful bus! A quick visit to the Bloomsbury Oxfam revealed not a lot, and some very over-priced volumes – this is obviously a current trend on Oxfam shops which is a bit of a shame. So we decided to end the day with a cuppa in the LRB Bookshop cafe (they do *lovely* tea) and of course had a bit of a browse. I was particularly keen on looking for this title, which hadn’t been in either Foyles or Waterstones – but the wonderful LRB shop did have it!

zoo

So, another fab day out in London, with good company, artistic stimulation and books! It was interesting to range a little further with the book shopping and I got to thinking about the differences between the type of shops I visited (I’m thinking new books here, as I didn’t do any second-hand shopping). Despite its hugeness, and the loveliness of its architecture, I didn’t think the Waterstones was particularly superior to Foyles. The selection at the latter is just as good – in fact, they had titles that Waterstones didn’t – and I got the feeling that there is more in the way of mainstream fiction in Waterstones than the more out of the way books I like. Certainly the Waterstones biography section was remarkably good, and I imagine that they carry more stock of different genres, non fiction and the like. But interestingly it took the LRB Bookshop to come up with the Shklovsky I was looking for – so I guess it goes to show that there is room for a large number of bookshops, and I’m all in favour of that! 🙂

A bookish jaunt – and the loveliness of Viragoites!

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Despite my best efforts, the books continue to pour in at the Ramblings (much to the consternation of OH, who starts to wonder where we’re going to put them all, particularly if we manage to retire to a bungalow one day…) However, I’m trying to be strict with what I keep and I suspect some may be passed on to interested readers after I’ve enjoyed them – well, that’s the theory anyway

There’s been something of a splurge of review books – which is lovely, but sometimes unexpected – and these are pressurising me to read them – I’m doing quite well and reviews will follow! Here are some of the lovelies:

hesperus

Two *very* interesting titles courtesy of Hesperus Press. Gertrude Bell was of course a pioneering woman traveller and her work has been published by Virago in the past. The Pankhurst book looks fascinating and I know of several women (Middle Child, for example!) who may well want to read it after me!

pearlmanThe Edith Pearlman book comes courtesy of Bookbridgr and John Murray Publishers, and I’m very excited about this one as her fiction has been lauded everywhere.

Then there is the ongoing Virginia Woolf obsession… Having read everything there was available in the 1980s, I now find there is more – in the form of a 6 volume set of her complete essays and her early journals. The latter managed to make its way to the Ramblings this week:

woolf journals

However, the essays are proving a little more difficult as they are often large and expensive. So far, I have tracked down reasonably priced copies of the first three volumes:

woolf essays

The rest will have to be an ongoing project…

As for the bookish jaunt – this was to London, to meet up with Elaine, a fellow LibraryThing Viragoite who was visiting from the USA. She’s managing to take in a couple of LT gatherings, and yesterday we were joined by the lovely Claire and Luci, plus Simon from Stuck-in-a-Book (who alas had to dash off early), all of whom I’d met before at my first LT get-together last year. The trains were a bit of a nightmare (involving changes at Stratford plus Tottenham Court Tube being closed) and I had my usual “what shall I read on the train?” crisis; eventually settling for this:

kyril

Annabel had given it a rave review on Shiny New Books and I had recently snagged a bargain copy, so I grabbed it on my way out – and it proved to be just the right thing for the journey (a review will follow)!

After meeting up at Foyles, we spent a lovely day pottering around the Bloomsbury Oxfam, the Persephone shop, the LRB bookshop (and very wonderful cafe) plus lunching at My Old Dutch Pancake house – yum! There were bookish finds all round, and Elaine came across an original Virago she’d been after so that was good! Star of the day must be the wonderfully generous Luci, however, who seems to turn up at get-togethers with bags of books to donate – either to charity shops or to those of us who would like them! Such kindness is a wonderful thing and I’m beholden to Luci for several treasures this weekend:

tove

I’ve become a real convert to Tove Jansson recently, so to be presented with two collections I don’t have was a real treat!ghost milkI first read Iain Sinclair a few years back, pre-blog, in the form of “London Orbital”, which I loved, so I’m very keen to explore his work further.

hall and mansfield

And finally from Luci, a Virago title I don’t have and the Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield. These are all wonderful books and I feel very blessed to have been gifted them

You would think that would be enough for one day, wouldn’t you, but I did slip in a couple of other purchases (well – more than a couple, really). From Foyles came this – no explanation needed really:

party

From the Bloomsbury Oxfam came these:

blms oxAnd from the Persephone shop came Into The Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg and some missing bookmarks:

ginzburg

But of course the best part of the day is the company – it’s lovely to chat all things bookish with people! Here’s hoping Elaine’s meet up with the Birmingham Viragoites is just as lovely! 🙂

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