A little diversion…


It’s been a couple of years since I visited Norwich, but as Youngest Child wanted to pop up and attend some kind of gaming event that’s been going on, I decided to go along on the train with her and spent a happy Saturday having a day out!

Of course, I did have an ulterior motive…. For while YC was doing her thing, I got the chance to wander round the bookshops of Norwich – a most enjoyable pursuit with pleasant results!

norwich buys

Of course, Norwich is home to the wonderful Book Hive and I spent some time browsing there. They do have excellent stock but I exercised restraint and simply purchased three Penguin Little Black Classics from the new range. I do have a lovely Faber Emily Dickinson collection somewhere but I simply can’t find it….

new LBCs

There were a number of charity shops in the city centre, and also an Oxfam and the City Bookshop, though none of those had anything to tempt me. I then headed off down a side road to a bookshop I’d read about online, JR and RK Ellis. This turned out to be lovely – a proper, old-fashioned second-hand place, stacked with piles of books and all sorts of interesting volumes. In the end I only picked up one book:

wolf solent new

I do have another copy of this, but it’s old and small and hard to read plus I wanted the A.N. Wilson introduction this edition has. Hopefully, with a physically easier to read copy I shall have no excuse not to get started on John Cowper Powys.

And the there was Jarrold, the lovely traditional department store (love its architecture). I had been looking for a particular book in the Norwich Waterstones and they didn’t have it (tush!) so I thought I’d pop into the Jarrold book section – which turned out to be in their basement, was absolutely lovely and very well stocked. And had the book I was after!

lem star diaries

With the sun shining and a very tasty lunch at the Wild Thyme vegetarian cafe (highly recommended!), it turned out to be a fab day out in Norwich – with some nice bookish finds thrown in!

Seven out, two in (well, two and half really….)


… which is quite apt, given one of the titles of the book!

Yes, the gradual weeding out of unwanted volumes continues and today I took another seven off to donate. I’m actually finding it relatively unpainful so far, although I haven’t yet got onto the books which it will be an emotional wrench to part with. But I figured if I keep taking in a few at a time they will gradually thin out to the ones I *must* keep, and seven fairly large book is all I could carry.

I think bringing back two and a half in return is a reasonable ratio, and these are they:

two and a half

I *had* planned to buy the half a book – the Cavafy Little Black Classic – as his name keeps cropping up and then I read this excellent post about his poetry, and figured I could commit 80p to discovering his work! But the other two were charity shop finds.

“The President’s Hat” is by an author I’d never heard of, but it’s from what appears to be a small press (that’s good),  is in a nice edition with French flaps (even better) and sounds funny and intriguing (so just right for me!)

As for the Nigel Williams – again, he’s an author I keep circling, thinking I really should read “The Wimbledon Poisoner”. This, however, is non fiction – an attempt in the 1990s to recreate “Three Men in a Boat” (for which I’m a sucker) and the first page was funny enough to get me snatching the book up (and being quite surprised that it was only 99p).

I feel happy enough buying these as I’m sure they’re books I’ll actually read (in fact, I’ve already finished the Williams one though I have such a backlog it’ll be weeks till I review it…). And the ratio of in to out is still good, no?? 🙂

Little Black Classics – the Oriental Edition!


If in doubt – back to the Penguin Little Black Classics! I thought these might be the solution to the Woolf book hangover and the failure with Duras, so decided to carry on the slightly Eastern theme of my last read with five titles from Japan and China.

Akutagawa – The Life of a Stupid Man

Akutagawa was a fascinating character (just check out his Wikipedia entry!) and this book features three titles: his most famous story “In a Grove” plus two autobiographical pieces. “In A Grove” is fascinating; it features seven short pieces relating the teller’s particular view of an incident which has taken place whereby a woman has been assaulted and her husband murdered. It’s a surprisingly modern take on criminal reportage, where every account differs and it’s hard for those investigating to learn the truth. Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon” was based on the story and it just goes to show that everyone is an unreliable narrator. The other two pieces are autobiographical and the second of them, “The Life of a Foolish Man” is chilling; split into 51 short parts, it’s a summary of Akutagawa’s life written shortly before he killed himself at the age of 35. His writing is excellent and I certainly want to explore his work more.

cherry blossom

Kenko – A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees

Kenko was an author and Buddhist monk who lived in the 13th/14th century and his works are apparently some of the most studied in Japanese literature. This is extracts from his longer work “Essays in Idleness” which consists of a series of random pieces in a stream of consciousness style, where Kenko just jotted down his thoughts and feelings as they occur to him. They’re intriguing and often lovely meditations on all the things that affect human life, and go to show that not a lot changes over the centuries. As Kenko says, “It is a most wonderful comfort to sit alone beneath a lamp, book spread before you, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met.”

Pu Songling – Wailing Ghosts

Chinese literature is a place where I have a huge gap in my reading, so it was nice to pick up this little volume to start my exploration. Pu Songling lived during the 17th century and spent most of his life as a private tutor; he’s known for his collection “Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio” from which these tales are taken. They’re a lively bunch of stories; ghosts, monsters, witches, demons and magical foxes abound; some are no more than a page long. But all are arresting, intriguing and sometimes rather scary, blurring the lines between fantasy, myth and ghost story. This book has some lovely line drawings too, and on the evidence here, I really need to read more Chinese literature.


Shen Fu – The Old Man of the Moon

Shen Fu was also a Chinese author, from the 18th century; he’s known for his book “Six Records of A Floating Life” which is regarded as the best description of everyday life during the dynasty through which he lived. This LBC has extracts that cover his relationship with his wife; his early love of her, their marriage, the struggle to make ends meet, her health issues and their final parting. It’s a fascinating and moving work that again shows that our concerns stay the same over the centuries and there’s nothing new under the sun.

Matsuo Basho – Lips too chilled

My final Oriental read was a collection of haiku from the master of the for, Basho. This was distilled from the collection I read not long ago (and reviewed here), but it was lovely to revisit them – poetry of all sort bears repeated re-reading and these small gems of beauty and wisdom were no exception.

So – another great batch of Little Black Classics from Penguin – dippable, enjoyable and often good tasters for an author or genre you haven’t approached before. Definitely a winner for me!

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