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Arrivals and depatures – an update on the state of the book piles! :D

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Those of you who follow me on social media may have noticed the odd image or two recently which might just have indicated the continuing arrival of books at the Ramblings. I cannot lie – they have been creeping in the door when Mr. Kaggsy’s guard is down (or in some cases getting delivered at work). And in the interests of full disclosure and more Gratuitous Book Pictures, it’s only fitting that I share them with you… ;D

Charity shops, of course, making things impossible for the book lover – I guess I should just stop going in them. However, even being as stringent and selective as I have been lately, these have made it past my barriers! The DeWitt is one I’ve wanted to read for ages, so a cheap copy in the Oxfam was irresistible. And Clive James’s essays cover all manner of topics of interest to me. The Finn book is another one riffing on “Three Men in a Boat” – well, I adore the original and so anything that takes that as a starting point is going to be interesting. And Mark Steel’s humourous take on the French Revolution sounds like it might have hidden depths – most intriguing.  As for “New Writings in SF” – well, thereby hangs a tale…

Lurid cover or what!!!!

In the Oxfam yesterday they’d obviously had a donation of a good number of vintage sci-fi titles including lots of “New Writings in SF”; so of course I had to check these out to see if there were any authors I was particularly interested in. If I’m honest, I was looking for uncollected M. John Harrison, as many of his early stories were in these volumes, and I wasn’t disappointed. One book had a story which reappeared in “The Machine in Shaft 10” so I left that behind, alas; but volume 14 had a story called “Green Five Renegade” and I was pretty sure it was new to me. Thank goodness for the ISFDB and a phone with data; a quick search revealed that the story has only been in anthologies so I snapped it up, particularly as it’s an early one. It cost a little more than I would usually pay which I guess reflects its rarity, but it *is* in really good nick. I would’ve liked to bring them all home – so many interesting authors! – but I had to draw the line somewhere…

There there is Verso and their rotten end of year 50% off sale. Quite impossible to resist and I settled on these two titles:

The Benjamin/Baudelaire combo is a no-brainer of course; and I borrowed the Adorno from the library and was intrigued, so was happy to get my own, Reasonably Priced, copy.

Has there been online buying? Yes, I’m afraid so, in the form of these:

A couple of books about Dostoevsky; Rousseau on walking; Proust short works; and a novel of the French Revolution. What’s not to love??

This also came from an online purchase:

I’m always happy to support indie publishers, and Salt are one of the best so I decided to splash out on another of their poetry titles. Why this one? No idea – I liked the sound of it and I liked the cover! I’ll report back on the contents….

And finally, I’ve been spoiled by some review books from a couple of lovely publishers:

Notting Hill Editions, who produce the loveliest essay collections and intriguing titles, sent me a volume I’d somehow missed of Virginia Woolf’s “Essays on the Self”; I can’t wait. “Mentored by a Madman” is a new title which draws on the influence of William S. Burroughs. I read *a lot* by the latter back in the day, so I’m very interested to see what this one is about.

And the three titles by or about Jozef Czapski are from NYRB; another author new to me but one whose work sounds absolutely fascinating. Thank you, lovely publishers.

That’s quite a number of books, isn’t it? Lest you imagine the Ramblings to be collapsing under the weight of printed paper, however, I should reassure you that I *am* being sensible and pruning books I’m never going to read or revisit; a process that’s surprisingly a bit easier than I expected. Here’s just a couple of boxes of books which will be winging their way to the Samaritans Book Cave soon. So hopefully the house won’t collapse any time soon! ;D

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

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… 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?? 🙂

Recent Reads: Diary of a Pilgrimage by Jerome K. Jerome

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After the length and depth of “In The First Circle”, I thought it might be nice to try something a little shorter and lighter – and this book certainly qualifies! “Diary of a Pilgrimage” is of course written by the author of “Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)”, a book which I first read many years ago and which I’ve returned to many times. 3 Men is of course hilarious and so although I hadn’t heard of DOAP, I snapped up the lovely little hardback version I found in the local Oxfam bookstore on the strength of the first page or two.

diary-pilgrimage-jerome-k-paperback-cover-art

DOAP was published only two years after 3 Men (in 1891), and it tells the story of the journey of the narrator and his friend B. as they travel over Europe by train to visit the Passion Play at Oberammergau. En route they suffer a bad channel crossing, problems with language and diet, the stress of foreign trains and other assorted difficulties. Finally they reach their destination and then, having had a transcendental experience with the play, return back to earth to deal with the journey home.

Despite some passages of great humour, this book does not quite capture the magic of 3 Men and it took me a while to figure out why. I think personally it was a lack of balance – 3 Men is a beautiful mix of humour and philosophising, with its 3 Men (and dog) adventuring along the Thames and having mishaps on the way. But DOAP was perhaps a little too restricted in its focus, and the two chapters of description covering the religious element of the performance and its execution were just a bit dull. The humorous pieces were in some cases wonderful – the chapter where B. wrestles manfully with European timetables in an attempt to work out connecting trains, which goes off into an extended flight of fancy about missing trains, was hilarious and had me laughing out loud. But the work was not consistent enough to scale the heights of 3 Men and I can identify with Wikipedia’s statement: He wrote a number of plays, essays and novels, but was never able to recapture the success of Three Men in a Boat.

dent

But there were enough lovely phrases and pieces of wit to make me glad that I did read this book:

“It is easy enough to talk about nothing, like I have been doing in this diary hitherto. It is when one is confronted with the task of writing about something, that one wishes one were a respectable well-do-do sweep –  a sweep with a comfortable business of his own, and a pony – instead of an author.”

“And then you can….give your impressions concerning it. Never mind their being silly. They will be all the better for that. Silly remarks are generally more interesting than sensible ones.”

There is another hilarious sequence where our two gentlemen are eating in a beer-garden and all of their courses are eaten in time to the music, building up to bolting their cheese down to the ballet music from Carmen “after which we rolled about in agonies to all the national airs of Europe.”

DiaryOfAPilgrimage

So, on balance, definitely worth a read for the humorous bits!

(And incidentally, the drawings, three of which are on these book covers, are a delight!)

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