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In which I get inordinately overexcited about some new releases… #mishima #penguinmoderns

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I think ony bookish peeps would understand the high state of excitement I got myself into at the end of last week…. I subscribe to a number of bookish and publishers’ newsletters (probably not a good thing for me to do) and one from lovely Penguin popped into my inbox with a focus on Japanese writing. Now I read a lot of JapLit back in my preblog days and still have some unread volumes on the shelves which I keep meaning to get to. However… while scrolling down the newsletter I spotted something fairly eye-popping – what appeared to be a book by Yukio Mishima which I’d never heard of!!

Via Wikimedia Commons – see here for attribution: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yukio_Mishima_01.jpg

My first thought was that it was a new translation of a book I’d already got but under a different title – I’ve been caught like that before. So, I clicked off to the Penguin site to explore and found out that not only was this a newly published title which hadn’t been translated before, but also that there was a new Penguin Modern (no 51!!!!) of another story of his which is freshly translated. Time for a quick meltdown at the Ramblings….

See, I read everything by Mishima back in the day and absolutely adored his writing. But I haven’t revisited it for donkeys and I thought there wasn’t anything new to come. Wrong!!!! Needless to say both new Penguins arrived promptly at the Ramblings and here they are looking very pretty. So exciting!!

And just for the fun of it, I’ll share a few images of all of my Mishima books. Here they are, nestling on the Japan shelves:

And here’s the first selection, including his famous tetralogy:

And the rest, including a couple of biographies:

There is I think another which I read from the library and don’t own – I may have to rectify that for the sake of completeness… Interestingly, Mishima is responsible for me first setting up an Amazon account back in the day. I was very resistant to buying books anywhere but in a bricks and mortar bookstore, but I wanted a decent biography of him. However, I enquired in Waterstones, and they said there was an American one but that they weren’t able to order it in… Hence my Amazon account. But I have forgiven Waterstones and still love to buy books there (as will be seen from my regular Waterstones Wobbles!)

Mishima was a troubled and strange man, whose dramatic end probably overshadows his work to a certain extent. However I remember being knocked out by the beauty of his writing and I can’t wait to find out what I think of his work nowadays.

Of course, this does also generate a worrying thought – if there’s a Penguin Modern 51, there are obviously going to be some more…..

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! 🙂

In which “Books are my Bag” reaches Suffolk….

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and a day that starts badly ends up well!

Yes, I have been a tad grumpy lately – mainly because of bad quality second-hand books – and additional grief was caused by the fact that a planned visit to London yesterday to hang around Foyles with J. during Books are my Bag events had to be cancelled owing to OH being a bit poorly.

So I was pleased to find that BAMB was actually going to be celebrated by the local Waterstones branch (although I only heard the night before thanks to an email from Caboodle – nothing was showing up on the BAMB website). I intended to make an early visit in case events started promptly and all the bags went, but things went pear-shaped as we had to make an unintended visit to the local hospital with 92-year old mother-in-law….. Turned out that there was nothing wrong with her and the visit was a false alarm, but I hit town at midday convinced there would be nothing left in Waterstones.

Frankly, if I’m honest, you wouldn’t even know BAMB existed if you looked at the front of the shop. No displays or bags in the window or events or anything. I wandered upstairs to the fiction section and enquired rather feebly about the bags and the guy said “Oh yes!” and opened a plastic bag containing them – apparently I was the *first* person to ask!!

I had a little chat with him and pointed out that a little publicity might help; they didn’t show up as doing anything on the BAMB website and I’d only found out the night before, and that a window display might help (maybe I should be running the branch…) Anyway, what was nice was that, having been given a free bag, I felt inclined to explore the fiction shelves a bit and having dissed the store a few weeks ago, I have to withdraw my comments a little. Despite having moved their fiction into a smaller area, there was actually quite a good selection – particularly of smaller presses which I hadn’t expected. So well done Waterstones, Ipswich for being a little more adventurous with what you stock!

In the end I bought one *brand new* book in honour of the day – to add to the few second-hand volumes I’d found – and this is what came home with me:

The infamous bag – not a Tracy Emin one, but I don’t mind that at all! Plus the new book I bought which is this:

My first Pereine Press book – yes, Waterstones really *do* stock some of the good smaller presses! “Chasing the King of Hearts” chimes in with the kind of stuff I’m reading at the moment, so it was the obvious choice.

As for some of the second-hand bargains, these first two came from the local library old stock shelves, for 40p each:

I’ve picked up a number of decent books this way, and often in better condition than some of the second-hand books I buy online. And for 40p each! I’m determined to read Trollope soon and have heard good things about this. As for Francis Wyndham, I know I’ve read about him on a blog but I can’t remember where. But I will give his short stories a go!

And finally some charity shop finds:

This was from the Oxfam – again I’ve read about Claudel online (I think on Beauty is a Sleeping Cat) and it sounded intriguing. And last but not least from the Crack On charity shop:

I’d never heard of it but the blurb says it’s a mix of travelogue and family history and I’m intrigued enough to risk 75p on it!

So not a bad day in the end – not the one I had planned, but nevertheless with some lovely bookishness. How did you celebrate Books are my Bag? 🙂

In which I become somewhat irked…

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…despite some wonderful book bargains in town!

I suppose I should start with the positive which is the *big* book bargain; I have had my eye on this title for a while because it combines several things that interest me (Russia! Shostakovich! Leningrad! Modern History!) But it’s a big chunky hardback and not cheap so I was considering putting it on my Christmas list until I just happened to stumble into The Works at the weekend…

And there it was! “Leningrad: Siege and Symphony” by Brian Moynahan for £5.99 instead of £25. Well, would you have resisted?? I didn’t….

I didn’t go into many of the charity shops yesterday, and those I did also irked me, for reasons I’ll get to! But “Crack On!” (yes, the shop really *is* called that) had a basket of 10p and 20p books outside, including this rather fragile old classic version of “Le Grand Meulnes”.

This happens to be a book I read a while back, but I think I didn’t really get – having disposed of my Penguin version a while ago, I decided that this 20p bargain would do for a revisit to see if I get more out of it second time round! And the cover, despite the damage, is very pretty.

Other arrivals have a German theme, which ties in well with the fact that November is German Literature Month – I may even be able to participate! The first was from an online swap site:

I’ve read quite a lot about Herta Muller, particularly on Stu’s site, so I’m looking forward to reading her work. And lastly, a library book:

I’ve had this on reserve for months, so it’s arrived at an opportune time! I’m not sure how comfortable I feel with reading it – but I think that might be the point…

As for what irked me – well, “The Forsyte Saga”, to be blunt – or lack of it. I’ve been circling this for a long time, thinking I should read it, and there was a copy of the first volume in the house owing to Elder or Middle Child studying it at university. Alas, in the Summer Purge it went to one of the charity shops and it shouldn’t have because I now really want to read it. I trotted round the charity shops that might have a copy and none of them did (grrrrr.) I even went into Waterstones, thinking I might splurge out on a new book (as I’ve had issues with online sellers recently and have received some real tatty stinkers with bad foxing).

And thereby hangs another irksome tale. My local Waterstones has moved its adult fiction section to upstairs and slimmed it down dramatically. Quite how do they expect to compete with online sellers if they don’t stock a wide range of books and they’re tucked away upstairs?? Yes, they could order it for me, but that doesn’t let me browse through it, compare editions, see which typeface suits me best…. I’m obviously in need of a visit to Foyles!

I had a moan about this to OH, who sensibly pointed out that I could get a penny copy online. I don’t have to be encouraged much, do I? So penny copies of all three Forsyte volumes are on their way to me now…! 🙂 Grump over!

….in which we visit Waterstones….

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…and buy a brand new book from a high street bookshop! Yes really! For the second time this year!

I rather blame Youngest Child as she had seen a book the previous weekend and decided it was no cheaper on Amazon, so she would buy it in town. Well, it wasn’t cheaper (no surprise there) but as I had been eyeing up the book below, we combined to get the “buy one, get one half price” offer and the prices ending up being the same!

I actually really enjoyed the browsing experience – new books are not a thing I often indulge in for a number of reasons. The main one, of course, is cost – if I bought all the books I wanted new I would probably be bankrupt by now. The second one, though, is that many of the books I want just aren’t available on the high street, so online clicky sources are the only option.

But with the failure of HMV and the disintegration of high streets, it was nice to feel the need to visit a real bookshop, pick up and look at covers and titles that attracted my attention, check out what editions were available of my favourites and so on. Plus I came home with a lovely, shiny new book with that freshly printed smell!

underground

The volume in question is Andrew Martin’s “Underground Overground” which is subtitled “A Passenger’s History of The Tube”. I really fancied some non-fiction and so far it’s a cracking read!

Alex in Leeds did a very good post here which discussed how the Waterstones retail model is so much better than HMV and I have to agree – the staff I encountered were helpful and knowledgeable, and the atmosphere in the shop was so much friendlier. So, although I don’t think I’ll abandon my tendency for second-hand or online shopping, I may well find myself popping in to Waterstones for ideas a bit more frequently!

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