Sunday, December 11, 2011

Poetry: Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz Lozano (March 31, 1914 – April 19, 1998)
Between going and coming

Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Classic Fiction: Three man in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

One of the funniest novels ever written, Three man in a Boat (To say Nothing of the Dog),1889, has scarcely dated since its first publication when it was celebrated throughout Europe and bootlegged in America. it started life as a piece of travel writing. Jerome K. Jerome remarked in his My Life and Times that "I did not intend to write a funny book... the book was to have been 'The Story of the Thames', its scenery and history", but as he began writing, it took on a life of its own.

Narrated by J., it is the hilariously chaotic story of a sojourn taken on the Thames from London to Oxford with his weary inept friends George, Harris and the dog Montmorency. The novel is a series of often very funny vignettes that recount the many scrapes the men get involved in. Rather than the situations, it is jerome's prose that is the real attraction here. He finds humour in the most banal of objects from a tin of pineapple chunks that is impossible to open, to the description of his friend's day's work: "George goes to sleep in a bank from ten till four each day except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two".

The Worst Witch

The magical tale of an orphaned boy who discovers his wizard heritage at an unusual boarding schools for magicians has won the hearts of millions, and the suspicious of a few. Pottermania, it seems, has a dark side.

At its strongest in the USA, a growing movement is targeting the Harry Potter series for the propagation of the word of the devil. They contend that the books are merely Satan's cover in his ultimate plan to plant immorality and corruption in the minds of the nation's children. Christian societies are becoming passionately divided on the issue, schools are banning them on the grounds that they are sacreligious and entire families are refusing to buy they because the occult skills they allegedly contain (witchcraft, sorcery, casting spells, spiritualism, interpreting omens and "calling up the dead") are considered "an abomination to the Lord".

It appears that the UK's most beloved young hero is not quite as humble an courageous as was once thought.

Modern Fiction: The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass

Gunther Grass is often lauded as the spokesman for a generation of Germans who grew up during the Nazi era. In 1999, he received the Nobel prize for Literature, but it was his Explosive debut novel The Tin drum which took the literacy world by storm.

this is the autobiography of Oskar Matzerath, and is, we are told, written in a sanatorium in the early 1950s, but it begins in Poland in the 1900s when Oskar's mother marries Alfred, a shopkeeper. Oskar, however, may be the child of an affair with her cousin Jan. At the age of three, Oskar decides as an act of will and of protest at the stupidity and wickedness of adults that he will not grow, and communicates largely through his tin drum, from which he is inseparable.

Set primarily in Grass's native Danzig, the shadow of Nazism hangs heavy over the first two-thirds of the book, with Kristallnacht, the fall of Poland and ultimately the Soviet capture of the city all refracted through Oskar's eyes, as is the plight of German refugees struggling westwards ahead of the Red Army.

The Tin Drum is a marvellously memorable novel, both for the treatment of its subject, and for the richness of the images, the ironic humour and wit of the text, the power of the writing and towering, enlightened imagination of its author.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Writer's Daily Routines

On his fascinating blog Daily Routines, Mason Currey collects schedules once kept by notable writers, artists and thinkers. Here are a few samples:

Immanuel Kant

Wake at 5am. Drink one or two cups weak tea, smoke pipe, meditate. Prepare lectures and books until 7am. Lecture 7 - 11 am. Write until the lunch. Walk. Spend rest of afternoon with friend. Light work and reading.

Franz Kafka

Work at office 8.30 am - 2.30 pm. Lunch until 3.30 pm. Sleep until 7.30 pm. Exercise. Family dinner. At 11 pm, begin work, letter- and diary- writing "until one, two, or three o'clock", followed by "every imaginable effort to go to sleep".

Haruki Murakami

Wake at 4 am. Work for five to six hours. Run for 10km or swim for 1,500 miles (or both). Read, listen to music. In bed at 9 pm.

P. G. Wodehouse

Wake at 7.30 am. Perform calisthenics. Breakfast with a "breakfast book" (perhaps a mystery). First pipe of the day. Short walk with dogs. Work 9 am - 1 pm. Lunch at 1. Walk. Soap opera. Tea with wife. Nap. Bath. More work. Cocktail. Sun parlour. Dinner. Reading, occasional game of bridge.

Charles Darwin

Wake at 7 am. Breakfast at 7.45 am. Work 8 - 9.30 am. Letters until 10.30 am. Work 10.30 - 12. Walk. Lunch at 12.45 pm. Read The Times. Answer letters. Rest, smoke. Listen to light literature read by wife. Walk. Work. Rest. Listen to reading aloud again at 6. Light high tea at 7.30. Games of backgammon if no guests present. Read, listen to piano. In bed by 10.30 pm.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dublin Writers Museum

Whatever you think you know about Irish literature, you’re sure to find something to astound and delight you at the Dublin Writers Museum. Dublin is famous as a city of writers and literature, and the Dublin Writers Museum is an essential visit for anyone who wants to discover, explore, or simply enjoy Dublin's immense literary heritage.

The idea of a Dublin Writers Museum was originated by the journalist and author Maurice Gorham (1902 - 1975), who proposed it to Dublin Tourism. Opened in November 1991 at No 18, Parnell Square, the museum occupies an original eighteenth-century house, which accommodates the museum rooms, library, gallery and administration area. The annexe behind it has a coffee shop and bookshop on the ground floor and exhibition and lecture rooms on the floors above. The Irish Writers' Centre, next door in No 19, contains the meeting rooms and offices of the Irish Writers' Union, the Society of Irish Playwrights, the Irish Children's Book Trust and the Translators' Association of Ireland. The basement beneath both houses is occupied by the Chapter One restaurant.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Words to Learn

Hundreds of meaningless words litter our lives, but what about those common experiences, feelings and situations, which no word can adequately describe? In The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd solve the problem by ambushing the names of British towns and reapplying them where they needed most. Here are their thoughts on all things literary...

Ahenny - the way people stand when examing other people's bookshelves.
Ainderby Quernhow - one who continually bemoans the "loss" of the word "gay" to the English language, even though they had never used the word in any context at all until they started complaining they couldn't use it any more.
Bathel - to pretend to have read the book under discussion when in fact you've only seen the TV series.
Beppy - the triumphal slamming shut of a book after reading the final page.
Dalmilling - continually making small talk to someone who is trying to read a book.
Fritham - a paragraph that gets you stuck in the book. The more you read it, the less it means to you.
Great Wakering - the panic which sets in when you badly need to go to the lavatory and cannot make up your mind about what book or magazine to take with you.
Great Tosson - a fat book containing four words and six cartoons which costs £12.95
Liff - a book, the contents of which are totally belied by its cover. For instance, any book the dust jacket of which ears the words, "This book will change your life".
Pulverbatch - the first paragraph on the blurb of a dust jacket in which famous authors claim to have had a series of menial jobs in their youth.
Ripon - to include all the best jokes from the book in a review to make it look as if the critic thought of them

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thriller: More Work for the Undertaker

Margery Allingham (1904 - 1966) is regularly classified as one of the "Big Four" novelists of Golden Age detective fiction. Along with her contemporaries, Christie, Sayers and Marsh, Allingham did much to ensure the continuing popularity of the thriller, but where she differs from them is in her deceptively entertaining approach and in the greater versatility of her detective, Albert Campion.
Campion is an upper-class eccentric whose colourless appearance belies his resourcefulness. His man-servant, Magersfontein Lugg, is as implausible a personality as his name suggests, being a reformed burglar with a heart of gold and a real, if rough, loyalty for his master. As the series progresses, Campion gain a wife, Lady Amanda Fitton, while his police connections extend from Inspector Stanislaus Oates to young Charlie Luke, who appears in this novel only to be completely outdone by Campion.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ungodly Mistakes - Bibles with Errors

The "Wicked Bible"
In a  15the century edition of the King James Bible, the word "not" was accidentally omitted from the seventh commandment, so that it actually encouraged readers to commit adultery. The printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas were fined £300 for omitting the word no, and also lost their printer's licence. All copies were ordered to be destroyed by Charles I (dashing the hopes of many).

The "Wicked Bible"

The "Fool's Bible"
A 1632 print-run made a similar boob. They replaced "no" with "a" in Psalm 14 to read: "The Fool hath said in his heart there is a God". The resulting fine put the printing house out of business.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Power of Three

Three Blind Mice - Agatha Cristie (1950)
The Three Clerks - Anthony Trollope (1858)
Three Guineas - Virginia Woolf (1931)
Three Hostages - John Buchan (1924)
Three Man in a Boat - Jerome K Jerome (1889)
Three Man on the Bummel - Jerome K Jerome (1900)
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (1844)
The Three Sisters - Anton Chekhov (1901)
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K. Dick
Three Day Road - Joseph Boyden
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortensen & David Oliver Relin
Three Deuces Down - Keith Donnelly
Three Junes - Julia Glass
The Three Weissmanns of Westport - Cathleen Schine
Three Rivers Form An Ocean - James Funk (2011)
The Three Pigs - David Wiesner (2001)

Classic Fiction: The Moonstone, A Romance

On her 18th birthday, Rachel Verrinder is endowed with the gift of an exceptional diamond, originally stolen from a Hindu temple in India. On the night of her birthday, some rather clumsy Indian jugglers suddenly arrive at the house to entertain the guests, and that night, Rachel's diamond is stolen from her. The indian jugglers are obviously suspected of the theft, but are thought to be not guilty as there are others in the house acting suspiciously, most notably Rachel herself.

There then follows an investigation which reveals all kinds of adventures and dishonesties among Rachel's family, friends and suitors (among them Franklin Blake, the collector of the papers that make up the novel). The story and its conclusion are spectacular, but it is also Wilkie Collins' sense of place and his ear for the nuances of voice among his cast of characters that really set this captivating novel apart.

The Moonstone is a noteworthy novel for so many other reasons, too.  The memorable characters are too numerous to mention. On a structural level, it has neither a third-nor first-person narrator, but the series of characters who recount the sections of the story that they know best. Its portrayal of the Indians was incredibly generous and liberal in the context of the still recent Indian Mutiny of 1857. Many have suggested that this novel single-handedly inaugurated the genre of the Detective Mystery and it certainly has many of the hallmarks of the genre yet to come. The principal criterion, though, must surely be a rivetting plot and The Moonstone certainly has that.

Classic Fiction: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley was the only daughter of the writers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. She eloped with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1814, and they were married two years later. It was during this time that they stayedvfor a few days at the Vila Diodati on Lake Geneva. It was here that they and friends Byron and Polidori decided to devise stories to entertain themselves. It was the two lesser-known literary figures which produced the most memorable work.

Polidori's Vampyre was relatively successful in its day, but the story of Frankenstein has burned brightly in the popular imagination ever since its publication in 1818.

The story is told by an English explorer in the Arctic who assists Frankenstein on the final leg of his chase at the end of the novel. Frankenstein is a talented young medical student who strikes upon the secret of endowing life to the dead. He becomes obsessed with the idea that he might make a man. The resulting creature is lonely, miserable and an outcast who seeks murderous revenge for his condition.

The creature flees with Frankenstein in pursuit. It is here that he meets the explorer and recounts his story, dying soon after. The novel has been filmed numerous times, but none has effectively conveyed the stark horror and philosophical acuity of the novel.
 “I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Little Guide to Second-hand Books Buying

Here are some of handy acronyms for second-hand book purchasing on ebay...

ARC     Advance reader's copy (paperback edition circulated before the trade edition for publicity)
AUTO  Autographed
EXLIB  Ex-library book
F/E       First edition
HB/DJ  Hardback with dust jacket
HIC      Hole in cover
SC        Slight crease
NC       No cover
NM      Near mint
OOP    Out of print
PB        Paperback or paperbound
PC        Poor condition
RC        Reader copy (a book in a good condition but with no real investment value)
ROM    Romantic
VHTF   Very hard to find
WOC   Writing on cover

...and one that should be there:

DBAWOI  Don't believe a word of it

Modern Fiction: The Alexandria Quartet

This much acclaimed tetralogy published between 1957 and 1960 consists of Justine (1957)m Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958) and Clea (1960). In this four vivid novels, the author Lawrence G. Durrelluses an innovative Postmodernist style, recounting a set of events experienced by the same protagonists but from different perspectives. Each book reveals a little more of the whole truth of the matter, and ends in a death.

The overarching themes centre on love, lust and politics. The novels are set just before the Second World War in the exotic city of Alexandria, with its ancient Egyptian and Hellenic overtones.

The main characters include Darley (the narrator and a poet), his mistress Melissa, Justine (a free-loving Jewess) married to Nessim, Clea, Pursewarden (the brilliant novelist) and Mountolive (the British Ambassador). Together and individually they express the full range of passions, emotions and in some cases perversions.

Durrell's use of rich, exotic and even extravagant descriptions make this read a sumptuous banquet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bad Sex in Fiction Prize

Each year the Literary Review awards its "Bad Sex in Fiction" prize to a novel featuring the most "inept, embarrassing, unnecessary" sex scene. Rachel (sister of Boris, mayor of London) Johnson was awarded the 2008 prize for her novel Shire Hell.

The prizewinning book "Shire Hell"
She described her victory as an "absolute  honour". Below is the prizewinning extract:

Almost screaming after five agonizingly pleasureable minutes, I make a grab, to put him, now angrily slapping against both our bellies, inside, but he holds both my arms down, and puts his tongue to my core, like a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop. I find myself gripping his ears and tugging at the locks curling over them, beside myself, and a strange animal noise escapes from me as the mounting, Wagnerian crescendo overtakes me. I really do hope at this point that all the Spodders are, as requested, attending the meeting about slug clearance or whatever it is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Poetry: Anna Akhmatova's "tortured mouth"

Anna Akhmatova
Anna Akhmatova is the literary pseudonym of Anna Andreevna Gorenko. Her first husband was Nikolay Gumilev, and she too became one of the leading Acmeist poets. Her second book of poems, Beads (1914), brought her fame. Her earlier manner, intimate and colloquial, gradually gave way to a more classical severity, apparent in her volumes The White Flock (1917) and Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922).
The growing distaste which the personal and religious elements in her poetry aroused in Soviet officialdom forced her thereafter into long periods of silence; and the poetic masterpieces of her later years, A Poem without a Hero and Requiem, were published abroad. 
Her style, characterised by its economy and emotional restraint, was strikingly original and distinctive to her contemporaries. The strong and clear leading female voice struck a new chord in Russian poetry. Her writing can be said to fall into two periods - the early work (1912–25) and her later work (from around 1936 until her death), divided by a decade of reduced literary output. Her work was condemned and censored by Stalinist authorities and she is notable for choosing not to emigrate, and remaining in Russia, acting as witness to the atrocities around her. Her perennial themes include meditations on time and memory, and the difficulties of living and writing in the shadow of Stalinism.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The London College of Communication

This time we will give you some information about the London College of Communication (LCC), which is the part of The University of the Arts London. The University offer students an exciting mix of high quality courses and strong links with the commercial and cultural activities. The Institute provides opportunities for study at all levels from access and national diploma to BA, MA and PhD. It offer courses in a range of fields from the fine and applied arts to conservation, fashion design, journalism and advertising.

The LCC has around 5,000 students, of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. It has a great community atmosphere in a busy, stimulating environment where students play an active part in course development. Many courses offer field trips or work experience to complement your college-based learning programme.

Phaidon Press, the publisher for all art lovers

Phaidon Press is the world’s leading publisher of books on the visual arts, with offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan, New York and Tokyo, and distributors worldwide. It has had a long and fascinating history, as recorded by art historian Nigel Spivey for Phaidon's 75th anniversary in 1998.

One of very recognizable book covers from the Phaidon Press

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Modern Fiction: Until TheDawn’s Light, By Aharon Appelfeld

Almost is the operative word here. From the novel’s opening lines, we sense the pain and urgency behind Blanca’s flight. In Aharon Appelfeld’s characteristic manner — that is, with a deftness that allows single words to suggest volumes of emotional complication — he draws us into this young mother’s story and makes us wonder what she’s fleeing from, and to. The answers to those questions constitute both the story line and the sociohistorical backdrop of this remarkable novel, expertly translated by Jeffrey M. Green.

Soon after the novel begins, Blanca and Otto reach a safe haven of sorts, a small vine-covered cottage in a village beside a broad river. As they rest from their travels, Blanca begins a memoir for her son. Driven by a desire to tell her painful story, and to exculpate herself from her increasingly grave misdeeds, she pieces together the events of the past five years of her life. She is, we learn, the daughter of Jewish parents: a frustrated would-be mathematician turned shopkeeper, and a loving mother whose chronic illness overshadowed much of Blanca’s childhood. Both parents lost some element of their connection to Judaism early on, though it was her father who more willfully cut those ties. Blanca’s maternal grandmother, on the other hand, is the town’s most passionate upholder of the faith. When the local synagogue closes its doors because so many congregants have converted, Grandma Carole stations herself on the steps and condemns the apostates at the top of her lungs, calling down the fire of God upon them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Short History of Pop-Up Books

The first movable books actually predate the print culture. The earliest known examples of such interactive mechanisms are by Ramón Llull (c.1235-1316) of Majorca, a Catalán mystic and poet. His works contain volvelles or revolving discs, which he used to illustrate his complex philosophical search for truth. Volvelles were utilized from Llull's time through to the eighteenth century for manuscripts and in printed books. They illustrated a variety of topics, including natural science, astronomy, mathematics, mysticism, fortune telling, navigation, and medicine. 


Other types of movables, in particular "turn-up" or "lift-the-flap" mechanisms, were in use as early as the fourteenth century. They were especially helpful in books on anatomy, where separate leaves, each featuring a different section of the body, could be hinged together at the top and attached to a page. This technique enabled the viewer to unfold, for instance, multiple depths of a torso, from ribcage to abdomen to spine. One spectacular example of an anatomical movable is Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome, printed in Basel in 1543. It features a movable illustration in which the human anatomy is shown in seven detailed superimposed layers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Modern Fiction: Fifth Business

"... those roles which, being neither those of Hero or Heroine, Confidante or Villain, but which were nonetheless essential to bring about the recognition or the denouement, were called the Fifth Business in drama..."
"... opera companies organized according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often reffered to as Fifth Business.

These quotes from William Robertson Davies' brilliant and best-known novel, the first in the Deptford Trilogy, describe its premise. Dunstable "Dunny" Ramsey begins his life story as he ducks to avoid a snowball thrown by his boyhood friend Percy Boy Staunton. It hits a young woman and precipitates the premature birth of Paul Dempsey. At once, both Dunny and the event are established as "Fifth Business".

Dunny's guilt-induced relationship with the singular Mrs Dempsey sees her apparent decline into madness... or sainthood. Robertson Davies then explores how a saint would be received in a small town in Ontario in the early years of the 20th century. Paul, Percy and Dunny's lives remain intricately intertwined, leading Dunny to Europe, Percy to wealth and status, and Paul to run away with a travelling circus. Jungian archetypes, faultless, wryly humourous prose, erudition, magic and mythology characterize this Canadian masterpiece.

Irma Boom Book Design

The great DutchDFA network did a video profile of famous graphic designer Irma Boom. Blooms’ has made over 250 books, 50 of which are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her ‘Think book’ for a giant coal company has become an international icon of Dutch design. She sees her books as objects, that communicate ideas and stories, and speak to all human senses.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Slang in history: London language in 16th and 17th century

Here is a short list of words and expressions used in Elizabethan's London.

  Argent, bit, cross, lowre - coin, cash
  abroad - out of doors
  amulet - omelette
  artificer - skilled workman
  Barbary - North Africa
  bellman - nightwatchman
  blue-coat - a servant
  brabble - quarrel
  bong, bung - purse, pocket
  broadsword - heavy old-fashioned sword for slashing
  cant, peddler's french - criminal slang
  cullis - meat broth
  cuttle - knife
  derrick - a hangman
  foister - a pickpocket
  french marbles - venereal disease
  garnish - a bribe given to a prison officer
  green goose - goose under four months old
  higgler - pedlar
  jakes - a privy
kickshaw - fancy snack, from French quelquechose (something)
laystall - a dung-heap or midden
napery - table linen
nipper - a cutpurse
nunchion - snack between meals

ordinary - eating house, with the fixed price, set meal
paled - fenced
pippin - apple grown from the seed
potboy - youth employed to clear away in a tavern
poor John - salted hake
rear-banquet - late night snack
sack - sherry
shoulder-clapping - arrest
stew - a brothel
sucket - sweet e.g. sugar-plum
traffic - whore
trull - person of low character
ware-bench - shop counter
winchester goose - whore
zany - a clown

Aardvark Books

Six years ago two career publishing professionals decided to start a book business that reflected their love of books and their combined half century of experience in the book trade. In 2007 they moved to their existing premises, in a beautiful 19th century barn on the borders of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Wales the building known as the Bookery.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What type of reader you are?

The four classes of reader according to Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Classic Fiction: Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

Irish Protestant clergyman and satirist Jonathan Swift publishes Gulliver's Travels anonymously in 1726. The four-part novel relates ship captain Lemuel Gulliver's voyages to fanciful countries such as Lilliput and Brobdingnag, where he meets both tiny and giant inhabitants.
The work's satirical attacks on English politicians and social practices, as well as its coarse descriptions of bodily functions, provoke much comment and controversy among the reading public. Even the first publisher of the book fears that it is too critical of English society and expurgates the text slightly, over Swift's objections.
The first printing sells out in a week, and the book is never thereafter out of print. However, Gulliver's Travels is often published in expurgated versions, both in England and abroad. In the 19th century, Victorian critics charge that Swift's view of human nature is too pessimistic.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Memoirs: Journal of Katherine Mansfield

Just month before Katherine Mansfield died at the age of 34, she bequeathed "all manscripts, notebooks, papers and letters" to her husband, John Middleton Murry. The will also stipulated, "I should like him to publish as little as possible and tear up and burn as much as possible..."
Murry did not heed his wife's instructions. Although many people have accused him of profitin from poor Katherine's early demise, our literature is all the richer because he has published her journals. The journals are - as poetic as her poems, as engaging as her short stories, and as sharp as her criticism. They were first published in 1927, the "Definitive Edition" in 1954.

Born in New Zealand, Katherine Mansfield was educated in England, and after a brief sojourn in New Zealand during her young adulthood, she returned to Europe, never to see her homeland again. She had dramatic love affairs (before and during her marriage to Murry), and spent the rest of her life travelling between England and the Continent in search of health.

No matter whether she is describing Maori fishermen, her longing for a baby (which remained unfulfilled), D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, the "full, transparent, glittering" moon, coughing up blood, or her imminent death from tuberculosis, Mansfield's journals exude a passion and intensity that are unparalleled, as well as a strong visual sense and joy in the commonplace.

Katherine, her husband and brother-in-law
Katherine was also a prolific correspondent, to people such as Virginia Woolf, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Dorothy Brett, and especially J.M.Murry. These letters are also worth reading to see another side - or sides - of this fascinating writer. The Penguin Modern Classics edition of The Letters and Journals of Katherine Mansfield (A Selection) edited by C.K.Stead is highly recommended.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How to get an Autograph

An autograph is a handwritten name, but how do you get your book signed. Here are a few ideas about how you get get your book signed by the writer. Read on.

Mario Vargas Llosa signing his books

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thames & Hudson

Thames & Hudson is one of my favourite publishing  houses. Thames & Hudson publishes beautifully illustrated books on a wide range of subjects including Art, Design, Fashion, Photography, Archaeology and History.

Thames & Hudson was founded in 1949 by Walter and Eva Neurath. Their passion and mission for T&H was that its books should reveal the world of art to the general public, to create a ‘museum without walls’ and to make accessible to a broad, non-specialist reading public, at prices it could afford, the research and the findings of top scholars and academics. To capture the essence of this international concept, the name for the company linked the rivers flowing through London and New York (although Walter later admitted he could have chosen at least six other rivers for the name!).

Thomas and Eva Neurath

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Techniques of book preservation and conservation

The Book: Preservation and Conservation for Libraries and Archives
Nelly Balloffet and Jenny Hille

"In this book, preservation refers to steps that address the overall safekeeping of all the holdings.Conservation is used to mean hands-on treatment.”—Nelly Balloffet and Jenny Hille

When materials aren’t available due to deterioration, missing pages, disconnected covers, or other problems, it can be frustrating for users and librarians alike. The answer is to provide appropriate care for the collection from the outset, while also guiding staff on making needed repairs. In Preservation and Conservation, two experts show library administrators and decision makers optimal collection preservation techniques, what it takes to set up a conservation work area, and safe ways to mount a small exhibit. In between, those responsible for repairs will find easily learned, illustrated, step-by-step instructions to repair and conserve books and documents. Appendixes include care of photographs as well as lists of suppliers, and additional resources.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reading Suggestions 07

My recommendations for reading in July.
Make your own research and enjoy reading!


Poetry: Gertrude Stein's unique style

Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946)
From Four Saints in Three Acts

Pigeons on the grass alas.
Pigeons on the grass alas.
Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass. Pigeons
large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the
If they were not pigeons what were they.
If they were not pigeons on the grass alas what were they. He had
heard of a third and he asked about if it was a magpie in the sky.
If a magpie in the sky on the sky can not cry if the pigeon on the
grass alas can alas and to pass the pigeon on the grass alas and the
magpie in the sky on the sky and to try and to try alas on the
grass alas the pigeon on the grass the pigeon on the grass and alas.
They might be very well they might be very well very well they might
Let Lucy Lily Lily Lucy Lucy let Lucy Lucy Lily Lily Lily Lily
Lily let Lily Lucy Lucy let Lily. Let Lucy Lily.

Experimental writer Gertrude Stein has had her share of mockery for her loos and rambling writing style, and no more so than from her editor, AJ Fifield, who sent her a following rejection in 1912:

'Dear Madam,
I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
Many thanks. I'm returning the MS by registered post. Only one MS by one post.
Sincerely yours...' 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poetry: Phillis Wheatley, the First African-American published author

Given the hardships of life in early America, it is ironic that some of the best poetry of the period was written by an exceptional slave woman. The first African-American author of importance in the USA, Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784) was born in Africa (Gambia or Senegal) and brought to Boston when she was about 7, where she was purchased by the pious and wealthy tailor John Wheatley to be a companion to his wife Susannah.The Wheatleys recognized Phillis's remarkable intelligence and, with the help of their daughter, Mary, Phillis learned to read and write. At the age of twelve she was reading the Greek and Latin classics, and passages from the Bible. At thirteen she wrote her first poem.

Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Penguin Books Anniversary

Penguin Books logo
When the first Penguin paperbacks appeared they cost just sixpence – the price of a packet of cigarettes – and were hardly intended to be enduring items.

But as the publisher celebrates its 75th birthday, Penguin titles are not only among the most recognisable in literature but also a magnet for collectors.

Penguin was launched on 30 July 1935 after publisher Allen Lane, travelling home from a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, was appalled by the lack of cheap but good quality contemporary fiction available at Exeter station. He came up with the concept of the Penguin paperback, bringing out a host of the colour-coded titles that summer (orange for fiction, blue for biography, green for crime), with works by Ernest Hemingway, André Maurois and Christie herself part of the launch list.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Personal Library Kit - A perfect gift

A perfect gift for everyone who love books! And who love to share them with friends! Half the fun of reading is sharing the love.

The Personal Library Kit provides everything you need to keep track of all the titles you lend. It comes with checkout cards, date stamps, an inkpad and a mini pencil. It’s a cute way to get organized and it makes a great gift for bibliophiles friends.

With the Personal Library Kit you’ll always have a record of who borrowed your favourite classic novel or a brand new book of your favourite author that you just read, and just how long they’ve had it in their hands.

For a bibliophile, there’s no greater pleasure than share beloved books, but no crueler pain than losing them for good—until the Personal Library Kit! Revive old-fashioned library circulation techniques for fun and book retention with our classic bestseller—now with a sleek new redesign!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thriller: Gaudy Night (1935)

The secluded, almost convent-like, environment of a women's college in 1930s Oxford provides the claustrophobic setting for Gaudy Night. Harriet Vane,  a one-time murder suspect (the story of her acquittal owing to the detective work of Lord Peter Wimsey is told in Strong Poison) and a successful author of detective stories herself, returns to Shrewsbury College for the first time since graduating. A spiteful and vicious drawing is planted on one of the female graduates during the Gaudy weekend and this prefaces a spate of further poison-pen incidents a room-ransackings which the College Faculty ask Harriet to investigate.

The Dorothy L. Sayers' novel is tautly-plotted as well as tense in atmosphere. While the criminal action of the novel never actually descends to murder, Sayers makes much of the tensions which can arise among groups of women living in close proximity. The contemporary cultural conflict between the dependent, feminine housewife and mother, and the independent, academic celibate is played out here in Gaudy Night.

However, as the spitefulness and violence escalates, it becomes clear that Harriet herself is caught up in the crossfire as her own academic objectivity is compromised by her relationship with Lord Peter Wimsey, to the extent that he has to step in to assist her in her detective task. More than a mere puzzle-solving problem, Sayers concerns herself with character development and psychological study, thereby introducing a more realistic element into her version of Golden Age detective fiction.

Ekers and gushers

Gustave Flaubert was an 'eker'. Intent on finding the right word ('le mot juste'), he rarely sqeezed out more than a paragraph a day.

Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880)

Samuel Johnson wrote Rasselas in one week to raise money to pay for his mother's funeral. He sold it to a publisher for a 100 pounds without even reading it over once.

Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia

Funny shelves for fun of reading!

Here are a pictures of unusual bookshelf designs, that could bring your book collection in a center of attention.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Excerpts: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.

How did I know you were American? No, not by the color of your skin; we have a range of complexions in this country, and yours occurs often among the people of our northwest frontier. Nor was it your dress that gave you away; a European tourist could as easily have purchased in Des Moines your suit, with its single vent, and your button-down shirt. True, your hair, short-cropped, and your expansive chest -- the chest, I would say, of a man who bench-presses regularly, and maxes out well above two-twenty-five -- are typical of a certain type of American; but then again, sportsmen and soldiers of all nationalities tend to look alike. Instead, it was your bearing that allowed me to identify you, and I do not mean that as an insult, for I see your face has hardened, but merely as an observation.

Come, tell me, what were you looking for? Surely, at this time of day, only one thing could have brought you to the district of Old Anarkali -- named, as you may be aware, after a courtesan immured for loving a prince -- and that is the quest for the perfect cup of tea. Have I guessed correctly? Then allow me, sir, to suggest my favorite among these many establishments. Yes, this is the one. Its metal chairs are no better upholstered, its wooden tables are equally rough, and it is, like the others, open to the sky. But the quality of its tea, I assure you, is unparalleled.

You prefer that seat, with your back so close to the wall? Very well, although you will benefit less from the intermittent breeze, which, when it does blow, makes these warm afternoons more pleasant. And will you not remove your jacket? So formal! Now that is not typical of Americans, at least not in my experience. And my experience is substantial: I spent four and a half years in your country. Where? I worked in New York, and before that attended college in New Jersey. Yes, you are right: it was Princeton! Quite a guess, I must say.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Modern fiction: The Man Who Loved Children (1940)

Set in the late 1930s, The Man Who Loved Children is the story of a dysfunctional family. This novel by Christina Stead analyzes family dynamics and their impact on family members with insight and compassion.

Said to be semi-autobiographical, it is set in the US, rather than Stead's native Australia. The book is wonderfully full of comic irony starting with its title. The Pollit family consist of dad, Sam, and the uncaring misogynist mother Henny (stepmother to Louisa). They have six children, with at the top of the heap Louisa, 11 years of age, and ending with Charles Franklin, the baby. Sam sees himself as one of life's champions, but is in reality portrayed as a bully who abuses the very ones he should be takeing care of. Henny sees herself as impoverished gentlefolk, but is 'no better than she should be', filching money, verbally berating Sam and having an affair. Sam Pollit is essentially a comic figure; life swirls around him but has no effect upon him: No matter what happens, he stays the same. Henny, his wife, is his tragic opposite, whose downward course spurs the novel's action. Sam and Henny are opposites in every way, of which his being a man and her being a woman are the most obvious and most important. He comes from the striving working class; she is a spoiled heiress who has married beneath her. He is the fun parent, constantly summoning "his" womenfolk to bring treats and clean up the messes he has made and totally oblivious to the daily round of chores that keep the household going; she does all the actual work, bitterly hating every bit of it. The children are placed in the centre of all this hate and despair.

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