Literary Baton

Books owned: Four bin bags and three man-sized trunks full. Which I guess probably comes to a good few hundred. Notably, I’ve read the great majority of them.
Last book purchased: The Séance by Isaac Bashevis Singer from the Oxfam book shop in my new home town of Ealing Broadway. Exceptionally good Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) literature, full of dybbuks and moyels, but also extending as far Ashkenazi in New York. Half my fiction comes from charity shops, the rest at full price from Amazon or Waterstones.
Book reading right now: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. As described earlier in the blog.
Books that mean a lot to me:
A Cauldron of Spells by McEachren. Given me by my dad, this is a book of quotations great for reading out. Some of them are astounding pieces of classical poetry, some are just doggerel. I always remember “Come to our well-run desert, Where anguish arrives by cable, And the deadly sins, May be bought in tins, With instructions on the label”. Apparently, I’ve just found out it was by Auden; my respect for him increases daily. The first verse, which I’d never read before tonight is “Come to our bracing desert, Where eternity is eventful, For the weather-glass Is set at Alas, The thermometer at Resentful” from ‘For the Time Being, WH Auden’
Germinal by Emile Zola. A very slow, very clever book that looks at the horrors of capitalism through the prism of a mining community, its owners and the market, whilst interesting you in the characters as well. Nobody is outright evil, just constrained by their expectations of what the system should bring and the utter desolation and poverty for all concerned that any attempts to change the system result in. The film with Gerard Depardieu isn’t half bad either.
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Fantastic, well-written piece of high-modern theatre that showed a generation how a person with a charisma and brain can get away with just about anything, and make some money on the side too. Or at least that’s one lesson you could learn from it. Mmm, I appear to love sociopaths and social hounds. Curiouser and Curiouser.
Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino. I could have picked any of Calvino’s books, I love nearly all of them. Mr Palomar is perfectly introverted, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler is perfectly intimate, Invisible Cities is a great flourish of his imagination… but Difficult Loves is dear to my heart because of the absolute empathy Calvino generates with spare, unflourished language for his protagonists, ranging from the short-sighted lover to the lady who loses her bikini bottoms while swimming. Touching mouthfuls of romanticism.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:
Lil Grill
No Longer Mad Iain.

Oh, and on a non-literary note: whoever’s got my copies of the following, could they please, pretty-please, return them?
A Confederacy of Dunces
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S.
A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M Miller Jr.
Labyrinths (Borges)
All of my Calvino.
All of those Sci-Fi masterworks – there’s big holes on my shelf.

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  1. Anonymous

    Whoever’s got my copy of “Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking”, could they return it?Fnarr.JohnW


  2. Grill

    Why I oughta… come over there and…give you your book back…


  3. T.Simpson

    My mother passed on Kek’s Spells for Poets to me also, found your blog on a search trying to locate “the deadly sins may be bought in tins”! Very glad to have found it. Don’t suppose you have traced “One drop one drop I would that one sweet drop would tingle on my pearl tipp’d finger’s top”, have you?!! , as I will never find this site again! X


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