I read a lot of book blog posts gloating about bookish treasure finds, but I’m more interested in finding out why they spend the money, not what it was on. This is my most recent tally, which cost me £24.50, very good value. The proprietor held me in conversation on the merits of Ian Dury, with which I heartily agreed, but he talked so long I barely made it to the bike shop to rescue my bike from its first service.
Why is that man buying a Thomas Pynchon? Is it because his irritating friend, the one knitting on the bookshop sofa, is determined to instruct everyone in the bookshop, god help them? She’s chattering about her shiny new Eng lit knowledge like a carpet-bomber. Her babble has made thinking so impossible, he’s just picked up the first book he saw and paid for it to get her out of the shop.
Why, on the other hand, did that pink-faced young vicar buy what looks like the Complete Dennis Wheatley? Has he missed a few? A present for a friend? His mum? A passion for tales of ritual murder? I long to ask. Exit polls in bookshops should be compulsory. Here’s my tally for today.
George Eliot, Scenes From Clerical Life (Penguin Classics, slightly used). I really like John Galt’s mischievous and dark stories of early-19thC small-town parish politics, and I’ve been trying to like George Eliot for years. I’ve given up three times on Middlemarch, was bored by Silas Marner, and am flinching from attempting the known tragic ending of The Mill on the Floss. If I can get through this, I’ll try Adam Bede.
H P Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Panther Horror, originally ‘5/- (25p)’. I don’t think this one is in my Complete Lovecraft Short Stories. I’m hoping for tentacle madness. Any book I could have afforded with my pocket money as a ten-year old is good.
Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (Collins hardback first edition, sans dustjacket). This one will be my fourth copy *long-suffering voice*. The first one abandoned me sometime in my twenties when I moved house eleven times in ten years. The second one was lent to my neighbour, and ‘lost’ by their daughter. They found me a replacement copy, but it wasn’t the same. This one will place that replacement in someone else’s book-buying options. I feel virtuous.
Georgette Heyer, Regency Buck (1960s Pan, the one with Judith in a yellow dress restraining Worth from ripping someone’s throat out). Both covers of my earlier copy had fallen off and it was held together with an elastic band. Very happy that I found the same edition.
E F Benson, Mrs Ames (Bloomsbury reprint, lurid acid green cover) Naturally I love Benson to bits, but this one intrigues me, as its 1912 and seems to have the same plot as Lucia, so I’m risking a new book purchase. A novel that begins with a critical description of the breakfast tongue is worth pursuing.
Aldous Huxley, After Many A Summer (Chatto & Windus 1939 first edition) Appears to be darkly satirical, which is what I’m looking for, avoiding the unfunny satire of Brave New World. Crome Yellow wasn’t available. The two other Huxleys in the shop were too wide to carry in my backpack.
Artemis Cooper, Writing at the Kitchen Table (Penguin paperback). I gave this biography of Elizabeth David to my mum for Christmas years ago, and it hasn’t come back to me on loan so I’m going to have to buy my own. I love the myth of ED, and the legend that she singlehandedly made the British cook with olive oil, rather than dab it on itchy skin complaints. Hoping for stories of Mediterranean gluttony and lots of affairs in the sun.