Thursday 27 March 2008


After my Lentern non-book buying, I am easing myself in gently. Well, I'm waiting for payday tomorrow before I go crazy. My Amazon basket is already filled to the brim... but one of the things I love most about book buying is the unexpected; wandering into a charity shop and seeing what it has. This probably leads to buying all sorts of books I don't technically *need*, but it also occasions surprises, and fun reading is a lot about serendipity.

The three books I bought from Oxfam a couple of days ago are in the photo above:

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - I think I might
already have this, but I wasn't sure, and I certainly haven't read it. A slim work about illness and insanity and domesticity - perhaps I should dig out Woolf's On Being Ill and read them alongside each other?

The Leavises on Fiction by P. J. M. Robertson - old FR and QD are important figures for my potential masters thesis, if only as people to set oneself against - this book looks both interesting and useful, a combination to assuage any guilt.

The Vicar of Wakefield and She Stoops to Conquer - Oliver Goldsmith - I've read both but own neither; have been looking out for a nice copy of TVOW since I read it a year or so ago, as it is hilarious and thought-provoking. This rather battered old copy is the sort of edition I like.

Next into my virtual shopping basket must be these gems from The Book People:
A series of20 disparate classics, under the title 'Great Loves' - only £15. How could I not? Follow the link to see which works are included - some (well, one) I've read, lots I'd like to read, and a few names I've not seen before. A nice little project.


  1. The Yellow Wallpaper, one of the best books on post-natal depression (I always assumed it was that)that I have ever read and Charlotte Perkins Gilman autobiography also worth reading. In fact I think I found my copy many years ago in a charity shop in, er, Oxford!

  2. I agree that the unexpected nature of buying second-hand books is a lot of the fun. And often, the more beaten up the better!
    (I've got a second-hand copy of TVOW but haven't got around to reading it yet.)

    Although then there's the appeal of shiny new books a la the Penguin great loves series.

    There was an interesting post on Litlove's blog recently re The Yellow Wallpaper and other examinations of female hysteria. You can read it at

  3. The Yellow Wallpaper is one of my very favourite books, and lovely to see it in an old VMC edition.

    I also have those Penguin Great Loves from The Book People and they truly are a bargain. And they look utterly beautiful. Hope you enjoy them!

  4. £15.... Oh dear. So that's at least 20 more books on their way.

  5. The Yellow Wallpaper is quite wonderful and, in case you've never read this, Perkins Gilman wrote (see here: why she wrote the book ... feelings that are very close to my heart.

    So much so that you've inspired me to blog about it this morning!

  6. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you don't actually *need* any books.

  7. Scandalous, Colin!

    And The Yellow Wallpaper will have to leap to the top of my tbr pile... or at least top thirty.

  8. The Yellow Wallpaper: It's one you won't easily forget. I had such vivid mental images created when reading it that I can still see them when I come across the title in print.

    I haven't read VW's On Being Ill (though I think it's here somewhere) - but, from reading her diaries, can see a comparison - with being made to stop creating while ill. Now, that's what is insane, don't you think?
    nancy b t

  9. Looks like quite a good haul there Simon. I always find I come out of charity shops with more books than I dropped off.

    I haven't read TVOW but I think I will be keeping my eye out for it now.


  10. I thought The Yellow Wallpaper was a short story; I read it in school and remember it being quite freaky. Or is that a different wallpaper-related story? I think it involved the heroine becoming convinced there was somebody else there when really... oh I won't spoil it.
    Thinking back on it now that I am a grownup with some knowledge of mental health, it was probably pretty good... If I'm thinking of a different book you should read that one too.

  11. I have those Great Love books and they are wonderful - not that I want to lead you astray or anything, but they are so worth the money. I'm a big fan of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and blogged about The Yellow Wallpaper a while back (can't remember when exactly) but it's very good. I wonder whether Woolf's diaries might be a better accompaniment than On Illness (although that is also a fine essay).

  12. How exciting to see Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata included in the Great Loves set!

    Tolstoy spent much time in his fiction exploring marriages, searching for the definition of family happiness. He began in a story titled, appropriately enough, Family Happiness; continued exploring the theme in War and Peace and then Anna Karenina; then Kreutzer Sonata; and finally The Devil. It makes for an interesting exercise to follow the development of Tolstoy's views on marriage through these works.

    I look forward to reading your comments on The Kreutzer Sonata.

  13. I've got the Yellow Wallpaper in my pile of re-reads. I used to try to squeeze it into every class I taught because it's so well-crafted and so moving, in a creepy sort of way.

    Have you read The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys? It's a re-telling of Jane Eyre from the perspective of the mad woman in the attic. It uses some of the same devices as YW, but of course, having read Jane Eyre, you know the end before it begins. Still, quite a narrative accomplishment.

    I just bought 18 books for $9 (USD) at the local public library's used book sale...some amazing finds and such wonderful variety. What fun!

  14. OK, sorry, I'll stop commenting after this one -- but I've just discovered your blog, and have been reading my way through it, and found another overlap. A few days ago I commented over at dovegreyreader's on Queenie Leavis's review of Rosamond Lehmann in Scrutiny. It was a really horrid review -- and I am a huge fan of Lehmann. But how funny to see you have just bought the book on the Great Couple. I studied English at Cambridge, when Leavis's legacy was still palpable.

  15. Justine - comment as much as you like, lovely to have your comments!

    Exuberant Reader - I have read Wide Sargasso Sea, I think it was 2004, and don't remember a lot about it except the power it had in the final scenes.

    18 books for $9!


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