Monday 3 August 2009

Recent Purchases

Time to keep you up to date with the books flooding into my house. These are all ones I've bought myself, rather than review copies, and they're quite a mixture.

The bookshop which featured in Stuck-in-a-Book's Oxford tour in June 2007, Waterfield's, is closing this September. It's been there all through my time in Oxford - indeed, it's been there for eleven years, and in Oxford for three times that - but sadly is closing its doors. I must say the stock hasn't changed much in the five years I've known it, but I pop in for a browse now and then. You never know when authors you've scanned over a dozen times will suddenly ring a buying bell. Anyway, they currently have a closing down sale, and so I went to see what I could find... which resulted in:

Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of L.M. - which is by 'L.M.', real name Ida Baker. I only know of this figure from Mansfield biographical material; she was a desperately loyal friend whom Katherine Mansfield seems to have treated shamefully. I've got a feeling this will be at bit nauseatingly worshipping of KM... but I'm nauseatingly worshipful of her writing, so perhaps I shan't notice.

For Sylvia - Valentine Ackland - Sylvia Townsend Warner's companion/lover/friend. I've only just realised how similar these two books are...

By Way of Introduction - AA Milne - I do already have this, but it was quite cheap... It's a collection of AA Milne's later essays, mostly introductions to his own and others' works.

It's always worth popping into Oxford's ludicrously good value £2 shop. Everything £2 each, and it's not jam-packed with tatty remainders and celebrity 'auto'biographies, but actually really good quality stuff. Especially
good on biography, but also lots of fiction, art, politics, history, poetry etc. etc. And fast turnover. I rarely come away empty handed, and last week was no exception...

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro - this was fortuitous, because my book group is reading this novel this month. My first Ishiguro, and I'm looking forward to it.

Where Three Roads Meet - Sally Vickers - I've still never read anything by Vickers, despite now having three of her novels. This is such a
beautiful hardback copy, and it's about Freud, so I was sold.

The Folded Leaf - William Maxwell - this
was definitely serendipitous, as I went hoping to find some Maxwell...

... and I've gone a bit of a Maxwell spree over the past week, whilst thinking about my post for
yesterday on They Came Like Swallows. I've also bought The Chateaux and So Long, See You Tomorrow. Very excited about The Chateaux - it sounds mysterious and intriguing, though it is looooong. For me.

Just one more to finish off the list: The World My Wilderness - Rose Macaulay was going cheap in Oxfam, so I thought... why not?

Thoughts very welcome, everyone! Ones you've read, ones you want to read..?
Oh, and cake recipe coming soon. It was very simple, not really any surprises, but it's also delicious... so I'll be sharing before too long.



    I would love to hear some comments on this book--and others. I have always been so mystified by the death and end of life of KM...and show she lived etc.The Gurdjieff connection is never really explained clearly. Dead of TB...odd.
    Can you please do a KM post--and tell everything you essential reading about her. I have her collected letters, etc, but hard to read betwe lines of her family, her finances, her trips here and there, her books, her relationships.
    Your book list is tip-top--and you will love the MAXWELL...good finds. cheers,

  2. I adored Remains of the Day. Excellent book. I've yet to read Never Let Me Go, but I'm curious.

  3. Hi Diane - I'll make sure to do a Katherine Mansfield post before too long, and wrack my brains for any info about her life! I have read Claire Tomalin's biography of KM, but so much goes out of my head...

  4. I've read Never Let Me Go and I thought it was amazing. It's starts off as a boarding school, coming-of-age kind of story and then suddenly moves on to another plane altogether. I envy you reading it for the first time.

  5. Hi Simon-

    Thank you. I did read the Tomalin bio, and I have both volumes of her notebooks (published in New Zealand, edited by Margaret Scott) and I'd read various accounts and visited her childhood home in Wellington--and in the end, there she is in Fontainbleau (those wizards always lived in glamorous places) out in the cold digging or gardening as 'therapy' and then she is coughing up blood and dying. I don't understand it.
    Where does she fit in the pantheon?

    If we were going to do a 'condensed read' on KM what would it be? Young writer leaves the antipodes, lives in London, writes, has tragic life, takes up with a 'mystic', dies of TB'.
    There must be more than that.

    Recently completed the new Ishiguro book Nocturnes. Loved many aspects of it. I'd love to hear others' reactions.
    Am now reading the second Stieg Larsson (literature it's not, but it is summer)...The Girl who played with Fire', after completing 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)...quite engrossing in a certain obvious thriller formulaic way. Not embarrassing.
    Don't worry, I have Stefan Zweig waiting in the wings.

  6. Simon - where is the £2 shop? I can't believe I don't know about it!!

  7. Verity! How do you not know about it! It's on Walton Street, quite near the junction with Little Clarendon Street. There's a new/secondhand bookshop opposite, but I've never been there when it's open.

  8. I absolutely love The World my Wilderness. Also The Towers of Trebizond, same author.

  9. Yay! So glad you have The Chateau. Save it for when the world seems bleak and pointless and you need consolation. It's that kind of book. The rest look pretty fine, too. I love the idea of a $2 shop (sorry my pound key won't work) and I just wish we had one in Cambridge.

  10. The World My Wilderness: if you are expecting the deep ironic humour of
    Towers of Trebizond, you will be disappointed, this novel is dead serious and falls pretty flat in comparison. Its almost as if its by another author. Its also one of those books that feels old fashioned and doesn't transcend its period and place very well.
    Towers of Trebizond on the other hand is one of my favourite books.

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  12. Hi Simon! Looks like you had a good haul. I must pop along to Waterfields myself and have a look what's left before they close. I'll be interested to hear what you think of Never Let Me Go - I haven't read that one yet, but I really love Ishiguro. I must admit to not knowing about the £2 shop either - I can't believe it! Although I guess I rarely go up that side of town during the day... Perhaps they'll wonder why they have a sudden rush of customers - you should ask for commission ;)

  13. I didn't realise that shop was a £2 shop!!!! And I'm so sad about Waterfields...

    I'm home sick today and decided to pull my own Mansfield off the shelf...her stories never fail to do the trick. And Never Let me Go is a surprisingly beautiful story, if rather chilling. I think you'll enjoy it.

  14. I should warn about the £2 shop - it's cash only, no cards or cheques, so make sure you visit a cashpoint before you go! There's one halfway up Little C Street.

  15. Oh how I hate my book-buying embargo! These books look wonderful - and Never Let Me Go definitely is - quite unsettling. They're making a film of it now, I think, with the very adorable Carey Mulligan, and Keira Knightley of all people. Can't wait to see what you think of the book! :)

  16. Waterfield's is closing down??? I'm heartbroken Simon! I walk past there every day on the way to work. It's probably going to become something really depressing too.

    I'm sure you'll enjoy 'Where Three Roads Meet', it's a good twist on the Oedipus tale. I have the original play if you'd like to compare.

  17. William Maxwell is looking more and more like an author that I need to read. I havent read any Sally Vickers yet either and think its another thing that I very much need to change.

  18. It's interesting how people connect in the literary world, overlapping of lives - especially in the UK for certain decades.

    Other than overlapping your VW's life, Simon, Katherine Mansfield (Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp) was a cousin of Mary Annette Beauchamp (aka Elizabeth of the German garden book) - Gräfin Von Armin-Schlagenthin and later, Countess Russell. A lot of writing there. Books _about_ 'Elizabeth' and her life are also great reading.

    At one time I was doing research at a nearby academic library on an American artist named George Plank who moved to England. The executor of those papers was William Maxwell, who was also executor of some Sylvia Townsend Warner papers held at the same library. This library also had the correspondence between STW & GP, who became great friends through letters though they never met.

    I love reading letters - and diaries. I'm trying to remember what the particular books are that I have on/about K.Mansfield - anyway, it became apparent that there was some discrepancy in the events & people in her life from one book to the diary edited by her husband. He excised Ida Baker from her life.

    In this other book, there was more about her health and how it was compromised early on, leaving her susceptible to the tuberculosis and unable to overcome it. (Now, I'll have to go find it to get the title - am wondering if it contained letters??)

  19. No WAY Waterfields is closing?! I thought that had been there since the early 11th century - that's dreadful! What on earth are they going to do with their minutes of the meetings of the Oriel College committee from 1825, volumes 1 to 11?

  20. So sad about Waterfields. Who's going to replace them, yet another swimwear shop?! Let's hope the glorious £2 Shop stays around for a long time to make for W's absence.

    Hope you enjoy the Vickers book - I read it in one sitting and loved it...but then, it is about Freud (biased, much?)

    Keep meaning to read 'Never Let Me Go', so it will be interesting to read what you make of it. I absolutely loved 'Remains of the Day'.

    Enjoy your finds!


  21. 'Never let me go' is strange, amazing and quite heart renching. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about it.
    Louella xx

  22. Dittoes to the other comments on Never Let Me Go. An absolutely fascinating and unforgettable read!


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