Saturday, 16 January 2010

Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany

Claire (aka Paperback Reader) reminded me that I haven't done Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany since... well, for a long time anyway. That wasn't a deliberate decision, as I enjoyed doing a little round-up (and I hope that you enjoyed reading it) but somehow I only remembered about it in the middle of the week. But better late than never, and since we still have a little bit of the weekend left, here it is, in all its multi-coloured infinite variety! (Oh, and I've bought my first book of the year... but it was online, so I'll give you an update when it arrives. If it ever does, given the current state of Oxford's postal service - I've not received a parcel in ten days. Hmm...)

1.) The blog post - is without doubt the first round of Woolf in Winter, this fortnight reading Mrs. Dalloway and hosted by 'What we have here is a failure to communicate' aka Sarah. Click on that link to take you to her thoughts, and a list of other people who've read the book. This scheme has been set up for both first-time Woolf readers and those (like me) who secretly think that Ginny is one of their best friends. I'd especially like to point you in the direction of Claire at Kiss a Cloud and her wonderful thoughts about reading Woolf for the first time. She's bowled over by the novel in the same way that I was when I first read it, and it's like reading my own thoughts from 2003 - only rather better worded. Though I haven't re-read Mrs. Dalloway this time (I have read it four or five times) I might get on board for the next session, To The Lighthouse. Click on the picture for more details...

2.) The link - you might have already seen this on Elaine's blog, Random Jottings, but I'm sure she won't mind me copying it across here, in case you missed it. It's about Waterstone's, the UK bookshop chain, returning to its roots... click here for more. The cynical side of me realises any move they make is going to be motivated by commercialism rather than altruism, and it's a terrible pity that so many genuinely local bookshop
s have gone to the wall, but still - the move can only be a good thing, right?

3.) The book - is a review copy from Oxford University Press that I'm definitely going to read before too long, but I might read it quite gradually, and I wanted to tell you about it sooner so you wouldn't have to wait. It's called Nine Wartime Lives: Mass-Observation and the Making of the Modern Self, by James Hinton, and uses the Mass-Observation diaries of nine ordinary people, during the Second World War, to look at the effects of the war to the individual as well as wider social issues. These people include Nella Last - I'm currently reading Nella Last's War, about two years after everyone else did, and am stunned by how fascinating and how brilliantly written it is. That's a strong early contender for 2010 favourites, and Nine Wartime Lives looks as though it might be equally interesting. (Warning: a bit pricey, might have to track it down in the library). More analytical than Nella Last's War, but hopefully not textbook-style. From the outside, and from flicking through it and reading the odd excerpt, I'm hopeful.


  1. Thanks for indulging me, Simon! I very quickly began to look forward to these posts on a Saturday morning.

    I'm loving reading the diverse and insightful posts about Mrs Dalloway and wish I had reread it myself. I too am joining in the group reading of To the Lighthouse as it was the one novel of the four that I hadn't read; I'm very much looking forward to it as it's been some time since Ginny and I shared company.

    I wonder exactly how Watestone's propose to return to their local bookshop roots seeing as they have a monopoly now on the highstreet. It will be interesting to see what routes they take to impose themselves as our local friendly bookseller.

  2. Thanks for the link love, Simon. I hope your readers visit the rest of the Mrs Dalloway posts linked to by Sarah. Some of the most insightful include those by Emily, Frances, Becca, Lena, Nicole, Violet, Jason.. and so many others.

    Will you be joining us for one of the books at least so you can grace us with some Woolfiana? :D

  3. I think I will join in for To The Lighthouse, because I haven't read it for, oo, a couple of years... and maybe The Waves too. We'll see what leaps off the shelf! I'm off now to read some more Mrs. D posts...

  4. Simon, why are you cynical? Why should bookshops/publishers not want to make money from books? Without profit surely there can be no risk taking at all. The era of private presses with rich sponsors died with WW2, and even so they produced books that only the very wealthy could afford. Nowadays of order 100,000 new titles are published annually, primarily by industrial scale international conglomerates, in the UK alone!

    I have commented upon your interesting link to "Elaine" on her weblog, you can read what I thought here.

  5. The Wartime Lives book looks absolutely fascinating but perhaps a little expensive. I've not read Nella Last's War and that looks like a great place to start. Thank you so much for tipping me off to this one!

    (PS - should I confess that I have never read anything by Woolf..?)

  6. Peta, at the risk of being banned by Simon, I'd say stick to her essays!

  7. I love your round ups Simon and they in part insipred me to doa weekly round up so you are inspirational too!

    I will be interested to see how Waterstones change, it sounds like the idea is a good one. Loved first Woolf in winter and your comment of Ginny being your best friend made me giggle. I am hoping I get to befriend her eventually.

  8. Thanks for that interesting link re Waterstones. You ask: "the move can only be a good thing, right?" I would like to think so, though with online retailers increasingly dominating book sales I wonder whether there is anything Waterstones can do to thrive. Even a return to what is sometimes perceived as its golden age, when it was something like a chain of independent shops run by passionate booksellers, may not be enough. I'm keen on the idea of giving shop staff more freedom to stock books they believe in, but less enamoured with the idea of local relevance. Just because someone lives in Bath does not simply mean they want to read Jane Austen, any more than I want to read about football just because I live near Liverpool - I don't.

  9. Simon - the Wartime Lives dropped through my letterbox as well so looking forward to reading this one. Have you read Demobbed by Alan Allport? From Yale UP and quite marvellous. Social history at its best

  10. Nine Wartime Lives looks wonderful, and I'm looking forward to hearing your review of it. And of Nella Last's War, which I picked up over Christmas and I'm quite excited to begin reading.

    (Aside: My word verification for posting is 'crave'. I must say, an apt word for reading a post full of new books!)

  11. Mrs Dalloway is calling to me.. you have such interesting links and such..

    cheers :)

  12. Wartimes Lives looks fascinating (though pricey). I spent some time a few years ago working with the MO archives and there is so much there, most never published. I'm very happy to see books like this come out, reminding people what a valuable source the MO archives are. Looking forward to your review of it.

  13. Excellent - good to see this feature back :) I want Nine wartime lives - looks wonderful!

  14. The Wartime Lives does sound interesting. My kiddos are just wrapping up a unit on WWII and we've been fairly immersed in it for a while. I'm personally not ready to leave it and move onto the cold war. :)

    I shall go ahead a be brave like Peta and confess that I've never read anything by Woolf -- and worse -- I've had Mrs. Dalloway sitting on the shelf for 6 1/2 years! I was really tempted to read along, but I had too many other "irons in the fire" with reading. Now I'm wondering if I can get Mrs. Dalloway read and still catch up to the 'Lighthouse date.

    Did I miss a post somewhere? Does your sidebar say that you've bought 1/24 books? Did you already tell us what it was? Inquiring minds want to know (and if you have posted about it, just insert "brain-dead" for inquiring - it's been a bit crazy here this week).
    Happy Monday,
    Susan in TX

  15. Thanks for the link love to Woolf In Winter, Simon. And thanks for the roundup post as well. I have been a shameless lurker here for quite some time, and always enjoy this feature.

    I think you would find like-minded company if you join us for the rest of the shared read. There are more of a few of us that fancy Ginny a close, personal friend. The combination of new-to-the-author readers and veteran readers was tremendous. Veterans coaxed the newbies along and newbies reminded many of how wonderful (or not) that first Woolf read was. If we could only go back to that! Please join us on the 29th?

  16. Claire (Paperback Reader) - you're welcome! I'm glad you reminded me of it.

    Claire (Kiss a Cloud) - thanks so much pointing me in the direction of specific reviews, I've now read quite a few, and especially loved Emily's.

    Dark Puss - I'm afraid I'm all idealistic and ignorant, I still wish that the world worked on a different basis than one which saw profit as the dominant motivation for anything. I feel that altruism could be worth losing money over... but I know that any economic sense would prove me wrong. Still, I can dream...

    And you're very brave to say that about Mrs. Woolf here! Tsk...

    Peta - I think Nella Last's War is a great place to start, definitely, I'll write about it more when I've finished reading it but do get a copy!

    Simon S - I'll share Ginny with you, that's ok. So long as I'm her *best* friend...

    David - you put forward a good point. I wouldn't like to see all Waterstone's turned into tourist-centric shops, but with passionate staff they could work something. But while they pay tiny wages, they might not get the passionate staff, I don't know.

    Elaine - I saw you talk about Demobbed, and it's on my must-do-something-about-it list! I look forward to your thoughts on Nine Wartime Lives

    makedoandread - I do hope you like Nella Last's War, I'm sure you will. And you did make me smile with 'crave' as the word's like it can tell what we're thinking!

    Shelby - answer the call, do!

    Claire (Captive Reader) - what a lot of Claires there are here today. That must have been a fascinating job, I hope more continues to be made available, though I can't expect it all to be to Nella Last's high standard.

    Verity - thanks, glad you're a fan of the feature, I have fun doing it. Now will I remember to do it this week...

    Susan - very perceptive of you! No, I've not blogged about it yet, I'm waiting for it to arrive in the post.. but I am indeed one book down out of 24. And do pick up Mrs. Dalloway! Or maybe To The Lighthouse, if you have that, as that's the next one which people are reading together.

    Frances - I will do my best to get To The Lighthouse re-read in time, the conversations this time have been great, and I know I'd find like minds... here's hoping I get around to actually reading the book...

  17. Just got my copy of Nine Wartime Lives. Didn't get a freebie but did get my Dad to use his author's discount in the OUP shop. Really enjoying it so far!


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