Thursday, 1 June 2017

Ten Random Books

The literary blog Stuck in a Book urges you to select from your bookshelves 'ten random books to tell us about yourself'. I've found myself tempted by this 'meme', even though I haven't a full idea what a meme is. So - in the picture below, from the top:


1. Barbara Pym, A Very Private Eye
I do love these Grafton Books editions of Pym's works. This is a collection of her diaries and letters. Her eventual apotheosis, after years of neglect, gives hopes to us all. 'Beautiful ... contains the living essence of Barbara Pym,' says Brookner on the cover.

2. Anthony Trollope, Is He Popenjoy?
An old blue OUP Trollope, with wafer-thin pages. One can imagine some former owner reading it during the Blitz, Trollope's heyday. One has a sense, with such books, of rescuing them from oblivion. I read it in Switzerland, in cable cars and beside glaciers.

3. Baedeker's Southern Germany and Austria
From 1883. Because one would hate to be anywhere with no Baedeker.

4. Denise Gigante (ed.), The Great Age of the English Essay
Because I'm forever surprising a hunger in myself to be more serious.

5. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh
Ditto. I didn't actually finish this; I kept wondering why she didn't just give in and write a novel. But the Brownings have always fascinated me.

6. Benjamin Constant, Adolphe
If you're here, you'll possibly know why this is on my shelves.

7. Henry James, A London Life
Sometimes we remember books because of where we were when we read them; others because of where we bought them. I got this in Shakespeare and Co, very possibly from a wizened old man who may have been the legendary George Whitman.

8. E. M. Forster, Abinger Harvest
Are any of these essays any good? Or are they too insubstantial, too evanescent, too unwilling to commit themselves? I always think I want to read and reread Forster but I never quite get round to it. But I like to think of this book being on my shelves.

9. Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
I think I saw the film before I read the book, so reading could never be pure. But I like the cover. But how many books have I seen with dandelions on the cover?

10. Matthew Arnold, Selected Poems and Prose
I got through uni by reading poetry ('cos it's shorter), and this dates from those years. Don't think I've ever read any of the prose. But ah, 'The Scholar Gypsy'! '... this strange disease of modern life, / With its sick hurry, its divided aims...'

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