Sunday, 16 September 2012

Book shopping

And so I've been to Truro again this weekend, to the bookshop I mentioned before. The owner managed to convince me to get 3 books, two which cost £30 and the 3rd he gave to me, which was originally £5. I got a biography of Jane Austen by David Stokes (better than the Claire Tomalin one, apparently, she's a readable biographer but I guess having to research so many people means she can't devote so many pages to each author) published in 1997. Also a volume of Tennyson's poems. Now the cover, which is of dark blus soft leather, isn't particularly impressive, but it has beautiful paper inside, the sort stuck to the leather jacket. There's also a sketch of Tennyson on the frontispiece.  The third book in question was The Three Brontës by May Sinclair. This edition was published in the 1950's.
I chatted a while with the owner.  It seems he was a former golfer (!!!) who also sells 1920's golf clubs and has a fascination with Winston Churchill.  He has family in Somerset, which is Thomas Hardy country. But he doesn't roll his R's or anything. I watched Far from the Madding Crowd and thought they spoke a bit like Americans. I somehow don't associate athletes with antique books but it must be different in the UK. Especially old cricketeers and golfers and rugby players (I think). I always find it amusing when people try to guess my age. The owner was saying "I was living in London when I was your - " he abruptly stopped and corrected himself - "when I was in my late teens and twenties." I suppose an interest in old books correlates with old age. It's funny, when I'm with my parents people underestimate my age, when I'm with friends people get it nearly right, and when I'm by myself people are either unsure or overestimate my age.

Then I went to Waterstone's and got Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child (kind of reminiscent of EM Forster, it's set in the Edwardian era) and Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (published 1820, which makes it a Gothic Romantic novel). I was struggling between Maturin or Matthew Lewis' The Monk (quite suspenseful, and far more horrifying than our contemporary horror) but since I'd read 200 pages of The Monk I thought I'd go for Maturin, who seems to be deeper than Lewis anyway.

The Stranger's Child somewhat reminds me of the relationship between Tennyson and Hallam (with added gay bits) but then I haven't read enough of the book, so a review will wait. But it was a bestseller last year and no one could understand why it didn't get on the Booker list. Oh I know why. Hollinghurst had won the Booker some years ago so he was disqualified. Whatever it is, I'm sure this book will last the ages and become a classic. At least I hope so - Hollinghurst isn't exactly a major bestseller, not like Ian McEwan and JM Coetzee. I like McEwan's prose but I think he is too short - which doesn't help you sympathise with the characters much. I've read Atonement and Amsterdam. Coetzee's sex scenes totally put me off. Perhaps there's some truth in the maxim that men write bad sex. But the seduction scenes in The Monk were pretty sensual without being obscene, intriguing but not boring. And it was written by a man. I think sex scenes are too graphic which is what makes them boooooring.

But E.L. James is as graphic as you can get and many people loooove her books. Then again my tastes are eccentric. I have an uncle who's into literature and stuff and he was shocked I hadn't read many modern authors e.g. Rohinton Mistry and Pat Barker (well I did read 50 pages of Pat Barker, but that was for my  creative writing module, FULL STOP) because I have a sort of literary reputation in the family. (I'm the only one who really took the subject seriously at school and won school prizes). I tried talking to him instead about Trollope and The Gang (i.e. Victorians) and he didn't seem to think highly of it as contemporary fiction. !!! Or maybe he was just awkward he hadn't read it as much as I have. (This one is probable. I'm the only Victorian fanatic in the family). Still my ignorance of modern fiction is a profound shock to those accustomed to seeing me as The Bluestocking. Hello? There is something called Terry Pratchett, you know. Oh right, he's not literary. I think him far cleverer and wittier than all those pretentious twits who call themselves literary authors.

1 comment:

  1. I completely understand you. I haven't read many modern authors either-- although I made a list to encourage myself to.

    One day I was in conversation with an acquaintance and when I mentioned I loved literature they started telling me about this author (who I think was Anne Rice?) and I said I hadn't heard of her, she must be modern lit? And he said no, from the 60s. I smiled politely. But to me that's fairly modern! comparison with 19th century, which was what I was mainly reading at that time.

    Ooh, The Three Bronte sisters sounds great as does the Austen bio. :)