Books 2010

Books 2009

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Wednesday, 28 May 2008


I do not believe this

If Dark Puss didn't read in trains he'd hardly get any reading done at all! My optic nerves don't require spectacles to assist them yet - I'm hoping to hang on until I am fifty. Of course with continuous welded track and modern suspensions the ride is a lot smoother than in yesteryear. I remember reading White Fang when at school, one of the better books we did as a class if I recall.

Oldies but goldies. This sounds as sweet as childhood... although Edwardian childhood was probably more fierce and hard than mine.
It is typically the kind of book you can't read cover to cover but you have to savour bit-by-bit. That's why I just want to tell you to enjoy it and make the most of it, Mr Bagshaw!

Following "Himself", and on the subject of reading only one book, I must mention Uncle Matthew in "The Pursuit of Love" who claimed to have read only one book: Jack London's "White Fang", because it was "so frightfully good" he'd never bothered to read another.
Family legend had it that Farve (on whom Nancy Mitford based the wonderful/terrible Uncle Matthew) had indeed read just White Fang, though his letters suggest he'd made much greater use of his library than that.
Back to the novel and a warning to us all: "You shouldn't," said Davey "read in trains, ever. It's madly wearing to the optic nerve centres, it imposes a most fearful strain."
Sorry to have gone off topic, but take note, Lindsay!

Fascinating, and given the date especially poignant - we look back on idealistic, patriotic schoolboys in 1908 and wonder how many of them were alive ten years later. On a different tack, the mention of Erridge's use of the book for distraction or solace reminds me - was this Powell's intention? - of one of Austen's stuffier characters, Sir Walter Kellynch (Bart.) of Kellynch Hall, who "read no other book but the Peerage; it was his companion for an idle hour, his comfort for a troubled one" (from memory so bound to be inaccurate but you get the gist - a man skewered in a sentence).

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  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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