Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Some Rare Penguin Books??

It seems I have found a soul mate and partner in crime regarding Penguin collecting in the small country shed bookshop in  Kempton, Tasmania.  (Previous post about this shop here.) Phil who has had the shop for years has told me he is really enjoying helping me find Penguin books and he is digging them out of the woodwork of both his shed and his home. I wouldn't be surprised if he has boxes of them buried in the back paddock.

I rode Sidney Scooter up there a couple of weeks ago and the box I had been filling up, keeping there because he only has facilities for cash and I had none on me at the time, was even fuller when I went back.  I told him I would look at anything he has and he has taken it to heart.

This man's shop really is a little goldmine of many second hand books. If you're ever near Kempton, Tasmania, be sure to drop in on him.  Ask anyone in the town where he is located.  There is a sign on the door of the shed that simply states, "Ring bell, enter and I'll be with you soon."  He then walks over from the house.  He is quite elderly but his mind knows as much about the old books as anyone you'll meet in this trade.

We spent more than an hour just talking books and I ended up with quite a scooter load and not only Penguins.

This is the latest "Second Hand Book Loot."   I doubt I'll come across any of these again in Australia.

The first book here is The Reader's Guide described as

"A panel of distinguished scholars and scientists advise you how and what to read in Anthropology, Archaeology, Art, Belles Lettres, Biography, Classics,  History, Music Natural History, Novels,  Philosophy, Plays, Poetry, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Science and Sociology.  This planned syllabus for profitable reading contains over 1899 descriptive recommendations of the essential books in all these fields of knowledge and interest. 

It then proceeds to list all of the contributors. Edited by Sir William Emrys Williams and published in 1960 in Penguin's Pelican Books.

America The Vincible was published as a Penguin Special Book in 1959 by Emmet John Hughes.
It is described as a Study of America's role in World Affairs.  Interestingly enough although written by an American about America, due to copyright reasons this edition was not offered for sale in the U.S.A. or Canada. Could this be why American's don't always realise what the rest of the world thinks of them? :-)

Science News is part of a series. I don't know off hand how many books were published in this series. I have a set of the Penguin Biology series and the binding is similar to this one. This book was published in 1947 and is number 3 of the series. It contains articles about The Testing of Intelligence, Synthetic Emeralds, The History of Blood Transfusion as well as some updates on the agricultural front, the medical front and an announcement that Colour Photography Has Arrived. There are other articles that have as interesting titles as the rest of this edition.  It certainly goes a long ways towards showing us how far we have come ion many fronts.

I find these the two following editions extremely interesting as they are the Penguin Hansard reports.
No 1 is From Chamberlain to Churchill and No. 2 is The National Front.  It is the verbatim account from the House of Commons Official Report of Parliamentary Debates and both were published in 1940.  The content includes information regarding the beginnings of World War II and are certainly an interesting history that was available to the public at the time.

While I am on the topic of World War II these two Penguin Specials are also from that era. Britain by Mass Observation was published in 1939 and Genevieve's Tabouis's Blackmail or War were published in 1938.

The following three Penguins are related more to the leisure activities in Sport and Music.  My book seller pulled the 60 Seasons of League Football off his desk and handed it to me with what I can only describe as reverence.  He asked me if I would be at all interested in anything like this.  "Yes absolutely" was my chortled reply.  I doubt there would be many copies of this book in Australia so it will be a great addition to the overall collection.  Published in 1958 it is Penguin Special No S 171.  Part One describes the League and its History; Part Two is a record of the chief records of all the League clubs, past and present, from Abedare Athletic to York City and Part Three is full of the Final League Tables: from 1888- 1958. 
There is a bibliography and index at the end of the book.

Next in line are two copies of Penguin Music Magazine published in 1946 Number I. The magazine has articles in it related to the following:

  • The Future of Opera in England
  • Music Inspired by Painting
  • Soviet Music in War-Time
  • Standards of Performance
  • An argument about What is the Purpose of Music Part I

There are also articles about new books, new music, record collections, music on the air and finishes up with articles about Opera in London, Ballet in London and Concerts in London at the time.

This last entry of Beethoven's Music Score probably isn't quite as rare but very difficult to find as well especially in Australia. There was a beautiful series of these published of various classical music scores. This one entitled Beethoven:  Coriolan and Egmont was Penguin Scores III and published in 1949.

I have two other very interesting Penguin Specials that I will post up in another post. They are about a current event that happened in the UK of great prominence but as they were handed to me with many newspaper articles clipped out of UK papers regarding the event I want to go through them and do a proper post about them.

These interesting books are just another reason why collecting old Penguin books is such a challenging and gratifying past time.  It is just so exciting to come across the wonderful variety that Penguin books that are now an important part of our social history.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

How Far Would You Go To........

.........remove a 10 year old boy from his anorexic fundamentalist Christian American mother who sends him to Pastor Bob's anti gay classes every week?
Published by William Heinemann

The thought of this drew me to this book as well as being influenced by a couple of other bloggers who recommended it.

The book is The Borrower and it is the first novel by Chicago writer Rebecca Makkai.  Ms. Makkai has previously been known for her short story collections but is now writing novels.

As a first novel I found flaws in it but overall I really enjoyed it.  A librarian, Miss Hull,  in Hannibal Missouri befriends a young 10 year old boy who practically lives in the library so he is able to access all of the books he is banned from reading.  His mother watches him with hawk like eyes and will often send a babysitter along with him to ensure he is reading The Hardy Boys or The Bobsey Twins which bored him silly. No wizards, magicians or dragons allowed.

Miss Hull has great empathy for him and sneaks him books, going as far as to let him stuff the books down his pants, front and back in order to smuggle them home.

The first third of this book really hooked me in. I enjoyed the characters, I could really understand Miss Hull's dilemma in wanting to save this boy from his mother especially once she finds out he is being sent to anti-gay classes with Pastor Bob who may be a bit suspect.

One day she enters the library and discovers Ian camping out in the library. He has run away from home. She offers to drive him home but ends up following his directions and the road trip from Missouri in the midwest begins towards Vermont in the north east of the country.

Once this part of the book began I must say I suspended all belief. It was just a bit too much to really appreciate as the police these days are pretty sophisticated with their missing children endeavours.  However the relationship between Miss Hull as she continually spins her web of dishonesty and letting Ian dominant the route of the trip continues.

Then throw in her relationship with her Russian immigrant parents, especially her mafia like father and I found this story was like trying to hold slippery eels all at once without dropping one.  On top of all of that enter her boyfriend, who is also quite annoying and it becomes a bit of slapstick.  I was curious though to get to the end (which I will not spoil) just to see what on earth happens.

Rebecca Makkai- author
The last third of the book tied things up both satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily and I was once again drawn back into their plight. I think the strength of this story are the characters and her message. They seem pretty solid, and their interactions, especially between Miss Hull and Ian are funny. He is an extremely bright, precocious boy, and I enjoyed the topics he was continually bringing up for them to ponder. However he certainly shied away from anything that was very personal which I wanted to hear a bit more about.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I think this author will get more structured as she continues her writing career and I look forward to watching her maturation as a writer of novels.  I enjoyed the beginning and ending of this tale but the middle sometimes waffled a bit. Although it was worth sticking it out and I liked the premise of the story:  kidnapping this child to remove him from the influence of the church in trying to rid him of his "possible homosexuality" in his future. After all he is only 10!.

I also think the main characters were developed enough that I could really get to know them. I would have liked to have seen some of the minor characters including the mother fleshed out a bit more. I thought they were more like stick figures running through the pages where the main characters were highlighted in brilliant technicolour. That could perhaps have been intentional on the author's part to keep the reader focused but sometimes it worked better than at other times.


Favourite excerpts below:

I think the handling of the message she sends  about the treatment of young people possibly going into gay lifestyles they are destined for was good. As if people are able to simply choose at a specific age whether they will be attracted to men or women or both.
I enjoyed her description of being in a library and I think anyone who loves books will appreciate her words:

"Maybe that's why I prefer this new library to my own bedroom:  looking at the million book spines, I can imagine a million alternate endings. It turned out the butler did it all, or I ended up marrying Mr. Darcy, or we went and watched a girl ride the merry-go-round in Central Park, or we beat on against the current in our little boats, or Atticus Finch was there when we woke up in the morning."

I also enjoyed her paragraph when thinking about this boy's total love of books and how he must work in order to read those he craves to read.

"I believed that Ian Drake would get his books, as surely as any addict will get his drug. He would bribe his babysitter, he'd sneak out of the house at night and smash the library window. He'd sell his own guinea pig for book money. He would read under his tented comforter with a penlight. He'd hollow out his mattress and fill it with paperbacks. They could lock him in the house, but they could never convince him that the world wasn't a bigger place than that. They'd wonder why they couldn't break him. They'd wonder why he smiled when they sent him to his room." 

Book source:  Tasmania State Library

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Middlemarch by George Eliot

I finished Middlemarch the other day and felt I had lived an entire lifetime in Victorian England as well as having completed some interesting time travel. To first view this book I was intimidated by its size and the fact it is an English period piece. I have always struggled with English history. I found my intimidation took a different form to that of tackling Don Quixote last year which I really loved and it was longer yet.
Middlemarch, like much literature of its time was originally published in a serial format. It was not expected that one would read it in a weekend marathon. Though I found if I let too much time lapse between picking it up again I would have needed to go back and begin again. This was especially true with the first 1/3 of the book. After that, once I had the characters well and truly sorted in my head  I found I could not put it down and I think having had to wait for two months for the next publication in a serialised format would be difficult.

Middlemarch was published in serial form during 1871-72. Later in 1874 it was published as one entire book. 
Guardian Magazine  published an interesting review by A.S.Byatt on 4 August 2007.  She wrote, 
"Virginia Woolf described Middlemarch as 'one of the few English books written for grown up people.' anti romantic, yet intensely passionate, it is one of the greatest novels of all agreed Byatt.
She went on to say, "The novel is an image of a society, political, agricultural, aristocratic, plebian, religious, scientific. "

The main characters were Mr. Brookes, his neices Dorothea and Cecilia. Mr. Casaubon, his cousin Will Ladislaw. Later on we met Rosamund Vincy the daughter of the mayor who marries the progressive town doctor, Mr. Lydgate and then we meet the Garths. There are too many characters to mention as besides the main lives we follow we have the minor characters who also play a role.  Eliot doesn't seem to include anyone who doesn't have a very specific role to play.  

I enjoyed the initial style of the book as it appeared two or three main characters were introduced and the reader gets to know them quite well. As well as those main characters a minor character or two is introduced who then turns into a main character during the subsequent section of the book. This happens during the first 3 or 4 books within Middlemarch. Although there are many characters it does not take long to get to know them all.  After we feel familiar with who everyone is,  Eliot begins mapping out the relationships that are to come between the characters as they begin to relate to one another. The final third of the book has all of the relationships in full swing and we see what happens to each of them within their relationships and community positions.

Behind all of the activities of the characters the background of society goes through social and political reform that everyone is talking about as well as the modernisation of medical practises beginning, as well as some characters focusing on agricultural practises interspersed amongst the aristocratic hierarchy from rich to poor of the various class structures. 

My favourite book about books has always been Mortimer Adler's "How To Read a Book". I have read it several times and he advocates when reading a very long challenging novel that one should compare the experiences to moving into a new city. Initially when you move into a new city you meet many people you see occasionally. The person who helps you find your accommodation, to the local grocer, the postman and others one sees daily but does not really become involved.  Then you start your new job and you meet the workers who may or may not play more of a role in your life. There are your family members and friends who you see all of the time and with whom you become very involved with. He states one should simply read through the book, no questions asked, no looking up vocabulary, simply read.  Reread it a second time if you are studying it for a class and then really pay attention to the detail. Once you have invested the time needed in the book or living in a new place, the characters fall into place and the confusion disappears. 

I applied this thinking to my reading of this tome and immediately was able to define the characters who would be 'part of my life' as opposed to those simply making an appearance here and there. 

I enjoyed the societal changes going on in the background and studying how all of the characters related to these changes.  There is much discussion about all aspects of the microcosm of a community.  People are born, living their entire life and dying in this small community. The links between people are quite stifling at times and more often frustrating in not accomplishing what they want to achieve. I don't think it is a story that dates much except maybe for attitudes towards women and technological changes. Basic premises are often the same as underlying angst of disappointed relationships, not meeting one's goals and dealing with  the busybodies of life remain quite unchanged. 

The young George Eliot
(Mary Anne Evans)
This book has often been described as the greatest novel of all times. I don't know if I agree with that as I have not read the novels of all time. It does embrace an entire generation quite effectively of a specific time period. It is certainly a societal history of this time period.  

I found the writing to be beautiful and often reread paragraphs to enjoy the prose. Eliot's writing to me is amazing. I loved it. However I will admit that there were times that the descriptions could have slowed down a bit. It did become tedious sometimes especially when I was anxious to see what was going to happen next or I was tired. 
I found there to be an interesting balance of writing between what everything looks like or what is within a person to what everyone is going to do next to resolve the dilemmas they face. There were times, especially near the end it became almost suspenseful and I was exceedingly interested in knowing what happens to these people I felt I lived with during the previous few weeks. 

Mr. Casaubon perhaps?
I am certainly not a scholar in English  history but I learned a great deal about this time period in an interesting way and it is a book I could actually reread to pick up some of the finer points in it. However I doubt I will do that soon. I would recommend giving this book a try and don't give up on it until you're well and truly through the introduction of most of the characters because that is when things begin to happen.

                                                          Applies to The Classics Club challenge

Monday, 19 November 2012

My Day in Vintage Penguin Titles

Cornflower Books and The Captive Reader have both completed a meme where they outline a day's activities using the titles of books they have read this year.  As my brain can always use a bit of a stir I thought I would use their format but use the titles of Vintage Penguin books from my collection.
It was a fun but quite difficult exercise at times.
Thanks to CB and TCR for some inspiration.

I began the day by Five
before breakfasting on The Red Pavillion
and admiring The Village School
On my way to work I saw The Travelling Woman
and walked by The Misfits
to avoid The Conman
but I made sure to stop at Mr. Weston’s Good Wine.
In the office, my boss said, Defy the Foul Fiend
and sent me to research The Surgeon’s Log
At lunch with Jennie
I noticed Thurber’s Dogs
in The House in Clewe Street
greatly enjoying Claudine and Annie
Then on the journey home, I contemplated Undertones of War
because I have a Taste of Fears
and am drawn to a Russian Newsreel.
Settling down for the evening in My Mother’s House,
I studied British Music of our Time
by the Man of Property
before saying goodnight Before the Bombardment.

The above book list was authored by:
Five by Doris Lessing;   The Red Pavillion by Robert Van Gulik;   Village School by Miss Read;   Travelling Woman by John Wain;   The Misfits by Arthur Miller;   The Conman by Ed McBain;   Mr. Weston's Good Wine by T.F. Powys;   Defy the Foul Fiend by John Collier;   The Surgeon's Log by James J. Abraham;   Jennie by Paul Gallico;   Thurber's Dogs by James Thurber;   The House in Clewe Street by Mary Lavin;   Claudine & Annie by Colette;   The Undertones of War by Edmund Blunder;   Taste of Fears by Margaret Miller;   russian Newsreel by Charlotte Haldane;   Mother's House by Colette;   British Music of Our Time by Al Bacharach;   Man of Property by John Galsworthy.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Do Classic Books Intimidate Me?

I have just read the November question from the Classics Club blog. (here)

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

I think the classic book that intimidates me the most would have to be Ulysses by James Joyce. It is larger than a door stopper and longer than Route 66.  The fact that the time period in the book takes place over a mere 24 hour time period in the ordinary day of Leopold Bloom in Dublin means to me there must be an incredible amount of descriptions of everything! Moods? Feelings? Convoluted adjectives of every piece of furniture? I don't know as I really have no idea what this book is about.  However I have always avowed to read it. Don't ask me why. Probably just to say in casual conversation, "Last week whilst reading Ulysses I was interrupted by a phone call ......" and then pretend I am not a snob. (Really I am not.)

Longer than  America's Route 66
Wikpedia describes Ulysses  as being first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920. It wasn't published in its entirety until 1922 by Sylvia Beach in February 1922.

Many of the long classics of the past were serialised in magazines over long time periods. These books were not meant to be read in a single sitting. It would actually be fun to have a list of the books that were originally published in serial form and perhaps there is another challenge looming in that?

But back to the Classics Club November question. Yes, classics have always intimidated me.  They seem very much other worldly, of such a different time period than the one I am familiar with.  I wonder how much of the vocabulary I won't understand. I wonder why inferences always go over my head. Believe me they often do.  I am not a literary scholar by any means. Symbolism always drives me mad because often I need it explained to me.  However I do know what I like and I must say I feel much less intimidated by American classics than English classics.

After all my family and I grew up outside of lush Michigan corn fields. Chevy trucks were the choice of transport. People read but quite often those periodicals had pictures of tractors on the front and people walked down the street in John Deere caps.

I can't recall when growing up in a town of 5000 people that men standing on corners with undulating toothpicks hanging from the corners of their mouth saying, "Man , that book Middlemarch is long. I didn't think Lidgate would ever resolve his issues!"  The Farmer's Almanac was always the best seller of the year.
"A Classic is something everybody wants to have
read" Mark Twain

We had a small library that we sneaked into in order to get out of the chaos that was sometimes our home. It was quiet but there were no friends in that library. The librarians were skinny, bad tempered and the coke bottle lens in their glasses prevented us from enjoying any eye contact at all. It was the religious, conservative midwest and once having read all of the books in the children's section we were quickly removed from the adult section of the  library where all of the classics including the Austens, Hemingways, Steinbecks and Dickens lived.  They are not for our 10 or 11 year old eyes.  Censorship was rife. We had to be 12 years old at least to walk into that section and even then we had to be a tall 12 year old. I was never a tall 12 year old.
Grand Ledge, Michigan public library, It has a larger addition added to
the back of it but when I was a child this was the main part of it. 

So yes, going into a library in a new city and trying to choose a great classic to read has always been a challenge. No wonder my long career was based in the sciences and technology areas of education and health and not the arts.

However since joining the Classics club and reading many blogs from many countries (USA, UK, Canada, Africa and of course Australia) I have learned that the classics are wonderful stories with the same dilemmas we all face today. Relationships, greed, poverty, wealth (well haven't had that one yet), reform and change. No big deal.  Yes some of these books are long. Yet many of them are not.  I find a great satisfaction in tackling them and an even greater satisfaction in finishing them.  I finished Middlemarch last night and literally skipped through the house to announce that fact to my husband. I think the response I got was close to, "So?"  I have come to realise that we all must relish our own successes.

So Yes!  the Classics club has pushed me into a direction I have long wanted to ride into to.  I will tackle Ulysses but I am now keener to dive into Moby Dick.  Once again I am more familiar with an American Herman Melville than an Irish James Joyce.  So if any of you are interested in my progress you'll just have to keep returning to this page to see what books I tick off the list and if in fact I really can get through 50 classics (list is here) in 5 years.  Now THAT really is intimidating but it's not as if I'll be put out onto the streets if I fail. I do find looking forward to the challenge good fun.

I'd be curious myself as which classic book people have always shied away from. Comments welcome!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Campground behind the Weldborough Pub where some bikers camped.
I stayed inside the pub in a tiny lovely comfortable room. Food is excellent.
I didn't have much time for reading this past weekend. Our Ulysses bike club (for riders above the age of 50 who are ageing disgracefully) did a weekend ride up to the north east part of the state. The Weldborough Forest area is stunning and a group of about 12 of us enjoyed the comraderie and beautiful sunny Tasmanian weather.

The route saw us riding approximately 350 kms north along the east coast of the state and then returning the same way back to Hobart. The scenery of the Tasmanian coastline is always beautiful and I had a chance to not only find a Penguin book but enjoy the beautiful seascapes.
After a long ride I sat down and continued reading the Penguin book
I brought with me before dinner was called.
I am midway through 3 different books at the moment so hope to wrap them up soon.  I did find a nice old Penguin at a Collectables book shop north of St Helen's. The gentleman has many books but unfortunately I couldn't linger or other motor bikers might have thought I met with an accident if I didn't meet them within a reasonable time at the pancake house we were heading for in St. Mary's.

This is the front side of the pub.

I am currently planning a week or two on my own probably in March doing some serious Penguin hunting right around the state on my own.  I am going to pack up my scooter with the tent, take my net book  my Penguin book list and some journals and do some book hunting in peace and quiet as well as a bit of reading and writing. I will certainly look forward to circumnavigating this beautiful state during the summer months once all of the kids are back in school and the only tourists will be the quiet gray nomads.

I will need to revisit this shop as he had some beautiful
second hand books on the shelves including some folio editions
and other very old hard cover books. So frustrating when
there is no time to properly devour a good second hand book shop.

I plan on doing some riding and camping with some bike mates this summer but that will happen sooner and I won't have the opportunity to do any serious book work. (reading and hunting).

Heading south from St. Helens down the east coast of the state looking out 
on the Tasman Sea.

I had not seen this sign before and was so surprised I just had to turn around,
 go back and photograph it. Yes we do have Penguins in this state!

We have tractors in this state. Enough it seems that they warrant their
own sign also.

A view facing Maria Island to the east.

Another view to the east from the road.
I looked to the left to see the sheep and the sea and I looked to the right 
to see the inland views. To be sandwiched between the two is beautiful.
A very odd cover I think. This is Penguin book number  2937, 
a first published in 1969