Tag Archives: Jane Austen

New books: August

Now, I can’t put prices on these as I can’t recall how much I paid for some of them. However, brace yourselves. There’s a few.

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  • Victor Hugo –  Notre-Dame de Paris     50p
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald –  The Collected Short Stories     50p
  • Evan S. Connell –  Mrs Bridge     99p
  • Patrick Hamilton –  Hangover Square     99p
  • E. M. Forster –  The Obelisk     £1.49
  • Evelyn Waugh –  Vile Bodies     99p
  • Robert James Waller – The Bridges of Madison County     20p
  • Mary Shelley – Frankenstein The 1818 Text     20p
  • Roald Dahl –  The Enormous Crocodile     50p
  • Seth MacFarlane –  A Million Ways to Die in the West
  • Donald Barthelme –  Sixty Stories
  • Christopher Marlowe –  The Plays

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  • Apollodorus –  The Library of Greek Mythology
  • Herodotus –  The Histories

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  • John Kinsella –  Shades of the Sublime & Beautiful
  • William Congreve –  Incognita
  • Three Revenge Tragedies
  • Anne Fadiman –  Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
  • Brian Friel –  Translations     –     Making History
  • Edwin Morgan –  The Play of Gilgamesh
  • Beaumarchais –  The Marriage of Figaro

These seven were all from the book sale at Webberley’s, the bookshop I mentioned in the July books post.

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  • Jeffrey Brown –  Star Wars: Jedi Academy

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  • Jane Austen –  Mansfield Park
  • Jules Verne –  Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Edward Bellamy – Looking Backward

Now, the reason that I never got this post up in August or September was because in late August I ordered a number of William S. Burroughs books off eBay and Amazon, and Royal Mail being what it is, these took a while to arrive. However, there should have been another book arriving that never did, and it was waiting for this one that held me up. We contacted the seller after several weeks, and they sent another out. However, as I type this, I’m still waiting for either copy to turn up. Luckily, we were able to get our money back, but I was a little bit pissed about it.

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  • William S. Burroughs –  Naked Lunch     –     The Yage Letters Redux     –     Cities of the Red Night     –     The Burroughs File     –     The Western Lands     –     My Education: A Book of Dreams     –     Last Words: The Final Journals of William Burroughs

A slightly pedantic point: the edition of ‘Naked Lunch’ shown here isn’t actually the one that I ordered. The one I ordered was the one from the same series as ‘Last Words’ and the copies of ‘The Soft Machine’, ‘The Ticket that Exploded’ and ‘The Place of Dead Roads’ that I got from Oxford back in June. My wife says that she prefers this cover that came, but I’m not too sure.

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New books: July

I promise that I will give up buying books for a while now after this month. Having no shelving as of yet for books means that I just keep piling ‘em up and hoping that they will fit somewhere when we move, and I can’t keep on. However, this month has seen me tempted terribly by both pretty classics (Penguin and Oxford, I’m looking at you), and a ridiculous book sale in the only independent bookshop left in Stoke-on-Trent. It would be bad not to patronise them when they have a sale on, surely?

Webberley's Bookshop

Webberley’s Bookshop

All but five of the following books were from the sale, bought over four visits.

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  • Allen Ginsberg – Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems £2.99
  • Daljit Nagra – Look we have coming to Dover!*
  • Thomas Hardy – Wessex Poems*
  • Ian Duhig – The Speed of Dark*
  • Maurice Riordan – Floods*

The Ginsberg was spied in the Oxfam on Turl Street in the centre of Oxford when I went down at the start of the month with a group of Y10 and ex-Y11 students from work for a two-day (one night) residential at my college, St. Hugh’s. I did visit The Last Bookshop (as mentioned in a previous book-haul post), but didn’t come away with anything from there.

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  • Federico Garcia Lorca – The House of Bernarda Alba and Other Plays*
  • Sophocles – The Theban Plays**
  • Bertolt Brecht – The Good Woman of Setzuan*
  • William Shakespeare – Love’s Labour’s Lost*          –               Four Comedies : The Taming of the Shrew – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – As You Like It – Twelfth Night*            –               Anthony and Cleopatra**
  • Oscar Wilde – A Woman of No Importance*           –               Salome*

I already own a copy of the Sophocles plays (the Oedipus trilogy) in a Robert Fagles translation, but this is a different translation, which I thought would be interesting to compare it with. Also it’s a nice Penguin Classics edition.

In the same way, I already own a copy of The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, but for the price I thought it daft not to get this four-in-one text; it works out at 5p a play. Also, it frees up some room, as the four-in-one take up far less room than my copies of those two plays do individually.

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  • Sivadasa – The Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie***
  • The Tain***
  • William Beckford – Vathek**
  • W. Somerset Maugham – Liza of Lambeth*
  • Colette – Cheri**
  • Jane Austen – Emma***
  • Henry James – Washington Square**
  • Henry Mackenzie – The Man of Feeling**

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  • Laura Schwartz – A Serious Endeavour: Gender, education and community at St. Hugh’s, 1886-2011             £10
  • Philip Ardagh – The Archaeologist’s Handbook**
  • Tracey Turner – Foul Facts from the Perilous Past**
  • Richard Mackay – The Atlas of Endangered Species***

The first of these was also bought when I was down in Oxford, from St. Hugh’s College itself. It was written for the 125th anniversary of the college in 2011, but I never got a copy when I was actually studying. The other three of these are for use at work.

Now, the next book (I hope) speaks for itself:

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How ACE. This was also from the book sale (**)

Now, lastly, these weren’t:

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  • Virginia Woolf – The Lady in the Looking-Glass**
  • Voltaire – Candide and Other Stories         99p
  • Marcel Mauss – The Gift £1.49

The Gift is one of the key texts that I used at Uni, and which I’ve meant to get my own copy of ever since I was studying. Also, on the subject of this book (and more specifically it’s author), our youngest son has a toy mouse that we’ve named Marcel. Only us…

Now- NO MORE BOOK BUYING!


* 20p

** 50p

*** £1

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New Books: May

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Here are my book purchases for May:

  • Penguin Classics Catalogue     £2 (that’s full price)
  • Wilkie Collins –  The Moonstone     25p
  • William Gibson & Bruce Sterling –  The Difference Engine     25p
  • Rebecca Hunt –  Mr Chartwell     25p
  • Jane Austen –  Persuasion     99p
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle –  The Sign of Four     99p
  • Joseph Conrad –  The Secret Agent     99p
  • Ted Hughes –  The Iron Woman     50p
  • George Orwell –  The Road to Wigan Pier     99p
  • Joseph Heller –  Catch-22     50p
  • John Christopher –  The Death of Grass      99p
  • George Orwell –  Animal Farm     99p
  • Barry Hines –  A Kestrel for a Knave     99p

I know I already have a copy of ‘Animal Farm’, but this is one of the wonderful Penguin Modern Classics editions with the big text on the front and the white spine which I truly adore (I prefer these to the black Penguin Classics, personally), which both matches my edition of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and includes introductions, which my previous copy doesn’t.

However, the Ted Hughes book was a bit of a let down, as I didn’t notice until I got it home, but the first page is missing. Ho-hum.

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The death of the Mockingbird (or ‘The best laid plans…’)

I dislike Michael Gove for a number of reasons. For one, he is a Tory. Also, as a member of staff in a secondary school, I can see first-hand just what an adverse effect some of his ideas and policies are having on the school, the teachers’ moral, and the students’ stress levels. However, as has been widely reported in the media over the last few days, he’s now decided that English Literature should be buggered about with. However, as with his views on the History syllabus several months back that got the country seething, this worries me due to its narrow, blinkered, and agenda-laden undercurrents.

It has long been part of the English GCSE syllabus taught in many English (state) schools that literature from other cultures and societies is compared and contrasted with that from our own. For example, when I was dong my GCSE’s, I studied a cluster of poems called ‘Poems from other Cultures’, which included works written by English speakers round the globe, and focussed upon issues that affected the society in which they wrote, such as apartheid, the Vietnam War (and its effects upon the Vietnamese people), superstition in an Indian village and homesickness when moving from the Caribbean. I also studied both modern and classic English/Irish poetry, John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’, J.B.Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ and R.L.Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. It is perhaps clear from this little list that the focus of these texts was upon those written by English writers. Having just assisted several Y10 students through their GCSE English Literature papers, I can attest to the even greater focus upon English writers now, with the poetry not taking the form of two clusters, with one being foreign, but one cluster with predominantly English writers in it. The books studied are the same as those I studied, but again here the weighting is clearly 2:1 in favour of British writers (Stevenson being Scottish- he may class as foreign soon, I don’t know). However, Gove in his wisdom has decided that there is too much focus upon American texts such as ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘The Crucible’, and these should be taken off the paper in favour of all English texts. Now- okay, I can sort of see his point: not enough students are interested in or know much about the English ‘greats’ such as Austen and Dickens, and they should learn about our own cultural heritage before concerning themselves with other people’s. However, this falls down for me in several ways. From the practical point of view, Dickens is loooonnnnngggggggg. Apart from the Christmas stories, Dickens wasn’t really known for writing concise works, due in part to their initial publication in serial form. This means that it would be impossible to study an entire text of Dickens at GCSE due to the other constraints of the course and the teaching schedules of schools, meaning that students would need to be taught key passages of chapters and have to fill in the blanks with brief summaries, or read the text in their own time (which many students wouldn’t bother doing). As such, it would not be possible for the overall feel of the text to be gleaned, or for themes, images and ideas to be traced effectively through the course of the text. ‘Of Mice and Men’, on the other hand, is a short text. It is easy enough to read in class, with a plot that can be held in the head amongst the million and one other exam topics that students have to memorise, and enough themes and literary devices to fill several exercise book of essays. It is a good text that easily grabs students attention, proves popular, and is a jewel to write about. However classic they may be, Dickens and Austen are not quite as student (and more importantly teen) friendly- pick the wrong text, and you could nurture a hatred of literature that could last a lifetime, rather than inspiring a love that lasts a lifetime.

However, the thing that bothers me more is the problems that such Anglo-centric teaching could cause. I also hold this view on the focusing of the History syllabus on the ‘Great’ in Great Britain, which brings this in nicely. It is a plain fact that Britain is a multi-cultural nation. There is no getting away from this, and is indeed something to be celebrated rather than derided, as some political parties seem to think. As a result, many children in our schools do not come from British backgrounds, and so by focussing the curriculum solely upon the British Isles, there is the very strong possibility of isolating a very big part of the school community. Do students whose families have come over to Britain following the outbreak of war in Afghanistan and Iraq wish to sit through a History lesson where theory hear how ‘Great’ Britain was when it had an Empire and ruled their homelands? Or would people wish to study world history that focusses upon the positives and negatives of a nation, period or event, rather than a biased victors tale? They say that history is written by those who win, but that does not mean to say that we should take this a Gospel. Good history involves the criticism of evidence and the balancing of facts. That is what history does. It is unbiased, and does not plug an agenda. If teachers now are unlikely to praise the leaders of Britain in the World Wars, it is not due to a lack of pride in the nation, but rather down to their ability to understand that what these great people may have done in the past was no always right. We can learn from the past and our mistakes. Should we teach that Hague was a good general who won the Battle of the Somme, and cover up the thousands of Allied and German dead, or should we assess how well he did his job, looking at both the positives and the negatives in order to make an informed decision? By removing this option from students through the glorification of our national past, we are doing our young people a disservice, and taking away from them an important life skill, of being able to critically interpret evidence and information to make their own interpretations and conclusions rather than blindly following one course and one message. Or is that what the Government want?

In Gove’s manifesto on History, he also claimed that we as a nation should be proud of the Empire that we once owned an the position that we held on the world stage. Well- I’m sure that UKIP and the BNP would love that view of our past, but it is incredibly naïve and somewhat foolish. It is difficult to read an anthropological ethnography such as Evans-Pritchard or Malinowski without finding the shadow of Colonialism looming omnipresent and yet unmentioned over the texts. Much 20th century anthropology is tinted with its effects or after-effects, and indeed many of the world problems are due to the repercussions independence has had on these countries. We would be blind to try and pretend that the time of Empire was one of fearless explorers claiming savage lands for Queen and country, rather than seeing it for the danger, violence, barbarity (on our part as colonial overlords) and cultural repression that it was. Read ‘Heart of Darkness’, ffs.

Another thing that Anthropology teaches us is that to understand ourselves as people and as a society, we need to first understand the world. This is where Gove and his removal of American literature from the syllabus falls flat. Yes, we need to learn about our own culture in order to appreciate it, of course we do- but we also need to understand and appreciate other cultures in a reciprocal manner, to learn and grow as people. We can learn lesson from American and German, Chinese and African literature that we never could from our own. We use the Greek and Roman Classics as the foundation stones to much or our culture an society- should we dispense with these too? The key thing that Gove seems to be missing out, is that English Literature is not the study of Literature that is English (if it was, then we couldn’t study Yeats, or Heaney, or Stevenson), but the study of Literature written or translated into English. We should embrace and value the diversity and colour of language and the written word, and foster this passion and love in our pupils and students and children, not whitewash it.

Just one last point. Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is set after a global economic recession, and focusses upon two itinerant farm workers on what are effectively zero-hour contracts, unable to move socially and unable to reach their goal and dream of owning their own property. The work suggests that dreams and ambitions are useless and futile, with circumstance being the cause of people’s misfortune rather than the desire and perseverance of the individual. Gove wants to drop this. Go figure.

Image: timeshighereducation.co.uk

Image: timeshighereducation.co.uk

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New purchases

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I was actually going to have put this post up yesterday, but if I had, then I’d have had to post another today, as I got the last 5 of these books this afternoon. In all, these are:

  • Three Victorian Poets (containing poems by Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Robert Browning)     50p
  • Timothy Donnelly –  The Cloud Corporation (poetry)     50p
  • Anthony Burgess –  The Devil’s Mode     50p
  • Daphne Du Maurier –  The Birds & other stories     £1.49
  • Ernest Hemingway –  A Farewell to Arms     50p
  • Jane Austen –  Pride and Prejudice     50p
  • Jeanette Winterson –  Written on the Body     50p
  • Virginia Woolf –  Mrs Dalloway     99p
  • Jack Kerouac –  Maggie Cassidy     99p

The first book of poems is actually a student book, with activities and questions in, and has been annotated, but I got it simply because there are two of Robert Browning’s poems in it (‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘The Laboratory’) that both my partner and I studied at high school.

Also, I do already own a Wordsworth Classics edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (which I have read), but this one is an Oxford University Press edition (always a bonus) and matches the copy of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ that I got a few weeks ago (see my previous post). Similarly, the copy of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ that I bought today is also an Oxford University Press edition, and makes up somewhat for the fact that I missed out on a copy of this about a month ago. Annoyingly, that one was ony 25p. Ho-hum.

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The first new books of 2014

I had a rather lucky weekend in terms of books. Let’s just say that all of the books in this photo here…

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…came to £3. They were ALL 25p each, which is not at all bad.

  • R.A. Sydie –  Natural Women/Cultured Men: A Feminist Perspective on Sociological Theory
  • Richard Fortey –  Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution
  • William Shakespeare –  The Tempest
  • William Shakespeare –  King Lear
  • Ben Jonson –  Volpone
  • Erskine Childers –  The Riddle of the Sands
  • Julian Barnes –  The Sense of an Ending
  • Erich Maria Remarque –  All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Jane Austen –  Sense and Sensibility
  • Edgar Allan Poe –  The Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • Toni Morrison –  The Bluest Eye
  • Kate Chopin –  The Awakening and other stories
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