Tag Archives: Penguin Classics

New books: September 2015

[This post was typed up in October, but I haven’t got round to posting it. Some of the things that I say in it are out-of-date by now, but I’m leaving the post as it was written. I’ll add the amendments at the bottom and maybe elaborate in a subsequent post.]


September threw up an unexpected surprise, as well as an unexpected sadness. I was going to do a separate post on both of these at the time, but didn’t get chance to, and it seems a tad pointless now. Anyhoo.

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  • Edmund White –  Chaos*
  • Valeria Parrella –  For Grace Received: Four Stories of Modern Naples*
  • Antoine Francois Prevost –  Manon Lescaut*
  • Todd Solondz –  Storytelling*
  • Malcolm Bradbury –  Inside Trading*
  • Gavin Young –  Something of Samoa**
  • Imme Dros –  Annelie in the Depths of the Night*
  • Philip Gross –  Marginaliens*
  • Sylvia Plath –  Collected Poems*
  • Marivaux –  The Game of Love and Chance*

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  • Nathaniel West –  The Day of the Locust.    50p
  • Thomas de Quincey –  Confessions of an English Opium Eater.    99p
  • Virginia Woolf –  Orlando
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez-  Love in the Time of Cholera***  –  In Evil Hour  –  Chronicle of a Death Foretold
  • Jon McGregor-  so many ways to begin***
  • Charles Dickens –  Martin Chuzzlewit***
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  • Thomas de Quincy –  On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.    80p
  • Charles Dickens –  The Signalman: A Ghost Story.    £1.99
  • Pu Singling –  Wailing Ghosts.    80p

* 20p

** 10p

*** Library book sale

Now the sad news. All of the books in the first picture were from Webberley’s, which we learnt over the summer is to close in the new year. Webberley’s is the only independent book shop in the city that sells new books (we have several second hand bookshops), and so will be a big, big loss to the city when it closes. On the plus side, there may be another sale… No, I think I’d prefer to have the bookshop still open rather than a few more bargains.

However, some good news that I wasn’t expecting this month. I knew that following the publication of ‘Autobiography’, Morrissey was working on his first novel. However, I only learnt on about the 21st that this was to be published on the 24th, so we rushed to Amazon to place an order. Yes, I know we should have gone to an independent bookshop (or at least Waterstones), but… we can be fickle. I read a few reviews of this on the day it came out, and was slightly surprised that they were so negative. I’d expected there would be some that were less-than-glowing (coz, hey, it’s Moz, and the British press love to hate him just because he is), but was shocked by just how scathing they were. This has coloured my opinion somewhat even before I read it, which I wish it hadn’t. I want to be impartial, or at least not be negatively influenced from the outset. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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[Since this post was originally written, Webberley’s has closed (mid-Jan.), and I read ‘List of the Lost’ (Nov?). Despite the rather unnatural dialogue, I didn’t think it was that bad. There are some wonderful turns of phrase in it, and the ending is actually quite shocking, even if the plot is a tad odd. I do hope he writes more, even if it is just to write a novel that is on the same level as the sublime ‘Autobiography’. I’ll do a full review eventually, but will definitely re-read it, as there are things to pull out of it with repeated readings.]

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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: February/March/April

I didn’t see the point in putting a new books post up for these months individually, as I’ve only had one or two each month. They’d have been pretty pointless posts. So the combined haul is as follows:

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  • Jack Kerouac – On the Road: The Original Scroll     £3
  • Aesop – Aesop’s Fables     99p
  • Ken Kesey – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest     50p
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky – Notes from the Underground        25p (library sale)
  • Yevgeny Zamyatin – We      25p (library sale)
  • Fred Wander – The Seventh Well      25p (library sale)
  • L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz      75p

I mentioned in my review of On the Road that I was interested in reading the unedited version, so the discovery of this in a Waterstones’ sale was quite nice. Also, you may notice from a previous post that I already have a Penguin Classics version of We. However, I read this recently (expect the review at some point in 2017…) and couldn’t follow it too easily, so wondered whether a different translation may help.

Also, Penguin have recently released a series of ‘Little Black Classics’ as per their previous small classics ranges for notable Penguin anniversaries, and I’ve had a few of these (all 80p each). I’m sure you can read the titles for yourself:

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Lastly, I have had more books than this over the past few months. I’ve purchased two poetry that I’ve forgotten to photograph:

    • Seamus Heaney – District and Circle
    • Simon ArmitageTyrannosaurus Rex versus The Corduroy Kid

Along with these (and after these) I’ve also bought quite a number of Ted Hughes books to try and complete my collection. These have all come off eBay and the tax paradise of Amazon, but I’m still waiting for a few more to arrive, so will do a separate post on all of these in due course (privatised Royal Mail permitting).

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New books: January

A bit late, but here’s January’s haul:

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  • Jerome K. Jerome –  Three Men in a Boat     £1.49
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn –  A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovic     99p
  • Angela Carter –  The Bloody Chamber     49p
  • Douglas Adams –  The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy     49p
  • Dante –  New Life     50p
  • Anthony Trollope –  The Warden     50p
  • Richard Adams –  Watership Down     50p
  • Edgar Allan Poe –  The Works of Edgar Allan Poe     25p

You may (or more likely) may not notice that I do already own copies of the Jerome and D. Adams books (seen on posts here and here), but these new copies are better: the first is an interesting Penguin Classics edition, with notes and an introduction, and the second is not the film tie-in edition with added photos and interviews, so is shorter and thus takes up less space.

Now, I also had two other books:

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I will expand upon these in my next post!

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Charlie and the Sexualised Plastic Doll Factory (‘A New Take by Penguin’, or ‘Dahl 2.0’)

10606393_10154424928960371_8941943695899364569_nYou may have seen the recent furore surrounding this latest upcoming release from Penguin in the wonderful Modern Classics range. As you can tell from the title, it is a fiftieth anniversary reissue of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and in a rare move, the publishers have released it as an adult Classic rather than as a Puffin children’s classic. Now, as you may have been able to tell from some of my previous blog posts, I really don’t have a problem with the appropriation of ‘children’s literature’ for adults, as truly great literature shouldn’t really be confined by age ranges and all that. I enjoy Roald Dahl now as an adult, and there are many children’s and teenage books that easily bounce between categories, mainly based upon their cover images (think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland etc.), but here… oh dear. I can sort of see where Penguin are going, with the slightly dark and unnerving cover image, but I fail to see how it relates easily with the story. Sure, there’s bratty female characters in it that this could represent, with supporting and yet somewhat absent/ineffectual parents, but unless this is a more general representation of the parenting critiques offered by Dahl, I don’t find this truly representative of the novel as a whole. Personally, I can’t help but feel that a slightly cliched image of chocolate or sweets may have been better. Hopefully, Penguin may bend to public opinion in this case and change their offering before the publication next month.

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New books: July

july books

Up until the last few days in July, I’d only amassed the first four of these, and then…I weakened. Ahem. Anyway, they are as follows:

  • Nancy Mitford –  The Pursuit of Love     25p (Library book sale)
  • James Joyce –  Finnegans Wake     Free!
  • Leo Tolstoy –  Anna Karenina     50p
  • Philip K. Dick –  A Maze of Death     50p
  • Virginia Woolf –  To the Lighthouse     £1.49
  • Aldous Huxley –  Brave New World     99p
  • Graham Greene –  Brighton Rock     99p
  • Dante –  Inferno (trans. Robin Kirkpatrick)     £1
  • Teresa Monachino –  Words Fail Me     Free!

The two books that were free were given to me by my line manager at work, as he cleared out his office at the end of the school term (he’s leaving for a year) and didn’t want them. Obviously, greatly received by me though, especially considering I’ve been looking to get a copy of Finnegans Wake for a few months now. I’m quite interested in the cover, though, as it’s one I haven’t come across before. The 1990s Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics edition that keeps popping up on Google is the one with an image from the Book of Kells (I think it’s the Book of Kells- I should know considering the Early-Medieval period is my specialism), and the head of cartoon Joyce also appears on the spine, which is a tad unusual. This haul has also been profitable, as three of the books (Joyce, Huxley and Greene) were on my list of Classics to look out for. Usually, I don’t come across many of these if any, and those I get are just what I come across. And yes, I do have a list of Classics that I would like to own; a sort of wish list, if you like. The Dante book I do already own in a black Penguin Classics edition, translated by Mark Musa, but wanted to compare translations, and also fell in love with that cover. It’s embossed too, you know. Just zoom in on it or Google it. It’s a thing of beauty.

Also, just a quick point that the box room I mentioned we were going to clean out is now free of unnecessary and unused crap, and is home to books that are eagerly awaiting the arrival of shelves to sit on. I’ll be sure to take some pictures and get a post up when these are done.

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New Books: June

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Yep- only four this month. I’ve realised that if I keep buying at my previous rate, I’ll run out of room to house them, and I also will never get around to reading them all. So only four.

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky –  Crime and Punishment     £1
  • Rudyard Kipling –  The Jungle Books     50p
  • Colette –  Gigi and The Cat     50p
  • Milan Kundera –  Slowness     99p

I am tempted to go into a long rant about Penguin and their odd way of packaging their classics, but I won’t. Suffice to say that ‘The Jungle Books’ were published in 1894 and 1895, and so shouldn’t qualify as a Modern Classic, and now are published in the black Penguin Classics range. Anyway- it’s a nice edition of it, which I’ve been looking for for a while.

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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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My Penguin Classics Collection Part 1

Penguin Classics

More book porn. I’ve meant to do this for a while, but haven’t really had enough of the black-spined Penguin Classics to warrant it until now. Personally, I quite enjoy searching through Google Images for pictures of other people’s Penguin Classics collections to get a feel for the thickness and physicality of certain volumes, and to generally foam over nice piles of pretty books, and so thought that I’d add to this be showing mine in case anyone is interested. Over the coming weeks, I will also do posts with my Penguin Popular Classics, Twentieth-Century Classics (the light-green spined ones), Modern Classics (both silver and white editions), and the older black and cream Penguin Classics.

Penguin Classics

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New, reclaimed, libraries etc.

More books!

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  • Solomon Northup –  12 Years a Slave     £1.25
  • The Britannica Book of Genetics     50p
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels –  The Communist Manifesto     1 of 3 for £1
  • Michel Foucault –  Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison     2 of 3 for £1
  • Henrik Ibsen –  Four Major Plays     3 of 3 for £1
  • Patrick Moore –  On the Moon     £1.99

I also picked these books up from my parents’ house:

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  • Philip Pullman –  The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess
  • Philip Reeve –  Mortal Engines
  • Eleanor Updale –  Montmorency

Yes, they are all childrens/teen fiction, but as with many of Pullman’s works, this quadrilogy of ‘Sally Lockhart’ books are as good as any adult novels in both style, plot, langauge and themes, and the Reeve book I haven’t actually read, but want to as it is a dystopian work in a similar vein to many sci-fi classics. Hell, why am I defending myself here for wanting to read or re-read children’s fiction? I feel as though this is an argument I am having with myself, and am sure that I am the only person who needs convincing that it is okay. When it comes to classic and decent fiction, the boundary between children’s and adults is decidedly and rightly blurred, and is one that is getting more and more irrelevant for me as time goes on. Blame Ted Hughes and his children’s poetry, which is also adult poetry; blame Lewis Carroll; blame Tolkein and J.K. Rowling.

…and on the theme of children’s works (and Ted Hughes) I also got this:

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I already own the tie-in version of this that was produced at the time of the film ‘The Iron Giant’, but that has certainly seen better days, and so when I saw this ‘Faber Classics’ edition with the 1980s cover restored, I thought that it was worth the £2.99 that I paid for it. You can’t tell here, but the title and the rivets around the border are all in shiny gold foil and are imbossed, which really adds to this edition and makes it a nice collectors piece. The book also looks far more substantial in this format, as the text is rather large and so the book has been padded out to over 100 pages. Also, this is the first brand new Faber & Faber book that I have bought since Seamus Heaney’s ‘Human Chain’ in paperback in 2011 (as opposed to second-hand), and so it is the first time I have seen the new Faber typeface in print:

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It looks a bit odd initially alongside the double-f logo, but I don’t think that it looks at all bad. it certainly has a nice 1920s/30s feel to it, harking back to the Faber of Eliot, and that is never a bad thing. Here is the font in greater detail, taken from their website:

 

Faber

Image: faber.co.uk

Hopefully, I may see that grace my poetry in the near future… Yeah, right. I can but dream…

Lastly, two of our local libraries have been having booksales, and so I got these few:

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  • Jon McGregor –  even the dogs     10p
  • Frank Herbert –  Hellstrom’s Hive     10p
  • Mohsin Hamid –  The Reluctant Fundamentalist     10p

…and these…

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  • Ian Fleming –  Goldfinger     25p
  • Irvine Welsh –  Trainspotting     25p
  • Thomas Hardy –  Jude the Obscure     25p
  • Philip Reeve –  Predator’s Gold     25p
  • Jenny Turner –  The Brainstorm     25p
  • Archie Brown –  The Rise & Fall of Communism     10p

 


 

I’m wondering with these new book posts whether I should start doing them monthly instead of as-and-when I buy. I just think that that would be a bit easier and make this blog a bit more tidy. Also, I hope to sort out all my arch & anth, poetry and other books soon so as we can buy some bookcases, and then I can actually start using them again and have easy access to them, rather than them being piled up and very impractical. I’ll let you know how I get on, and promise to post some pictures once the shelves are assembled and the books arranged. Watch this space!

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Latest books

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Just a few new books from the past couple of weeks:

  • Kenneth Grahame –  The Wind in the Willows     50p
  • E.M. Forster –  A Room with a View     50p
  • Vladimir Nabokov –  Lolita     50p
  • Elizabeth Gaskell –  The Cranford Chronicles     50p     (containing ‘Mr Harrison’s Confessions’, ‘Cranford’ and ‘My Lady Ludlow’)

I do already own a copy of ‘A Room with a View’, with this cover:

a room with a view

 

However, the Penguin Modern Classics edition shown in the top image has an introduction and notes that this edition doesn’t, so I thought it was worth getting just for that. And, it is in the new Modern Classics series, which I adore on design grounds. However, I do think that this edition does look somewhat gloomy considering the images used on the covers of the other Classics editions:

a room witha view pics

 

I think that the two on the left and the two in the middle are perfectly okay, but the ones on the right look a tad drab in comparison. However, the Classics edition image does look a lot better than the cropped and flipped version in the bottom right, as it seems a lot lighter and inviting. Anyhoo- the big question is which edition should I read? My existing copy or the new one? Decisions decisions!

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Thoughts on Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’

how the elephant got its trunk

It’s taken me quite a while to get around to writing this post, as it’s been a good few weeks since I read the book. I’ve put it off for a bit as well, as I am slightly unsure what to say about this collection. Don’t get me wrong- I did enjoy reading it.

Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’ was published in 1902, and in general the tales included are intended to explain to children how several animals came to look or act how they do. Those stories that concern the appearance of animals are inventive and show a clever knowledge of both animal behaviours and the basis of Darwin’s theory of evolution, as each of the stories suggest that the features developed to assist in the plot of the story appear as adaptations (such as the kangaroo’s legs in ‘The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo’) or are passed on to offspring (as at the end of ‘The Elephant’s Child’). However, I particularly enjoyed the two interconnected tales ‘How the First Letter was Written’ and ‘How the Alphabet was Made’, as they provide a vaguely plausible and interesting take on the appearance of writing- even if their invention of our Latin alphabet is rather suspect. Another personal favourite in the collection is the last story, ‘The Butterfly that Stamped’, as I thought that whilst the premise was a tad sexist, the surreal nature of the tale and the sheer whimsy of the plot stand this story apart from the rest of them, with their being no particular message or meaning behind it.

I was also taken slightly by Kipling’s writing style in this book, as I had expected these works for children to be of a slightly higher lexical complexity than modern children’s books, simply from the time that they were written. However, I hadn’t quite expected the style to be such that it emulated Biblical texts (i.e. the Book of Genesis) in its repetition and use of almost identical passages. Similarly, I hadn’t realised prior to reading that Kipling produced all of the illustrations in the book, and I was very impressed by just how good and inventive these are. I have reproduced one of the most famous at the top of this post, which was included in the story ‘The Elephant’s Child’.

I think that my enjoyment of this book was tempered somewhat by having read Ted Hughes’ Kipling-esque ‘How the Whale Became’ many years ago, as I expected this to be a more faithful indication of what the original book was like than it actually is, and missed the sense of humour that Hughes added to his work. It was with Hughes’ work in mind that I produced my own such story several years ago, ‘How the Platypus Became so Weird’, which I am planning on re-editing for inclusion in a collection of short stories that I am going to begin working on this coming week (more on this to come). However, in all it was a fairly decent book, and is something that i would read again- although I think that I may ‘dip into’ the book next time, or read a tale here or there in between other books.

Lastly, I would just like to commend the cover art of the edition that I read (and which i bought a few months ago- see this previous book-purchases post):

just so stories

I can’t really put my finger on why I like this Penguin Modern Classics edition- I think it’s just the simplicity and the slight playfulness of the tail. On an interesting note: this book has now been issued as a standard black Classic, presumably because it is now over 100 years old. One to add to the discussion, if you remember one of my previous posts.

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A further Penguin discrepency

miller on being different

 

Just a quick post; I’ve got several longer archaeology posts to get up this afternoon, but this carries on from my last entry. I was searching through the Penguin Classics website last night when I came across the book shown above. It caught my eye as the cover is so bright and simple compared with any of the usual Penguin Classics (not Modern Classics) covers, and because it actually sounds like an interesting read. However, it turns out that the book- Merle Miller’s ‘On Being Different: What it Means to Be a Homosexual’ was first published in 1971. Surely it should be a Modern Classic?

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The discontinuity with Penguin Classics

In my last post, I mentioned and showed that my partner and I received our copy of Morrissey’s ‘Autobiography’ through the post on Thursday, the day of its release. Since its publication was announced, the biggest debate has been around the decision by Penguin to release the volume as a ‘Classic’, complete with the famous black livery. It was a condition of its publication that it would be issued as such, but this has provoked fury from many people due to the book having only just been released, and so not qualifying as a ‘Classic’ on the basis of the usual criteria ie age, importance and popularity. People have also stated that perhaps the ‘Penguin Modern Classics’ imprint would be more fitting, as the ‘Classics’ brand is reserved for texts that are pre-1900. However, I would like to take a moment to show several ways in which this decision is actually not a strange one by Penguin, by looking at some of their other books in print.

I said in the last post that I have recently started to read Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, and so I will start with this.

HoD MCThe cover on the left is the Modern Classics version of this book that I have (well, mine is the 2000 edition without the white band, but otherwise it’s the same), and the other two are earlier Modern Classics editions. Now.

HoD CHere we have four editions of ‘Heart of Darkness’ (with ‘The Congo Diary’ in the third case) all from the Penguin Classics series. I can see where Penguin are coming from: the story was first published in serial form in 1899, and so falls under the ‘Classics’ brand, but was then published as a book in 1902- thus a Modern Classics.

Another case, this time E.M. Forster’s ‘Maurice’, written 1913-14, and published in 1971.

EMF MThe first two covers are from Modern Classics, with the third a Classics version. Similar images can be found for all of Forster’s works, with both Classics and Modern Classics editions available.

t s e t wThen there’s this: ‘The Wasteland and Other Poems’ by T.S.Eliot. Interestingly, this great work of Modernist literature has been published as a Classic by Penguin and not a Modern Classic. This is also the case with James Joyce- my edition of ‘Ulysses’ is a Modern Classic, but my copy of ‘Dubliners’ as shown in a previous post is part of one of the previous series of Classics. I could go on with similar examples.

Another issue that has been had is with Morrissey’s book being a new book, and having not already been out before. Well, Penguin do also have a knack of publishing previously unpublished works as Classics and Modern Classics too. For example:

Truman Capote Summer CrossingThis recently unearthed early manuscript by Capote was published for the first time in 2006 as a Penguin Modern Classic, despite not actually being a classic at this point. It could be argued that it was by a classic author, but… the book still wasn’t technically a Modern Classic. The same could be said for the published letters or diaries of famous authors which then get released as part of the Classics range.

Personally, I feel that Penguin are perhaps making an interesting choice publishing ‘Autobiography’ as a Classics, but unlike some people, do not feel that it is such a strange thing for them to do. Perhaps a Modern Classic would have been more appropriate, but some form of classic status is not unfitting. The lyrics of The Smiths could be published as Modern Classics, which by Penguin’s interesting logic (as demonstrated here) would then make this autobiography an automatic classic. Or perhaps we can now have the lyrics of The Smiths published as a Classic on the back of this. Only time will tell!

autobiographymorrissey_lrg

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Morrissey! You can be irritating!

Autobiography Artwork

According to the semi-official website true-to-you.net, that’s the cover of Morrissey’s autobiography (titled ‘Autobiography’. Wow. What a name…) which should have been published today. However, in true Morrissey fashion, its release was pulled three days ago due to “a last-minute content disagreement” between the walking deity and Penguin. The BBC news page has gone for the dramatics, saying that he is now “searching for a new publisher” and suggesting like it will never see the light, but the semi-official site suggests that the release by Penguin has simply been delayed. Hopefully that is the case, and the book will be finally published soon. And hopefully that image above is going to actually be the cover, and isn’t just a mock-up. Morrissey has stated previously that he wished his ‘Autobiography’ to be issued as a Penguin Classic, but usually such titles have to have actually sold a few first and have entered popular culture. Indeed, if it is to be issued as a ‘Classic’ and not a ‘Modern Classic’, the author is meant to have been writing over or just around 100 years ago and to very probably be dead. To be fair, the infamy of its existence and drawn out publishing history have perhaps given it enough social circulation, but… anyhoo. It would be all the more interesting if it is to be issued as above, and with any luck, it should be out soon. I also expect that when it is out, it will receive a reception not unlike Truman Capote’s posthumous ‘Answered Prayers’ (1986) and manage to offend everyone who is mentioned or veiled within it. At least, that is the hope!

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