Tag Archives: Ted Hughes

My book collection: Ted Hughes

I mentioned a number of blog posts ago that I’ve been going on a bit of a Ted Hughes blitz in recent months. This is due to the fact that (despite what some other bloggers and literary fans may think of him) I adore his work. You may wonder why I don’t bother just getting the collected poems, collected poems for children and other such books, but there’s a few reasons for this:

  1. I already have a good few of his books, and so don’t want these to become redundant
  2. I much prefer reading individual volumes of poems, rather than finding collections in a collected works. They are so much more convenient- they can be taken on the bus and slipped into a bag or a pocket
  3. Ted Hughes’ Collected Poems is notoriously confusing to work through, as poems are rejiggled between collections and sequences to reflect the interesting publishing history of his texts.
  4. Hey- I like books, so the more the merrier.

I may still get the collected poems for the several hundred uncollected poems that this contains, but not at any time soon.

Here are the few (…) I’ve picked up over the last few months:

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  • Meet My Folks!
  • How the Whale Became and other stories
  • Nessie the Mannerless Monster
  • The Iron Man
  • Collected Plays for Children
  • Season Songs
  • Moon Whales
  • What is the Truth?
  • Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth
  • Flowers and Insects
  • The Cat and the Cuckoo
  • Tales of the Early World
  • The Iron Woman
  • The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales
  • Difficulties of a Bridegroom: Collected Short Stories
  • The Iron Wolf
  • Frank Wedekind – Spring Awakening
  • Jean Racine – Phedre

All of these were off ebay or Amazon, except two: The Iron Man was picked up from a charity shop for 70p, and has the original illustrations by George Adamson, rather than the Andrew Davidson illustrations that are used in the subsequent reissues (including the one I picked up last year); The Iron Woman (the companion reissue edition to The Iron Man) was found in The Last Bookshop when I went down to Oxford back in June for that conference.

A few other points. Difficulties of a Bridegroom actually contains all of the prose from the wonderful collection Wodwo, along with three other stories, and it’s these I bought it for, as I already have the other six in the parent book. It’s also a bit of a bugger to find online cheap. Moon Whales (in this edition, not the original American release), The Iron Wolf (a collection of animal poems written for children, collecting several shorter volumes) and Ffangs… are all gloriously illustrated by the fantastic Chris Riddell, and are worth getting for this point alone. The animal poems and Ffangs… are also quite good books. Moon Whales isn’t great, I must admit. I am not a big fan of when Hughes tried to rhyme, as much sounds too contrived and a bit clunky. Flowers and Insects is an interesting one, as it has never been properly reissued by Faber (except in the Collected Poems) and has never been issued in paperback. It contains some bloody awful watercolours by Leonard Baskin, whose otherwise magical line drawings graced the covers and pages of Crow, the first issue of Moon Whales, Gaudete, Cave Birds and Moortown. However, the layout of the book is also a shambles, with pictures being sliced, repasted oddly, printed more than once, or just generally reproduced badly.

Lastly, The Cat and the Cuckoo is not published by Faber, and was a nice find on ebay, but my copy is somewhat let down by the foxing on the endpages, which doesn’t make it an overly approachable volume. The poems are all (except one) in The Iron Wolf, but this edition is worth having just for the illustrations by R. J. Lloyd.

Now, for completeness I’m missing a number of his plays, as well as the individual 2011 reissues of the original versions of Remains of Elmet and River (before they were annoyingly rehashed for Three Books), but here is my Ted Hughes collection as it presently stands:

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Not a shelfie as such, but enough shelf porn to keep me going!

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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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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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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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Writing and the threat of rejection

I’ve said on the ‘About’ and ‘Poetry and Literature’ pages along the menu near the top of the page that I am currently writing poetry with the distant hope of getting published. The only thing that is stopping me is the fear of almost certain rejection when I come to submit my work to various publishers. Annoyingly, many companies that take on poets will only accept a handful of individual poems as a submission, rather than entire manuscripts, and so when I have finished this book I need to somehow single out the best few poems to send off. The only problem is that the book does not really contain many stand-alone poems, with most working with others to form a part of a much larger whole with a central narrative and interconnected themes- a bit like Ted Hughes’ ‘Crow’. Or, perhaps more accurately, Ted Hughes’ ‘Birthday Letters’ (Hell, I love that book).

One thing that has made me feel better about future rejections is that I’ve just read C.S.Lewis got rejected around 800 times (!), as well as Sylvia Plath, Rudyard Kipling, William Golding, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, H.G.Wells, Anne Frank and Louisa May Alcott also facing rejection. Then of course there is J.K.Rowling, whom we all know the story of. Perhaps I shouldn’t despair before I’ve even begun…

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