Monday, 28 September 2009

Varium et mutabile semper femina*

I stomped off into town this afternoon, carrying a hormonal cloud of rage, unreasoneableness and general 'don't come near me'-ness,  despite the cheery hot and lazily low-slung sun, the delicious warmth accompanied by a gentle cool breeze (just to remind us that it is, after all, Autumn) as I had to get out of the house and pick up a couple of meaningless things, oh and chocolate, which could and should never be seen as pointless.
Anyhoots, whilst angrily skipping the load of crap my iPod in it's wisdom had decided I should listen to, I passed a local bookshop. Now this bookshop has fallen on hard times, which is a real shame because (she whispers so as not to upset her bosses) we need our bookshops, particularly our free-thinking independents. Certain elements were always a bit ramshackle, but that was part of its charm. It was pretty astounding the variety that they managed to shoehorn into such a small space. I never minded hunting for books in that place, but frequently had to bite my tongue when I couldn't find books that I personally deemed as 'classics'. (you would have thought, as a fellow bookseller, I'd have been more patient: Hell no!) Now, however, it is a shop preparing to die and getting its' affairs in order. The last pieces of stock are now alongside out of print/ end of stock items, uncorrected proofs, creased and yellow around the edges and an incredibly eclectic collection of second hand books. Despite this seemingly depressing end, what they have actually created is an amazing haven of the printed word. The sections still remain so its easy to rummage, but it is completely anti-ageist: brand new books sharing the same selling space as old duffers from the turn of the last century. And I found some gems that dispelled my foul mood quicker than you can say 'I really should start taking Evening Primrose again.' Look!

from left to right: Julia Cameron, 'The Right to Write' (publ: , Ronald Searle 'Back to the Slaughterhouse' (1951),  'Roget's Pocket Thesaurus' (1946, US ed)

'The Right to Write' is a book by the author of 'The Artist's Way', Julia Cameron, and according to the blurb, is about 'using writing to bring clarity and passion to the act of living.' Hmmm, sounds good - I like her thinking. I also liked the fact that it's broken up into teeny chapters that may help my easily-distracted brain to focus. I also loved this exercise, where the reader needs to list 50 things that they're proud of, and that in her example, 'My rapport with dogs' came higher than 'My relationship with my mother', although 'My pie crust' was an ever prouder moment! Genius! I may share my 50 things with you once I know you a little better.

Next up is actually the first book that I found today. Some of you may remember  that I've mentioned Ronald Searle before and therefore know that I think he is utterly tremendous. (and it's not just me that thinks as thus: looky!) Perhaps with that knowledge elbamed in your brain, you may have an idea of the joy that was beholden to me when I saw, faced out on the second set of shelves, this:

You can find a selection of the pages here.
Its a wonderful book, containing enough pictures that I hadn't seen before to make it worth me popping in the shop in the first place.
I loved the back too, with a rather wonderful self-portrait:


And lo: how fab is it without its dustjacket!

Gotta love a gymslip!

I've recently been meaning to find a small thesaurus to pop in my bag, for those times when I just can't find either the right, or at least vaguely more interesting word. The God of the Bookshop heeded my call and sent, all the way from the U.S, and the distant past, a beautiful (beauteous, handsome; pretty: lovely, graceful, elegant, exquisite, delicate, dainty) Roget's Thesaurus (lexicon, glossary, vocabulary, wordbook:  bored yet?! I can keep this up for hours!) As it's from the US, I'll have to keep an eye on the spelling (orthography) but other than that, I think it'll prove to be quite an inspiration (stir up, infuse life into, quicken, sharpen, revive) Besides all that, I think in this instance, it is only right that I should judge a book by its' cover and the perfectly preserved endpapers:

593. BOOK.- N. book, booklet; writing, work, volume, tome, tract, treatise, brochure......

I also found, but didn't buy, a book on living in Hampstead from the 50's, worth it for the line on the cover saying that the book would be suitable in a guest room or coffee table (or was it 'occasional' table? Or bedside table?) I think more books should give suggestions as to where they would best be stored: "Keep in the fridge during breaks between reading", "Must not be read on an infant's swing", "Warning: will explode if exposed to synthetic upholstery" etc.

May you derive as much hormonal-balancing pleasure from your books as I have!

*Varium et mutabile semper femina - according to my new / old thesaurus, it means 'Woman is ever a changeful and capricious thing.' Amen.


Isabella Golightly said...

when I was a little tacker, my favourite books were "Down with skool" and the "Uncle" books which were illustrated by another great english talent, Quentin Blake. You've inspired me to go & find them at Abebooks now - wonderful memories!

Mary Elliott said...

Great blog LOL!-I too was in a hormonal rage this morning after getting soaked in the rain... Looking forward to following your next blogs!!!