Monday, 17 January 2011

Paperback writer........

I'm sleeping with Beryl Bainbridge........Dame Beryl last. I'm a huge fan of Beryl, I think she's brilliant. However, I've never actually read any of her books. Not a one. Zilch, nada, naught, not even a page. I've read articles by her and about her, seen documentaries, heard her on the radio and everything I've heard, read, seen I like. I especially love the fact that all her parties, and there seem to have been many, included a boisterous rendition of Rolf Harris's Two Little Boys. And that she died at 75 after a short battle with cancer, surrounded by family and friends all singing along. Who could ask for anything more. I'd be well happy with that ending. I loved her craggy, fringed face, hollowed by a lifetime's devotion to cigarettes and a fondness for whiskey. She was, I believe, everything a writer should be. I would liked to have known her but I didn't. So, this year my first resolution was to read a Beryl Bainbridge novel. And now, everynight, I tuck up with Beryl and I have to say I'm loving it. I haven't read any Dickens either or Nabakov for that matter. I have friends who've actually read War & Peace, which again I have not. Another one for the to do list.

As luck would have it I had an early, slim volume, of Beryl's: The Dressmaker, amongst the unread books on my unread book shelf. Many of the books I own are unread because I tend to give away the ones I have read. Unless they are quite special to me. I used to be quite precious about books, packing and unpacking them, piling them high every time I moved, never actually intending to read them again. I would lend them out and then panic they might not be returned. And then one day I thought why I am I hording all these books? Once enjoyed, why not release them back into the world? Let them go on to delight, sadden, inspire, annoy, enrage and reduce others to tears of mirth. So now, I pass my books on to friends ....... or the the nearest charity shop ....... set free, the paperbacks can roam across another's book shelf or lurk upon on the bedside table.

I seem to have acquired a rather a lot of unread books lately and Christmas hasn't helped. Clearly the printed word is not dead. Not yet. Even if the bookshop is. I, like many, could go on about the joy of loitering in bookshops: wandering amongst the dusty tomes, leafing through a first edition while the knowledgeable and bespectacled proprietor teeters above on a ladder, searching for Fly Fishing by J R Hartly. Except I, like many, have discovered the joy of Amazon. What can I say? I take full responsibility for my part in the book shop's downfall. But it's so hard when I can buy any book I want, for £2.47 plus pp at the touch of a button. The secondhand books are brilliant. I found an airline ticket in one. An airline ticket! That's practically a collector's item in itself. Obviously used as a bookmark, I studied the name and destination, imagining what journey this book might of taken. Another has a lengthy inscription to an old friend in America, several have the name of the original owner proprietorially scrawled in the top, right hand corner. These story books are writing their own stories........

Top tip: get out of the cold and take yourself off to Africa, read Out Of Shadows by Jason Wallace, winner of the Costa children's book of the year but a brilliant read at any age, oh yes and he's my cousin......


  1. Dear Jo, I think Beryl is the perfect way to distract yourself from this incessant rain. I had a bit of a run on Ebay yesterday buying all sorts of ridiculousness that I really don't need!

    I've never read her books either, only articles and documentaries (I particularly loved the one her grandson did for BBC4) I think I would have got on with her too, she was quite a character.

    I love reading Dickens but I don't think I'll ever give War and Peace a go.

    I'm the same - I used to spend hours in bookshops and now it's buy with one click at Amazon. I always try and buy secondhand as it's much greener, although I won't buy the ex library ones for some reason.

    Hope all's well, love C xx

  2. One of the more stupid things I have done was to ship all of my books from home in England to the USA. The original cost wasn't too bad, hence my decision, but by the time the longshormen in Seattle got their hands on the boxes, the hidden costs started piling up like London buses at rush hour. I could have bought the books over here 3 times over and kept a small bookshop in business for a few more years.

  3. I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember if I've read any Bainbridge or not....I prob did at Uni millions of years ago - I'll have to look out for some of hers in charity shops /the Library / Amazon for 0.01p....We live not far from Hay - plenty of bookshops there....but generally a dying breed, sadly. 'Out of Shadows' arrived (from Amazon!!) the other day - OH has filched it.

  4. I don't think Ive done Beryl either - I'll add her to my list. Hubby and I used to be bog readers BC (before children). We used to spend hours in bookshops and loved it when they started to introduce coffee shops into them (like on "ELLEN"). We now buy all our books from the local charity shop for 60p paerback or £1 hardback - we have thought of reselling these on Amazon!xxx

  5. I am sleeping with Rushdie at the moment........... he hasn't even noticed I am there..... story of my life.......

  6. No I haven't read anything of hers either,though I'm going to put her on my list.I have a pile of books on my bedside table waiting to be read.I have an iPad but still prefer a real book any day.

  7. I loved your tip on coming in out of the cold...priceless!

  8. Thank you for visiting my blog. I so appreciate you taking the time to do that and leaving a comment. I will link up with yours.
    Turning 50 wasn't too bad for me, what I'm freaking out about is turning 60 in just 2 years. Although I still in many ways feel like I did at 30, 40, etc. I think its just the number that is scary? but then I look in the mirror and wonder who the old lady is looking back at me - lol. The older a woman gets the more maintenance of keeping up her looks is required and in my case I can't see to put eye makeup on since I wear glasses.
    Oh well guess just thankful to still be alive :)

  9. I love bookshops but usually forget what I've gone in for. Feel inspired to get hold of some BB after reading this.

    There were some photos of her amazing house in an interiors mag a couple of months back - absolutely full of things including a stuffed cow in the hallway. Marvellous.

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  11. I know what you mean about Amazon. I can buy a lovely, gently-used hardback for practically the cost of shipping alone. I love the Amazon! Laugh.

    I love you, too!