London (Part One)

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogosphere this week (although perhaps it won’t have felt like that to you!) – I seem to have been utterly exhausted all week, hitting the hay as soon as I get in through the door.

Of course, that hasn’t been oh-so-early every night.  On Thursday I got home at about 9.30pm after a day packed with fun in London.  Well, actually, my morning was spent having a lovely conversation with my friend Clare, who used to work at the Bodleian with me, and now lives in my third favourite city in Britain (I think), Edinburgh – it comes after Oxford and Bath, in case you were wondering, although I do have a soft spot for Wells, for being not remotely like a city.

First things first in London, I headed off to Notting Hill Book and Comic Exchange.  I don’t know the geography of London at all well, and basically I navigate by the bookshops I know and love.  There must be lots that are waiting for me, which I’ve somehow never found – but I buy more than enough from this one, trust me.  This is the first time I’ve taken books in to sell/exchange – a hefty pile, for which (he barked at me) “£6 sale, £12 exchange”.  Well, what do you think I did?  And with my £12 vouchers in hand, I headed off to browse.

If you’re thinking that £12 for about 15 books was a little mean of them, then fear not – very few of their books are more than £2 or £3, and there are three big (unsorted) basement rooms where books are 50p each.  But I didn’t have the time to head down there – nor, since they put in lots more bookcases, do I find it a particularly enjoyable place to browse – but the cream of the crop is upstairs.  In the past I’ve found a signed novel by Rose Macaulay (£1), a signed novel by A.P. Herbert (£1) and countless other gems.  On Thursday I certainly came away with a sizeable pile… and today’s post I’m going to tell you about them.  In tomorrow’s post, I’ll write about the reason I was in London – which was to attend a wonderful party put on the deliciously delightful folk at Bloomsbury.

So… onto the books.  These, by the way, include my 2000th book, according to my LibraryThing account.  I wonder which one it was… anyway, here they all are.  As per usual – comments, please, especially if you’ve read them!

London Feb 2012 1 by Stuck-in-a-Book

A Dedicated Man – Elizabeth Taylor
Appropriate during her centenary year.  There always seems to be an ET on their shelves, oddly enough.

Identity – Milan Kundera
I read this a while ago (thoughts here) but wanted a copy for myself – and it’s in the same quirky edition.

The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter
This was pretty appropriate on the way to an Angela Carter event!  I adore these Virago patterned editions, but this is the first one I’ve actually got – and it’s beautiful!

Travel Light – Naomi Mitchison
Well, a cheap VMC… why not?  And one with a nice cover, too.

London Feb 2012 2 by Stuck-in-a-Book

The Unmade Bed – Francoise Sagan
A lovely Hesperus edition of an author I’ve been doing my usual: collecting, and not getting around to buying.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne – Brian Moore
Quite a few of you recommended this when I listed the books published in 1985 – and what can I do but obey?

The Man Who Planted Trees – Jean Giono
Ok, I already have this – but it’s the illustrations which make little books like this, and this edition has different illustrations.  Harry Brockway, since you ask.

Loving and Giving – Molly Keane
Absolutely hideous edition, but needs must.  Well, not needs, perhaps.  But I was (wait for it) Keane to read more Keane.

Mansfield – C.K. Stead
I have read some of Stead’s criticism of Katherine Mansfield, but I hadn’t realised that she (or perhaps he… hmm…) had written a novelisation of Mansfield’s life.

Slightly Foxed pile by Stuck-in-a-Book

Slightly Foxed…
They also had six old copies of the Slightly Foxed Quarterly – and I grabbed all of ’em.

30 thoughts on “London (Part One)

  • February 18, 2012 at 3:09 am
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    I was in the Notting Hill Book and Comic Exchange today, and after two weeks spent almost entirely in English second hand bookshops, I would have to nominate it as having the least friendly sales staff I've encountered. But it was a lovely shop to wander about in, and they did have quite a few cheap old Penguins, mostly down in the basement which has many of the books collected together by spine colour.

    (BTW, the friendliest and most helpful English book shop owner was also in London – Chris from Skoobs was just wonderful.)

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    • February 18, 2012 at 9:02 am
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      Oh, they definitely don't prioritise being personable, do they? But I've found, in general, that secondhand bookshop owners *are* grumpy and unpleasant. When they're not, it's a huge surprise to me.

      I did pop into Skoob Books (though didn't buy anything) and really hoped that you'd found it, when I remembered that it had a tier or two of Penguins.

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    • February 18, 2012 at 9:08 am
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      I know a second hand book seller who welcomes all her customers with coffee – even if she makes them stay in garage, whatever the weather… oh, that'll be me then – better go off and set out the bicuits!

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    • February 18, 2012 at 10:58 am
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      Karyn, do you know if they stock any issues of Lady Mechanika at all?

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    • February 19, 2012 at 12:50 am
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      There are a tier or two of Penguins on display at Skoob Books, but pay them an unusual amount of attention and they may mention that there are thousands more being stored in a nearby warehouse, along with shelves and shelves of other secondhand books.

      And sorry Peter, I didn't pay any attention to the comics at the Book Exchange, but the display ran the full length of the shop so they are probably worth contacting.

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    • April 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm
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      I purchased a number of Silver and Bronze Age comics at the store in Notting Hill 2weeks ago, including a copy of "Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane" #70 (1st app of Catwoman in the Silver Age). The cover price was 22 pounds marked down from 24. There was NO indication of any defects noted on the price tag, nor the backing board, nor anywhere else on the book (as expected, and seen on other books in the store). I spent over 70 pounds at the store in one day. Upon my return home, I inspected the book and noted a large piece cut out from an interior page. CHECK YOUR ITEMS CAREFULLY BEFORE PURCHASING FROM THIS STORE. In addition, the store clerks were unfriendly and I had a very poor experience overall. I do not recommend.

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  • February 18, 2012 at 4:00 am
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    I feel slightly ashamed to admit it but I am far more excited about the old copies of Slightly Foxed than I am about any of the books! I finally purchased a subscription in January after having heard so much about them/it online and, on the strength of the Winter 2011 edition, am now a completely devoted reader. I recently found out that the central branch of my public library has all the back copies and I am already planning an expedition down there for some delightful reading. Thanks to the index provided on the Slightly Foxed website, I even know which issues I want to read first!

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    • February 18, 2012 at 9:04 am
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      The one thing I don't like with them (and I'm sure it's deliberate and they have their reasons) is that it's impossible to tell the contents of the essays from their titles. I suppose that makes for more of a surprise! I was pleased to stumble across an essay on Sylvia Townsend Warner's short stories in my first flick through.

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  • February 18, 2012 at 6:04 am
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    I love London! Such a great city :)

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

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    • February 18, 2012 at 9:04 am
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      I must confess that I feel the opposite! I don't like spending more than a day there… too busy for my liking.

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  • February 18, 2012 at 7:51 am
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    I have read Naomi Mitchison's memoir of her childhood – 'Small Change: A Memoir of an Edwardian Chldhood.' I think I've swapped it on ReadItSwapIt and I'm kicking myself now because I'm going through an Edwardian phase. The Magic Toyshop is on my list for this year, Angela Carter is an author I want to read more of. I've only ever read 'Wise Children' by her.

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    • February 18, 2012 at 9:05 am
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      I started Wise Children and somehow got distracted – will now return to both. And I love the Edwardians, so will have to keep an eye out for that memoir, thanks for mentioning it (and sorry you no longer have it!)

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  • February 18, 2012 at 11:07 am
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    Yes I have read some of these!

    The Magic Toyshop – well what can I say, it's by Angela Carter one of our greatest C20 writers. I think you will enjoy it greatly, a wonderfuly insightful exploration of the growth of sexual awareness and family conflict.

    I've only read Second Harvest by Gionio, a haunting tale indeed and a great writer of "place".

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    • February 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm
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      For some reason I hadn't thought to investigate Gionio further – I certainly will now, thanks for that Peter.

      And I don't know why I haven't read Angela Carter yet – I really will make 2012 the year when I finally do.

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  • February 18, 2012 at 11:10 am
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    Nice haul Simon, shame not to see you yesterday. I have some lovely parcels coming from Alice apparently – hoorah.

    I find that in all Book Exchanges that they have this attitude to be honest, its a shame but hey you can find some bargains.

    I haven't cottoned onto Slightly Foxed. I know you have mentioned them a few times.

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    • February 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm
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      Lovely Alice!

      Slightly Foxed would probably be up your street, Simon – I haven't read many of them, but they do have interesting articles about obscure writers. I also love their Slightly Foxed Editions – reprints of memoirs etc.

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  • February 18, 2012 at 11:19 am
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    An Angela Carter event? Oh, oh, oh, I wish I had been there. Was it for A Card from Angela Carter? I read it one afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

    That edition of The Magic Toyshop is by far the loveliest and one of three or four of the novel that I own.

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    • February 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm
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      It was an interview with Susannah Clapp – sorry you weren't there, Claire! It sold out forever ago, apparently. It didn't talk a great deal about her writing, mostly about her friendship and life.

      Isn't it a lovely edition? I am so tempted to collect all the VMC patterned editions, but I think this was the only one I didn't already have in a different edition.

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  • February 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm
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    I am so jealous as I wanted The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter but have put a hold on buying hardbacks. Love the Slightly Foxed set too.
    janetd

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    • February 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm
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      Very disciplined of you, Janet! I was debating giving up book buying for Lent, as I have done a couple of times before, but… not sure I could do it.

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  • February 18, 2012 at 8:03 pm
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    It sounds a wonderful bookshop to visit if ever I have time to spare in London – don't get there very often, I'm a country bumpkin! I'm bowled over by the foxgloves on the cover of Slightly Foxed. Please let us know what the relevant entry is about.

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    • February 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm
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      It is a good place to go if you can cope with lugging back a lot of books, and don't mind the crampedness and unfriendliness! If you're feeling more selective, and want nicer staff and surroundings, then Slightly Foxed bookshop is itself really good.

      I'm not sure the covers actually relate to articles in the Slightly Foxeds… just nice pictures, I think.

      (And I'm definitely with you – although I seem to go to London a lot, I never want to stay for more than a day – definitely more of a country person.)

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  • February 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm
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    Wow! For a wonderful haul, and for the back issues of Slightly Foxed especially. I've been thinking of treating myself to a subscription when I find a job but I never thought of the possibility of finding used copies.

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    • February 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm
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      I was surprised to see the little set of them there – I would have thought they'd be turned away by the owners, but thankfully they realised someone would want them. I doubt I'd stumble across them secondhand elsewhere…

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  • February 22, 2012 at 11:25 am
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    Part of the NHB&CE experience is being grouched at by the staff – I wouldn't have it any other way :) Yes, there always *is* an Elizabeth Taylor VMC floral cover there when *you* go Simon, they never seem to be there when *I* go, I wonder *why*? Hating you already :)

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  • February 24, 2012 at 3:33 am
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    C K Stead is Karl Stead, a retired Englsih Professor at Auckland University. The novel Mansfield is a biographical fiction that covers three years of Katherine Mansfield's life when she was with John Middleton Murray and moving between England and France.

    Reply

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