Lynne, over at dovegreyreader, has thrown down the gauntlet. She has a way of doing this. And it all dates back rather a long way. Sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Back in the days when ‘blogging’ was merely a misprint, Lynne, Elaine (Random Jottings) and I belonged to an online list, now known as firstname.lastname@example.org. They’ve had a few mentions on here before, and are still flourishing. Though an extremely amiable group, it was not underheard of for Lynne to cajole Elaine and myself into Modern Books, nor for us to dig our heels in. My reading is often sequestered firmly in the period 1900-1950, and anything after this makes me feel slightly dizzy.
Well, Elaine has been brave and noble (or, wait for it, Barnes and Noble) and succombed to the charm of the 21st century, alongside healthy doses of Victorian literature and early-2oth century, of course. A challenge, if you will. Where Elaine has bravely gone, there must I also go. Now that my learnin’ at Oxford is officially over (for the time being, at least) I shall be venturing, oh-so-tentatively, into the sphere of Modern Literature, as prescribed by Nurse Dovegreyreader.
So, off I went yesterday, £5 book token clutched in hand, to those shelves of shiny, reflective, non-olde-worlde-smelling books, determined to find something to appease Lynne, and to make myself feel Thoroughly Modern. But… for someone who has bought about 10 new novels ever, it all felt rather wrong. I am at home in secondhand bookshops, or abebooks.co.uk, or even ebay. These coffee table items, all sparkling clean and with ‘Half Price!’ , ‘Buy One Get One Free!’, ‘20% Off If You Stand On One Leg When Paying!’ stickers… it’s all a little terrifying. And do you know what, I feel guilty buying new books. Guilty! I managed to quash book-buying-guilt by the time I was eight. But it all feels a little too… how should I put it… commercial. I can see the Big Businesses behind new books – in secondhand bookshops the benefitting parties are seated behind the desk, wearing brown cardigans and smoking pipes.
But I pushed all this aside. And came out with Maggie O’Farrell’s book, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. And came away with change from my book token.
I’ll report back soon. Wish me luck.