Compared to other holidays in Britain, when we had to send the books home by Royal Mail to avoid incurring in extra expenses with Ryanair (Royal mail is definitely more booklover-friendly, and has very reasonable tariffs for shipping books), this year we have been reasonable. We only got twelve volumes, an most of them tell stories.
Besides Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel and The Oxford Book of Narrative verse, I picked up:
– A collection of three novellas by D.H. Lawrence, The fox, The ladibird and The captain’s doll. I used to like Lawrence very much when I was a teenager, especially his short stories, which mesmerized me. Later, when I went back to his fiction I was less enthusiastic, while discovering his poetry was a joy. Maybe these stories will rekindle my enthusiasm for the prose.
– The loneliness of the long distance runner, by Alan Sillitoe. I had only read his Saturday night and Sunday morning, as a set book at university. I remember it as full of energy and vitality. Later I saw Tony Richardson’s film from The loneliness… (1962), which I liked. When I picked up the volume last week I thought it was a novel, but it is actually a collection of short stories. I am more for long narratives (the longer the better) but we’ll see.
– Keats’s complete Poetical works, edited by H.W. Garrod. I have never read any of his narrative poems entirely, unless you count La Belle Dame sans Merci as a narrative; I am certain that when I do I will love them just as much as the sonnets and the odes. I think I will start from The eve of St. Agnes.
-The 18th Century and the Age of industry, the fourth volume in The Oxford History of Britain. It actually consists in two essays: Paul Langford’s The 18th Century 1688-1789 and Christopher Harvie’s Revolution and the Rule of Law 1798-1851, from Not a story the way David Copperfield or Moby Dick are, but history is in a way a story: the difference is in being factual rather than imaginative. Besides, it covers the arch of British history which saw the beginning and the flourishing of the novel
-One of those times you are not sure if you are buying something because it can be useful, or precisely because you know it won’t, I bough a very old illustrated history book for children: From cavemen to Vikings. It doesn’t show the year of publication, but the date you find on the Internet for the complete series (From cavemen to the present day) is 1957.
The illustrations are slightly comical ; the Viking chief looks like a character in Asterix and the Normans. The narrative on early British history is firmly based on two principles: that history is about men (though women do get some mentions, when they make pottery or scrape skins) and that Christianity is the path to civilization. On the other hand, the language is simple enough for my first years, and it can be used to stimulate a critical attitude towards what one reads.
Then there’s a bunch of other volumes on different subjects, from Shakespeare to gardening: no stories there, except for an album on English sports in 1966 that must have been published in the hope that the World Cup would come home this time. Lovely 1960’s style, and complete with stickers of the English side who won the cup back then.
Now I only need to find the time to read what I have purchased. Some of the books from last year’s trip to the Lake district are still waiting.