When an unpleasant task must be performed, or an unpleasant journey must be undertaken my thoughts turn to retail therapy. This seems to be a trait common to many members of my benighted generation.
Unlike, I suspect, many members of my benighted generation, my idea of really good, truly satisfying and utterly enriching retail therapy occurs only when I’m on my knees (careful…) sifting through piles of books in op-shops.
Today an unpleasant journey needed to be undertaken. But I was prepared for it. A modest sum was tucked into my wallet (it was too itchy down my sock) and a cheery green re-usable shopping bag was secreted about my person when I sallied forth. As was a copy of Auden’s Selected Poems and a few scrofulous texts whose titles and purpose I don’t propose to reveal.
Having dealt with the regrettable necessities of the day, I was ready to go a-hunting. The game was afoot, ahand, anose and possibly also anipple.
My haul for the day seems to me to be a particularly good one. For the princely sum of twenty seven dollar coins of the realm I am now the proud possessor of
Animal Farm by George Orwell (to replace a copy which recently fell apart)
Living Black by Kevin Gilbert
The Letters of the Younger Pliny by (unsurprisingly) Pliny the Younger
The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle
The Psychology of Sex by Oswald Schwarz (c’mon – you’d have bought it too)
Poems by Wilfred Owen (a rather fetching Chatto and Windus hardback)
Utilitarianism, On Liberty, Representative Government by John Stuart Mill
Greylands by Isobelle Carmody
Gift of the Gab, Toad Rage and Toad Heaven by Morris Gleitzman
Charade by John Mortimer
The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (Eds.) Tranter and Mead
The Penguin Book of Interviews (Ed.) Christopher Silvester and
Bad Hair Days by Pamela Bone
I read Gift of the Gab on the way home and it made me cry twice. I’m still not quite sure how Gleitzman does that to me, but I’m not going to rest until I own every book he ever wrote and figure it out.
I’m looking forward to The Letters of the Younger Pliny too – I like to imagine that he’s a more rock’n’roll version of Pliny the Elder: more into his Catullus than his Horace. But we shall see.
The real jewel, though, is The Penguin Book of Interviews. It contains an interview concocted by Oscar Wilde and Robert Ross which is wet-your-drawers funny, a heart-breaking glimpse of F Scott Fitzgerald as a martyr to the turps and a conversation between Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling (written up by the latter) which serves to prove categorically that puff-piece interviews were alive and well a goodly time ago.
Now, if I can somehow keep my students away for the next couple of days, I might just be able to settle down to some serious reading.
Does anyone have a pair of savage Dobermans they could lend me for a brief spell?