Archive for the ‘Treasured tomes’ Category

So. Three months later than planned*, I’m posting some of the writings that padded out the quieter moments of my family jaunt to visit friends in Spain. In (cringe) October. Immediate I am most definitely not. And I wonder why I just can’t take to Twitter…

My introduction to the great Sebastian Faulks

Alan Bennett: Mum's quiet-time companion

Of late, Alan Bennett has come to enjoy an almost godfather-like status in our family. He pops in (well, into conversation) during most of our gatherings – my Christmas 2008 gift to mum was a signed copy of his The Uncommon Reader – delivering advice and regaling tales of old Yorkshire and his own ‘mam’.

As well as Seb Faulks, I had my head buried in Jim Cartwright’s Road, devouring lines in preparation for November’s run of the play at Bath’s Rondo Theatre while Malaga’s insects devoured me.

Between The Rotters' Club's covers: my brother's brand of escapism

And of course we were surrounded by Spanish writing. While we tried our darndest to piece together shameful half-phrases and exclamations, the brilliant typography and stunning layouts (not to mention the illiterates’ joy, the pictures) punched through our linguistic ignorance. Viva municipal warnings!

Room 4: Aspirational apartment lit (well, that's what the photos suggested)

* In my defence I have been relearning to ride a bike and re-reading Jacob’s Room. Productive, no?


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Retro pattern fiends and curtain makers rejoice! Those lovely people at the Victoria & Albert Museum have thrown open their archives of prints, wallpapers and textiles and laid the dusted-down innards bare in the V&A Pattern book series. The first four installments are published this month.

These four titles cover (pictured above, L-R) the mind-boggling creations of  ‘Digital Pioneers’, the stunning style of ‘The Fifties’, exotic and sensuous ‘Indian Florals’ and the eye-popping patterns *swoon* of ‘William Morris‘.

William Morris's 'Single Stem' print

William Morris's 'Single Stem' print

The first to find its way into my loving arms (and my disc drive – each book is accompanied by a CD of all the images featured in it) will surely be the tome of Morris’s treasure. All those muted twisted thistles and lolloping leaves remind me of childhood mornings, lying in bed in my grandparents’ spare room and visually picking apart the gradually brightening patterns printed on the curtains while waiting for the signal (the bright tinkle of the bell on Sian the Cairn Terrier’s collar) that it was no longer too early to get up, trot downstairs and empty the contents of the Fimo box out on the kitchen table.

One of the V&A's Indian Patterns

One of the V&A's Indian Patterns

Check out the chintz for yourself with the limited-edition boxed set for £30 (the books are available individually for £7.99) from the new V&A Bookshop, the V&A Museum’s shop or online.

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My eye was caught by the excited smirks of these little ladies carting their new piles of reading matter through the streets of wartime Paris while I was browsing the bookshop of London’s Southbank Centre.

And they’re a familiar bunch, this lot: little miss middle is sporting a grin uncannily like the one slapped across my face whenever I strike it lucky in the fabulous Oxfam Bookshop; the black-clad, patent-toed sweetie on the right might well have chuckled in that very same, mildly sheepish mirth had she been the one *ahem*, 60 years later, to buy birthday books for friends that she knew full well would never see the world beyond her own bookshelf; and the munchkin second from left bears that common countenance of the reader who’s just suffered that sudden downpour so beloved of British summertime, without the aid of either brolly or carrier bag. Hmph. Hopefully she’ll remember to pick up a Metro tomorrow.

Photo: Anonymous. Copyright Hulton Deutsch Collection/Corbis

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Family cover
Props to anyone who can keep tabs on Devendra Banhart, never mind secure the wayward folkster in their viewfinder for long enough to snatch anything more discernible than a blurred wash of sequins, face paint and hair. But that’s exactly what photographer Lauren Dukoff has done repeatedly over years of hanging out with Banhart, and the results – along with stunning shots of musicians including Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan, Joanna Newsom, Vetiver and Vashti Bunyan – are laid bare in her new book Family, published by Chronicle Books. And here’s a sniff:

Family trio
Family group shot
Family Banhart
Family theatre 
Sand dune romps, spontaneous jam sessions and the make-up boxes of drag queen dreams – it’s enough to make you want to put yourself up for adoption. Failing that, though, get thee to (the book, obviously. And) the brilliant Chronicle Books Family site for behind-the-shoots videos and scrawled negatives set to a soundtrack from the Family folks.

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Loops Logo

Right now, the news of the birth of the literary love child of Faber & Faber and Domino Records has made me happier than if that stalk were to drop a swimming pool onto the toasting tarmac outside my flat. Yes, two of the UK’s most exciting independent creative names have got it together, and the fruit of their toils is Loops, a twice-yearly journal of music-related textual gubbins available in the form of 224 glorious pages.


“Free from the shackles of release schedules,” say the journal’s creators, “Loops provides a space for artists to publish tour diaries, non-sequiturs and think-pieces and an opportunity for writers to stretch out and go off-map to share their thoughts and ideas.”

Issue 1’s release-unleashed contributors include Nick Cave (who presents his article ‘The Death of Bunny Munro’), Nick Kent (on Nick Drake) and some people not called Nick, including, of course, the culture-corpse vulture of the blogosphere, one Maggoty Lamb.

And (in case you aren’t already wiping the flecks of excitement-/heatwave-induced sweat from your keyboard…) readers also receive their own code with which to crack into the free Domino Records sampler. Loops, welcome to the world.

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Found: brilliant little book stall pushing brilliant little books, from processions of spotless old Penguins to stacks of sparkling modern hardbacks. Saturdays on Bristol’s Wine Street and Sundays at the Tobacco Factory Market.



Lost: £4.50 on this perfect 1962 Pelican first-edition of William Morris’s writing and designs. Oh, and a stinker of a hangover. Mighty indeed.


Footnotes: The Mighty Miniature is captained by Richard. Richard likes sperm whales and stamping inky images of birds onto brown paper bags to give away with his books.

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News breaks this week that the British Library has ‘mislaid’ more than 9000 of its books. Not had them pinched, but actually lost them behind, I can only imagine, dusty bookshelves, cisterns in the public facilities or between cracks in floorboards – although I prefer to imagine that they made  a canny break for it by launching themselves into a bin of dirty linen on its way to the launderette.

The relics included in the fugitive group include an essay by the 16th century theologian Wolfgang Musculus valued at £20,000, an 1876 illustrated edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and a first edition of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is apparently worth £1,300 and hasn’t been seen since 1961.

Like trying to find a book in a… ah…

The British Library: Like trying to find a book in a… ah…


The library’s head of records, Jennifer Perkins, told The Guardian that probably all of the missing texts remain within the library’s walls. But the most bemusing quote of The Guardian’s reporting on the story comes from security firm SA Secure’s Keith Rathmill, who is quoted as saying, “There’s theft from all libraries, but the British Library can think itself lucky it isn’t in a worse situation – it doesn’t attract the dregs of society.” Some of us might count the dregs of society as those who carve chunks out of priceless volumes provided for the education and enjoyment of the public, no?

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