Friday, September 14, 2007


(Left): 'A Pound of Paper' by John Baxter [Ted Smart. London. 2002]. Jacket illustration by Jackie Parson. Best known for his string of major film biographies on the likes of De Niro and George Lucas, this entertaining book by John Baxter takes us deep into the world of book collecting and book selling and is replete with chance discoveries, major windfalls, bitter disappointments and interesting digressions. A bibliophiles delight. Also highly enjoyable is his 'We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light' [Bantam 2006], full of scurrilous and delightfully indiscreet stories

The Generalist Archive is undergoing a major overhaul at present. As a result, I am once more face to face with physical fact of the sheer volume of books I own - piled, shelved and boxed in more or less every room of my house plus in two storage places. Still have the dream of establishing this magic library in its own premises someday, somewhere and making it available to all.

This led me to think about the fact that my whole life can be measured out in books from the earliest age. Each book is like a memory bubble in the fact that I can most times remember when I first read it and where I was. Thus the memories of the book itself is mingled with my own life and times. Long may it continue.

I buy the majority of my books secondhand and rummaging through the shelves of bookshops, charity shops, boot sales and the like is one of my great pleasures in life. I buy in bulk as often one of the excellent Lewes booksellers has bought up someone's entire library on their demise. Thus my library is made up of sections of many other people's libraries, the books often containing tickets, lost letters and other momentos and page markers. Many are inscribed, underlined and full of notations. Every week brings its treasures.

I have always got my nose in a book. People often say to me they find it hard to read as there are too many distractions in the modern world. The biggest enemy of reading, to my mind, is television. It's too easy just to switch it on and sit back when, without the screen, a book provides an welcome alternative. Paper is softer on the eye than tv and books are more inspiring.

I have books stationed everywhere and am I often reading at least six books at once, each of which suits my differing moods; a more or less equal mix of fiction and non-fiction. A generalist has to read as widely as possible in order to make connections across disparate fields of study and imagination.

To add to all these joys is another that is the best of all - introducing the books you love to others. There must already be several hundred books mentioned or recommended in this blog so far and there are many thousands to come. This virtual library will, I hope, spread the word.A life measured out in books. I wouldn't have it any other way.

(Above): This revised edition of 'Bizarre Books' by Russell Ashe and Brian Lake
[ Jarndyce Books/London 2002]
is a delightful survey of some of the world's most unusual books and authors. It includes 'Dirt: A Social History as Seen Through the Uses and Abuses of Dirt', 'Office Gynecology', 'Our Lady of the Potatoes' by Duncan Sprott and 'The Earthworms of Ontario'.

1 comment:

Richard Havers said...

A man after my own heart....