Friday, 17 August 2007

my feelings are such that only bounding and plunging can relieve them

I got a mobile phone. Woe. But I don't intend to ever use it or to take it anywhere with me, and I'm not giving anybody the number. What with the phone and Facebook, which is not really doing it for me either (hi ThirdCat) all the gadgettyness is a bit overpowering. Better linger instead upon some books I have acquired recently which are all comfortably down at heel, cul-de-sacky, and behind the times.

Selected English essays chosen and arranged by W. Peacock. Oxford, 1923.

This is one of those pocket-sized OUP school readers. W. Peacock had what seems to me a rather eccentric idea of good models to put in front of the future leaders of the Empire, or perhaps not: the three or four essays I read are beautifully and interestingly composed but the subject matter is strange. Charles Lamb, with little thought for his personal safety, gives us "A dissertation upon Roast Pig"; there is de Quincey's essay on Murder considered as one of the Fine Arts, and eight or nine of Leigh Hunt's most wafty specimens. What's made it really enjoyable for me though is the fact that when I Googled the previous owner's name practically the only result I got was this photograph. I am as certain as certain can be that my book used to belong to the racehorse-owning gentleman on the left. The effect of studying Selected English Essays upon the posture is unmistakable.

Our Nation's heritage edited by J. B. Priestley. London: Dent, 1939.

This also is a schoolbook and also an anthology of short bits of English nonfiction, mostly what we would now call travel writing, or from another perspective, agitprop; the best way of giving you an idea of its contents might be to list the topics, thus: Farming, Trees, Roads, Places, Village Sketches ("A Yeoman", "The Blacksmith"), The Vandals (with a section headed "The Curse of Litter"), Nostalgia, and Epilogue: Britain Is In Danger. The book is about England as a pastoral island quietly going on, under the harmonious and traditional stewardship of the hereditary owners, gentry and peasants, despite the assault of the towns and the dark satanic mills, and latterly, foreign wars. It has full page black and white photographs of avenues, yokels, tudor inns, Clydesdales pulling ploughs, and motorways, litter, and proto- Brutalist architecture. It is quite fantastic and I hope the third-formers who borrowed it from the Bolton County Technical School between 1958 and 1966 thought the same.

Twilight of the Gods: The Beatles in retrospect by Wilfrid Mellers. London: Faber, 1973.

This book looks magnificently excellent also. The cover art is magnificent and the text is divided into Joseph Campbellian sections with magnificent names like "Rebirth and Return of the Initiate." I haven't had much time to check it out properly, though, and remarks like "Whatever one thinks of the film [Magical Mystery Tour], the songs are splendid" might indicate a fatal unwillingness to call a spade a spade (or a heap of crap a heap of crap), and also on the evidence of a brief skim, Mellers doesn't seem to realise that if Paul had had his way everything The Beatles did would have been exactly like Magical Mystery Tour, only much, much more so. Still, it would be a mistake to be hard on him for this error of judgment since he is an academic writing about popular culture in that fabulous excited and serious-minded way which flowered briefly in the 1960s then instantly died and will never return again.

The World of the Children by Stuart Miall. 4 vols. London: Caxton Press, 1949.

I'm very excited about this purchase. Thanks ebay. The volumes haven't even arrived yet, but I know them very well indeed as there was a set in my paternal grandparents' house and when I was young I pored over them. I'll post more about this book when I've had a chance to re-acquaint myself with its beauties.



18 comments:

Ben.H said...

Four Bazzes and a Frankie. Again! I'm cursed, I tells ya.

David said...

I have not thought of the Mellers book since probably about 1973 when I read it, but I bet it played a significant part in my evolving consciousness or, more correctly, the development of the boorish pleasure I take in analysing rock music. But can I just say it's 2007 get off the McCartney-bashing he was by far the most, arguably the only, talented one once JL stopped trying in about 1966 (though JL did have a brief hiccup of retrieved ability in about 1970-71). I admit PMcC has a very strange tendency to come over all pathetically whimsical in life and less often in song, but that's all I'll admit.

The other books sound better than Mellors.

Ampersand Duck said...

They sound splendid.

Just be careful not to dip your whiskers in the soup.

Drewzel said...

Maybe I'm a philistine, but serious books documenting and analysing pop/rock music tend to give me the shites. The last one I attempted to read was one about the Seattle scene in the early 90's and it was such a wank, I returned it to the library in disgust.

Checked out the Facebook site yesterday and I just don't understand the appeal. Bah. Maybe 'cause I have no friends?

'Our Nation's Heritage' sounds like my choice from your new reading. Hope you enjoy them all!

lucy tartan said...

I don't understand the appeal of Facebook either.

No comment from me on the serious books analysing pop music, Drewzel....since David writes those. He is hopelessly wrong about Paul McCartney however; it's irrelevant how 'talented' or whatever the bugger is, if he's going to use his talent to write and perform naffness like Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da...and later on there was Mull of Kintyre, let's not forget or forgive that.

Ducky I had all my whiskers waxed off last week so that's ok.

TimT said...

My favourite collection of essays is a publication for Catholic schools, 'Ten Eloquent Men', from the 1950s or thereabouts. It was put together by some Jesuit English teacher, and the selections are thoughtful and fair-minded (he concludes with excerpts from Bertrand Russell's atheistic philosophy.) I'm fond of it not only because of the oddness of the selections (James Thurber is in there alongside Orwell) but because the introductions are genuinely insightful, and don't have the patronising tone of some school collections.

Then again, maybe I just haven't read enough essays...

TimT said...

Then again, I'm not an excellent judge - I loved 'Help', and enjoyed 'Magical Mystery Tour' as well.

Ben.H said...

I'm kinda leery of pop culture most of the time, so I habitually avoid books about rock bands, and probably wouldn't go out of my way to see "Magical Mystery Tour" to form my own opinion of it. This probably has something to do with being thin-skinned and easily disappointed.

As for "Help" Timt, all right-thinking people should love a movie with Leo McKern, Eleanor Bron and Victor Spinetti in it.

Also, Paul McCartney = the smart Beatle. Even when he makes music videos of himself skipping through Starbucks with a punchable expression on his face.

boynton said...

I read Twilight up in the Baillieu Music Library gods. In the early 80's that was the only Beatles book in the Library.

I love The World of the Children, too, though haven't read them for a while.

R.H. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
R.H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R.H. said...

Deleted it myself.

That shows class.

Time to be merry soon, but you don't have to be. Christmas is for innocents -joy non-compulsory, in a liberal democracy.

genevieve said...

One cannot purchase Wings CDs from JB in Nunawading. Just thought everyone would like to know.
(Obviously I'm a bit peeved about that.)

David said...

http://www.theletitbetour.com/

I was asked yesterday why I didn't go to Bob Dylan. It was $120 a ticket, but if push came to shove (you know, aliens with rayguns pointed at my head), I would have paid $120 to not go. Anyway, as far as the above is concerned, I would pay double to not have to go. Interesting how the title of the tour thwarts the show.

Ben.H said...

Genevieve, perhaps Wings albums are the musical equivalent of Patrick White novels. You grow up assuming them to be a ubiquitous part of the cultural landscape, and then one day you notice they've vanished.

genevieve said...

Hehe, a little less significant than PW though. Brits are not exactly holding conferences about them just yet.
I just want either Venus and Mars or Band On The Run. Both would be overkill.

Drewzel said...

Sorry to offend any music writer types...but I would rather listen than analyse - every time.
I bought Bob Dylan's latest album, because people whose opinion I respected told me it was good. I found it very very dull and ended up deciding it was a bit crap. But I am a bit of an old curmudgeon.

PS. Yep, Paul Mc can be painful sometimes (the 'Say Say Say' video springs immediately to mind) but I do have a soft spot for him. George was my fave Beatle.

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