English Vacation, English Reading

Here are some bibliographic gleanings from my vacation earlier this month in England, my first trip there in 25 years. A.N. Wilson may think that Great Britain ain’t so great any more (click here for LJ‘s current review of his Our Times: The Age of Elizabeth II), but I beg to disagree.

Available for sale in British bookstores is 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, the The Catcher in the Rye "sequal" offered by J. D. California, the pseudonym of Swedish author Fredrik Colting. As you can see, the British paperbacks sport a sticker saying "Banned in the USA!" in reference to our federal district judge’s July ruling enjoining its publication here. Fundamental copyright infringement, pure and simple.  

I bought the book in London, but since LJ reviews books published or officially distributed in the U.S. for libraries to purchase, this isn’t one that will get a review in our magazine. 

In the U.S. we associate the Lake District bibliographically with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and De Quincey, but in the Lake District itself, where I traveled after London, booksellers have not forgotten the other Lakeland poet, Robert Southey, who was after all, the poet laureate before Wordsworth—and for many more years. 

And they also keep Hugh Walpole’s Herries Chronicles on their shelves, a saga based in part in the hamlet of Watendlath (left, as I surveyed it a couple of weeks ago with sheep from the nearby fells). Thanks to the National Trust, Watendlath still looks pretty much as it must have in the 18th century when Walpole’s novels commence with Rogue Herries.  Walpole (1884-1941) is entirely neglected in the U.S. now.  He began this series of historical Lake District novels in 1930, and he was much praised at the time. Having written, in a June BookSmack! piece (click here), about  "diversion by saga," I do intend to embark upon this series and I’ll report back later. 

Back to the 21st century. In London, the  Daily Telegraph had a fun "Snapshot" box (right) about "The top five reads left behind in Travelodge hotels over the last 12 months." The titles are an intriguing mix demonstrating both the strong interchange between the UK and US (Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama; J.K. Rowling’s Tales of Beedle the Bard; and Sex and the City) and evidence that pop culture can still be local (Jordon: Pushed to the Limit, by Katie Price; and Dear Fatty, by Dawn French). Well, local by 21st-century standards. Katie Price now makes it into our own gossip rags, and many readers may know Dawn French from French and Saunders (BBC-America) or The Vicar of Dibley, imported by public television.  

In order to set limits on my book buying in England, I only allowed myself to purchase paperbacks not published or distributed in the U.S.  So I couldn’t buy the new hardback biography of Danton by David Lawday, which I do hope attains a U.S. publisher or distributor soon!  But I bought the new Phaeton collection of Extremely Entertaining Short Stories, by Stacy Aumonier (1877-1928), another British author now largely forgotten, but who was greatly appreciated in his time for his wit and neatly contrived plots.  

Back now in New York, it’s a heavy volume to cart back and forth as subway reading, but it’s well worth the weight. 

Happy reading to us all!


Margaret Heilbrun About Margaret Heilbrun

Margaret Heilbrun is a former Senior Editor, Library Journal Book Review.