I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Saturday, September 17, 2016



Being less active these days I tend to spend a lot of time reading. However, my shelves are so packed that I only buy a book if I really need to keep it. It also means that if a new book arrives, a book needs to leave the shelves to make room for it. It is then either donated to charity, or, if valuable, advertised on Amazon.

My daughter-in-Oz (who blogged as HHnB) helped here as I gave her a free run of my shelves when she was over a couple of years ago. This resulted in a large lorry calling and taking away about nine boxes of books for container shipping to an Australian bungalow in the hills behind Perth. There they now sit cosily on new, craftsman constructed shelves, looking back to me in photographs like beloved old friends.

This is all as an introduction as to why I increasingly rely on ebooks and a Kindle. Easy to store great quantities and so easy to prop up and read whilst eating! However it does not have the feel and smell of a good, mature book, which is something never to be replicated .

I felt I should extend my tastes into new areas in old age (Evelyn Waugh was a start). But I had an early attraction to science fiction/fantasy; Barry Alldis, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Kornbluth and Pohl all sit on a top shelf still. Ray Bradbury, of course and the arch fantasist of them all, J.R.R. Tolkien.

My Australian son-in law (the chemist) enjoys Terry Pratchett whom I had never explored. So, let's give him a go - it's easy (and cheap) as he is all on Kindle. I thoroughly enjoyed a few of his DiscWorld series, but he died last year and I  have turned to his post mortem book, "A Slip of the Keyboard", being all of his non-fiction musings. I am reading it at present and it is wonderful stuff, full of cleverness, humility, humour, philosophy and anger.

One particular chapter is a reprint of his Inaugural Professorial Lecture at Trinity College, Dublin in November 2010. It covers how his life developed, school, what  inspired him to write, his first journalistic job as an apprentice reporter ( blogger, R.R.  comes to mind) on the Bucks Free Press and, of course, his Alzheimer's.

It's made such an impression on me that I would like to share it with you. Worth reading and readily available.


Roderick Robinson said...

Writing books cut reading others' books by fifty percent; learning to sing reduced that total by a further fifty percent. I'm sure that if you respond to this comment you'll find some way of slyly informing the world at large that you've worked out the numerical result of this arithmetical progression. But there - I offer it as a simple peg to hang your hat on.

I thought Pratchett died with dignity but even that wasn't enough to draw me into his oeuvre (much as I'm usually prepared to do HHB's bidding, whatever it turns out to be). The wilfully simplistic style and the wide gaps between the lines worried me.

Here in Hereford, Tesco, an institution you seem careful to distance yourself from (but then perhaps you have an account at Harrods), offer a side table with a few scattered books and a charity collecting box and I recently invested £2 in David Coulthard's autobiography and The Last Road Race by Richard Williams, both objectionably soiled. Since I'm rather hoping I might have been partly responsible for your comparatively late lurch towards Waugh, I'd like to do you a reverse service by providing spoiler alerts for both these books, ensuring you never read them.

Coulthard is reasonably articulate and this is a well detailed account of what it is to be a successful F1 driver. But it is a sports autobiography in the modern vein; DC not only summarises his contract negotiations, even hinting at the sums involved, he also includes vignettes of the women he has had carnal relations with, giving the wheres and whys. I thought you should be warned.

The Last Road Race is an excellent account of the 1957 GP of Pescara. Just that with lots of persuasive detail about the characters involved (Moss, Salvadori, Musso, Fangio, etc) when men were not just men, but frequently dead men. The author has interviewed those who survived this period and there aren't many of them. His enthusiasm shines through and he animates the race's history with great skill. But there is a snag. Richard Williams is still a sports feature writer with a newspaper much given to bleeding-heart liberalistic posturing that is still mourning the triumph of Brexit. Again: caveat emptor. .

Needless to say there is not-so-well-hidden agenda to this comment. Bloggers are wont casually to let slip the titles of books they have recently read and in nearly all cases these "slips" are self-serving. You know the drill: "Just flicked through Musil's Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften. at the weekend." is typical.

Thus I mention my recent reading to show I'm a reformed character. The two above titles carry not a shred of kudos and represent an act of self-expiation from a former sinner. At length, too.

Avus said...

Can't think why you thought I disliked Tesco, RR. It's literally our local grocer at the end of the road where we do all our weekly shop or pop in for a paper.

I wholeheartedly agree about the manner of Pratchett's death. I know his fiction is a matter of taste, but his postmortem non fiction musings seem to me a worthwhile read. Or do you have misgivings that someone who came up through journalism, like you, somehow to his own surprise became a multimillionaire through his novels?

Thanks for the spoiler alert.

gz said...

The bliss of having time to read...but that comes and goes in waves as you go through life.
Enjoy Pratchett..my four children started reading his books aged 8...and kept on re-reading them. As they grew in experience, what they saw in each book changed,reflecting their knowledge of life.

I miss your daughter in Oz's blogging..send her my greetings please. Thanking you in advance.

Avus said...


Thanks for visiting. I thought about ook?! when I was penning this post. I shall certainly pass on your good wishes to Susan in Western Australia, where she has just set up her new studio and works happily at mosaics

Anonymous said...

I admire Terry P and his manner of leaving us. However I could never warm to his fiction. Al. loves it, I just do not (and have tried)!
Hey ho!
love Daughter x

Avus said...

Daughter mine:

Yes, I knew you did not get on with him. At least Al's enjoyment of him has convinced me to give him a try and opened up new avenues - particularly to his non fiction stuff.

pohanginapete said...

I haven't read any of his non-fiction, but on the basis of your post, I'm keen to read some. I did read and enjoy his Disc-world books many years ago.

I still find a real (paper) book much easier and more satisfying to read than any form of e-book.

Avus said...

I can recommend "A Slip of the Keyboard". I do agree about paper books v ebooks- they are much more satisfying, although the Kindle has its conveniences.

Zhoen said...

Found his stuff long ago, and his books are still great friends. Re-reading some, since I've needed a good book or three to immerse myself in. He can twist a phrase better than anyone.

Vita said...

I have added Decline and Fall and A Slip of the Keyboard to my reading list. I've read all the Disc World books, starting with The Light Fantastic instead of the Color of Magic, which a trumpet player in the pit of The Music Man loaned me, and so has my viola playing daughter, who named her cat Magrat, if I spelled that correctly, after a witches cat in the series. In the pit, we dressed up according to the theme of the day, and the trumpet player once came as the Library of Congress. I can go on and on, but I'm going to stop as a courtesy.

Vita said...

P.S. I forgot to say thank you.

Thank you.

Vita said...

Groan. Witch's, not witches.

Avus said...

Decline and Fall was the second Waugh book I read - the first being Brideshead Revisited (as I had seen the lyrical TV production. Decline and Fall I found very amusing and can see how Waugh brought into it his early life as a prep school master.

I love the Librarian in Terry Pratchett's books. He transformed himself into an orang utan in a bad spell and decided to stay that way since he could reach the top shelf much more easily - and life became more simple when it revolved around bananas! I can picture him shambling around the library shelves - an inspired creation.

Donn Tanner said...
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