Category Archives: books and other things

I’ve always liked writing. My enthusiasm for writing has a number of threads to it. I enjoy the doing of it; trying to make it readable and useful or useful and entertaining. I enjoy sharing what I’ve had to root-around to find and have, very often, realised while doing that the need to have the information that I’ve needed to discover, and found helpful, presented in a more accessible way.
When I was a junior school pupil I enthusiastically wrote a story called The Gun Runners and Mr X. The action was mainly of visits to warehouses and car chases with gunfire. Bear in mind that I was 10 years old when writing the story and commercial television had just started-up then. My class teacher, Mister Rogerson, gave me an orange exercise-book to write it in to. I remember, fondly, the English lesson with him that involved us as small groups having to construct a newspaper on sheets of B2 paper.The planning amongst our groups, I remember, was exciting to us and gave us the romantic sense of being more grown up because we were trusted to work it all out for ourselves and determine amongst ourselves what we all thought we should do with our newspaper.
I started writing plays too, when I was still at junior school. The one play of mine that I remember was about a plane high-jacking; it was written on small squares of paper that my mother used to bring home for me from the suite of offices where she cleaned. The play was about a passenger plane hijack with bad-guys tricking the cabin crew into opening the usually secured door of the captain’s cabin etc.,. I’m impressed with my young self when I remember that I described the cast of characters and the details of the environment for each scene. Watching television probably influenced the threads of my stories and my drive to make up imagined worlds. Can’t think of anything else I could have picked-up-on to cause me to want to do it.
There will always be more to do.

The passionate need for personal advantage

AQuestionofBelief

A Question of Belief;  Donna Leon.

As usual, Donna Leon paints a familiar picture of my beloved Venice.

Her books set in the Veneto, present its exotic lifestyle; wonderful food; wonderful architecture, so thronged with enthusiastic tourists; their impact on Venetians Leon sympathises with.

Why is it that many writers who set their stories in Italy and Sicily use the image of ongoing corruption amongst Venetians and Sicilians of influence and power, spiced with their dishonesty and driven by their passionate need for personal advantage?

Leon uses that vehicle to explain why her policeman, Commissario Brunetti, is so very often deflected in his investigations by characters with vested interests in doing so.

His boss Patta, for example, “As so often happened when Brunetti dealt with Patta, he was forced to admire the skill with which his superior could transmute his own worst failings —in this case blind ambition and an absolute refusal to perform any action that did not benefit him directly — into the appearance of probity.”

Brunetti’s rest from that negativity comes from the food he enjoys in his favoured eateries and that his wife Paola prepares for him ready for his homecoming; also, from the joy his children’s personalities bring him.

Ironically, it is the protection of family or other loved ones that drives some characters’ behaviours; behaviours which Brunetti must investigate and confront.

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1942-1

©Adrian Regis 2015

gems inside A CENTURY OF WRITERS

I’ve come across a World Books, Special Edition for its “members only” in their series: a Reprint Society 1957 edition of Chatto & Windus’ 1955 A CENTURY OF WRITERS 1855 – 1955.

Clive Warner’s fifteen page introduction has caught my interest. His explanation of the origin of Chatto and Windus and its development is a revelation; revealing as it does, the circumstances and the role of the characters flags-up some familiar names. From it, there is sense of what exists today, generally: in the paper, book publishing we have today.

I’m still working my way through this gem; enjoying the writings of the iconic authors within it. Huxley, Twain, Lagerkvist, Belloc, Bennett, Faulkner, Jerome, Strindberg, Hughes, Montagne, Ouida, Powys, Pritchett, Tchehov, Poe, Bell, Empson, Fry, Jeffries, Knight, Strachey, Swinburne, Dickinson, Eberhart, Monro, Nichols and Shaughnessy are waiting to be read. There are also inserts amongst the writing in this book that relate to periods in the publishing house’s history.

Warner tells us that John Camden Hotten founded Chatto & Windus in its early form: when it wasn’t called that. Now, it’s renamed again to Randomhouse. Andrew Chatto took over John Camden Hotten’s created book publishing business in 1873; buying it from Hotten’s widow for £25,000. W. E. Windus joined Chatto shortly after that. Oliver Warner describes Percy Spalding joining Chatto and Windus in 1876. Warner tells us that Spalding and Chatto’s descendants guided “the long and prosperous middle era of the firm”.

Many tributes to and validations of the firm are revealed to us by Warner in his introduction to the Special Edition. He cites Hotten’s “beautiful” Chiswick Press edition of the Prayer Book. His History of Sign Boards (1886) was in great demand. He also published a History of Playing Cards. Hotten’s business head, Warner wants us to realise or note, meant that he saw the commercial sense in dedicating his History of Playing Cards to one of his cache of successful, published authors. In that way, killing two birds with one stone by both promoting that long popular author: Thomas Wright and the book therein dedicated. Having the book illustrated by van Schevichaven did no harm either.

Warner tells us more. Hotten, after paying Bertrand Payne £200 for it, published Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads. Most of Swinburne’s work was then handled by Hotten. Later, Chatto & Windus took over Poems and Ballads from Hotten. Windus published his own book of verse during the early days of C & W. The end of that work had a forty page long catalogue of the books they were publishing at that time “still full of Hotteniana”: the titles he had acquired over the early years. There were listed: Poems by Charles and Mary Lamb; books from Mayhew, Hook and Swinburne. Andrew Chatto and Percy Spalding added Besant, Collins, McCarthy, Ouida, Reade, Stevenson and many others, Warner reveals; also, Hardy and Trollope. American writers were also gathered in: Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Artemus Ward, Oliver Wendell Holmes, C. G. Leland, J. R. Lowell, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman and “others important in the history of American letters”.

Oliver Warner tells us that in 1901, roughly thirty years after Hotten died, an Indianapolis literary society moved to place a tablet in their library to “J. C. Hotten, the famous Piccadilly publisher … as an acknowledgement of his services in introducing certain famous American authors to the British reading public”.

Andrew Chatto and the firm, we are told, were later well thought of by “the trade” and its writers. Sir Walter Besant the first President of the Society of Authors, is said by Warner to have once remarked “I should like to see my friend Chatto driving in a gilded coach!” R. L. Stevenson also wrote of C & W “Your fair, open and handsome dealings are a good point in my life …” D. H. Lawrence, we are told, once spoke of the Victorian heads of C & W as his “old-favoured folk”.

Notable for the reader of A CENTURY OF WRITERS, Warner’s introduction mentions the arrival of “a whirlwind” Philip Lee-Warner at the firm in 1905. He founded the Medici Society vehicle to produce “excellent but expensive” art books. Sir Israel Gollancz was his General Editor for C & W’s King’s Classics and their Medieval Library series.  Philip Lee-Warner also introduced Geoffrey Whitworth and Frank Swinnerton to the firm. Whitworth was the British Drama League founder. Swinnerton, amongst other things, authored The Georgian Literary Scene. Authors of the time, we’re told, liked to pop into the publisher’s office. George R. Sims, author of It Was Christmas Day in the Workhouse, often did that.

Chatto and Windus began magazine publishing. The Gentleman’s Magazine (1731 to 1922); The Belgravia from 1866 to 1899 (Hardy’s The Return of the Native first appeared in it). They published Jerome K. Jerome’s Idler magazine from 1892 to 1911.    C & W began to publish Christmas catalogues for famous department stores. I sold the one pictured below, on EBay recently.

FortnumMasonFrontCover

Chatto & Windus

http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/

(C) Adrian Regis 2015

I’ve, only now, found Virginia Woolf’s writings

You may have seen my previous post; mainly about the pleasant surprise I had after, at last, coming to read Virginia Woolf’s books. Following up on that: I continue to revel in the modernity of these books that were originally published in the 1920s.

Latest example, I suggest, of the modernity, the way items fit with our living and philosophy today, for me, is shown in Chapter 17 of Virginia Woolf’s book Night and Day. We can substitute the item described in Cassandra’s room for anything found in an on trend young person’s of today. Tablet, phone, computer … (in) Cassandra’s (room) … the ceiling hung with mulberry-leaves, the windows blocked with cages, and the tables stacked with home-made machines for the manufacture of silk dresses.

Also, in chapter 18, we can identify with this: Ralph telling Mary, All this money-making …. what’s it for? …. When one’s a boy … one’s head is so full of dreams … Still, it’s impossible, after a certain age, to take oneself in satisfactorily… Like most people, I suppose, I’ve lived almost entirely among delusions …. I’m at the awkward stage of finding it out. 

I’ve, only now, found Virginia Woolf’s writing

After years of thinking that Virginia Woolf’s books/ stories/ works weren’t for me, finding her Complete Works on Amazon, my attitude is changed.

The CW begin with her non-fiction A Room of One’s Own.
I humbly offer my summation of this as an instruction wrapped within Woolf’s immaculately erudite insights of how not to undervalue any woman. It is inspiring.

At the moment, reading The Voyage Out, having reached the part in this fiction when Rachel is physically well-enough to acknowledge Terence and to speak to him after her near death illness, I’m struck by the implication of VW’s experience of life and people. How she so well describes the experience of delirium, fragility and physical weakness. The voices far off though actually speaking in the same room as the patient. The nightmare characters and ingredients that a raging temperature can conjure. And of the effect the whole distressing matter of some one close dying.
How Terence, Rachel’s intended, consciously removes himself from being overwhelmed by his fears and helplessness about his loved-one, by tuning that out and tuning in on the normal and pleasant of his surroundings just outside the sick room.
How others of the group variously embrace or dismiss the trauma they are all experiencing. This, a real and challenging one, compared to the trivial and out of proportion theatrical distresses they previously enjoyed sharing with one another.
All this realised and described and I’m only at chapter twenty five of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out. I’m really enjoying this and am learning from it at the same time.

my: His FAce Was Burning

For a long time I’ve been scratching my head over how to improve the book cover of this story of mine. The first one, featuring a red-faced sleeper, never quite did it for me. The next cover, with its ash-grey graphic, continued to be unsatisfactory. With its picture of a face garnished with flame-like decoration and suggestion of smouldering smoke, this week’s cover release is much closer to what I’ve been intending for the book.

latest incarnation of the book cover
latest incarnation of the book cover