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Today's quote:

Friday, March 5, 2021

More "details follow"


Rick Gekoski has been described as the Bill Bryson of the book world. Rare book dealer, academic, publisher, critic, bibliographer, and broadcaster, his BBC Radio series "Rare Books, Rare People" was acclaimed by The Daily Telegraph as 'one of the gems of Radio 4'.

In "Tolkien's Gown", a book based loosely on that hugely successful radio series, he discusses twenty great works of modern literature as both texts and objects. At once erudite and funny, the essays give a publishing biography of each book, together with comments about the author's involvement with first editions of the works.

'What is the value of a book?' he asks. The answers are both critical and financial, involving appraisals of the literary qualities of the works, together with an account of their (sometimes surprising) value in the rare book trade.

His stories are fascinating and diverse, and involve memorable encounters with, among others, Graham Greene, William Golding, J.D. Salinger, Ted Hughes, Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes and Harold Pinter. Relations between book dealers and authors can be uneasy: Ted Hughes thinks he has been overcharged, while Graham Greene is simply delighted to have done business.

For anyone who loves books, "Tolkien's Gown" offers a wealth of amusement and instruction, and enough literary anecdotes to last a lifetime. I found this delightful book last Wednesday in an Ulladulla op-shop, and it will certainly last me all weekend to read it, to chew on its words, and to enjoy the wealth of knowledge gained from it.

You can read it online at www.archive.org (SIGN UP for free, then LOG IN and BORROW). Just don't chew on your computer screen!

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P.S. A German version was published under the more alluring title "Eine Nacht with Lolita". What are the implications? That Germans are more interested in Vladimir Nabokov or in a man's love for a very young girl?

Maybe you, like Humbert Humbert, are also besotted with twelve-year-old girls, in which case you can click here. In this remake of the 1962 original film, viewers will doze off fairly early, lulled to dreamland by the sleepy, droopy, muttering voice of Irons, who narrates in sepulchral tones and who always looks as though he died during production. Perhaps the catering wasn't so hot after all. This 1997 remake makes one thing painfully clear: "Lolita", like so many other screen classics, was better left alone. As for the book itself, Groucho Marx declared he would wait six years to read it, until Lolita was eighteen. Nabokov himself did pretty well out of it: he was able to retire from his teaching position, to devote himself fully to writing and butterfly collecting.