Sunday, 1 November 2009

Book memories meme

I'm nursing a cold and preparing for a London trip, so have neither time nor inclination for "proper" writing today. Juxtabook mentioned that the IBooknet blog has been revamped, so I went to have a look (very nice, guys!) and found this meme there.

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne – I don’t think there has been a time in my life when I haven’t had a copy close by. The House at Pooh Corner is there too, of course, and the two collections of poems, and I find bits of all of them running through my head in the most unlikely places.

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)
Beside my bed I have a copy of Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, which my father gave me when I passed the 11+ exam that was the bane of children’s lives in those days. We had a dragon of a teacher, so it was also a reward for surviving her, I think! It is a lovely book, and although my interest in mythology didn’t start there, it certainly fuelled the fire.

A book you acquired in some interesting way
Because I found this meme on the IBooknet blog, it immediately made me think of a book I didn’t acquire. One of my regular visits when I’m in London is to Cecil Court, home of a number of secondhand bookshops, where a couple of years ago I saw a familiar cover in the window of one of them. It was a children’s book by a well-known author and illustrator, and a note on the cover said that it was an unusual copy because it was signed by the author with a message to a young boy, probably a family friend I was pretty sure I knew who this was and went in and asked to look at the book – and yes, it had been given to my stepbrother when he was about 5 years old; I recognised it because he had been named after the author’s most famous character, so that the inscription made the book unique. Unfortunately, the book had been stolen from his flat some years ago, and sadly, my stepbrother died in 2003. It would have been lovely if I could have bought it back (having no proof, some 20 years on from the theft, of my somewhat odd story), but even though the bookseller suggested that we might discuss the price (!) it was completely out of my league. I wonder, though, if its provenance was enhanced by my story.

The book that’s been with you to the most places
Well, Winnie the Pooh, along with a small collection of other children's books, has been with me in every place I’ve ever lived, but the book that has covered the greatest mileage is probably a short collection of the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which was slim enough to fit in the smallest shoulder bag so that I carried it everywhere. If I finished my book because the train was late, there was Hopkins to fill the gap, and he did it admirably. When I'm not reciting A.A. Milne in my head, Hopkins is next choice. You can easily spot me on the East Coast line, beating out the sprung rhythm of The Wreck of the Deutschland, and muttering when I can't remember the next line.

Your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was the last book I finished – I’d been saving it up for Hallowe’en week and it was worth it. Current reading is patchy: I’m dipping into some of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, and reading Cucumber Sandwiches, a collection of a novella and three short stories by J.I.M. Stewart, who also wrote as Michael Innes. My next book is Kept: A Victorian Mystery by D.J. Taylor – a fellow blogger (I’m afraid I can’t remember who) recommended another of his books, I think, but the library didn’t have it, and I liked the sound of this one. Fingers crossed.


  1. Books are more than their contents. They have so many other associations with family and friends and times gone by. What a shame about that book you didn't buy and you couldn't prove had been stolen from your stepbother!

  2. What an unusual story about the book dedicated to your stepbrother - of course I am wracking my brains, trying to work out which book it could be!

  3. I'll give you a clue: a favourite author of mine, a bit of an acquired taste, who is perhaps less popular now, but has a very loyal following, and the character he was named after is eponymous (although the stolen book wasn't the famous title, so it was just a coincidence, really; if it had been a copy of the book he was named after, I dread to think what it would have been worth - I was staggered by the price being asked for this book).

  4. Wonderful meme, Geraniumcat!! Now I picture you with Christopher Robin and Tigger by your side wherever you are! and I love the juxtaposition of Gerald Manly Hopkins to that!

    Very interesting story about your stepbrother, that must have been a shock to see the book there, considering it was stolen, and a little sad that you couldn't afford to buy it back. A lovely story about how your brother got named, though. And I have no idea to the book!

    Hope you're feeling better, we have a cold making the rounds here too in Ottawa.

  5. Susan, I was very sad not to buy the book back, because it was a great treasure, and I do hope it's gone to a good home.

  6. What an amazing, amazing story. If it were written as fiction, no one would believe it!