Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Summer Vacation Book Report

Vacation time travel is best if you end up behind where you started.

My time in England and Wales began smack in the 21st century with a presentation on semantics and content architecture at University College London. It ended smack in the 18th century with an antiquarian edition of The History of Sir Charles Grandison from Charing Cross Road. Most definitely the right direction!

Vision of the Future (Hint: It's broken.)
Blackwell's bookshop in London has the famous Espresso "books on demand" machine. The first image shows the "Books on Demand" center with its samples on display. The second is a close-up of the machine itself. You might not be able to see the sign saying that it's broken.

Vision of the Past
This little bookshop in Wales had sedimentary layers of books, just like the rock formations there did. It was the hidden treasure in a town with several antiseptic bookstores. This shop had odd hours, delightfully treacherous aisles snaking between stacks and layers of books, and a knowledgeable and charming owner who smelled gently of liquor early in the morning. The one other customer in the store turned around and sent huge piles of books tumbling from several directions. I bought my book of Welsh fables here.

What I Read on My Summer Vacation
I read my first No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel on my Kindle while on my Welsh walkabout. I was predisposed to like it because a friend recommended the series and because the possessive is always used correctly. This was probably an overwrought vacation reaction, but it reminded me a little of Trollope in its style, at once masterly and deceptively simple.

I also looked for a book that I would never see in the United States. My find this time was Madresfield, a historical biography of the house that inspired Evelyn Waugh to write Brideshead Revisited and that was subject to the lawsuit that inspired Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Bleak House (a very very favorite novel). I never imagined those two authors in the same sentence, let alone the same house!

Alas, now I am reading my bills for my trip.

1 comment:

  1. I've been meaning to respond to this for some time because your comment about The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency reminding you of Trollope threw me when I first read that statement, but upon further thought, I know exactly what you mean. It's the inner monologues. The books are extremely short, but pages are spent inside the heads of some of the characters. The first time I read Trollope, I was blown away by how much he seemed to understand how women think. In the Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith allows us to enter the thoughts of several characters, and we are allowed to get to know a culture in a way that even a long vacation in Botswana would never allow us to do.