Whisky’s great. The Highlands, when it’s sunny, are great. Castles are great. Getting up at 6am and not going to bed until past midnight for several days in a row (and having to maintain the public face of the company the entire time) is not so great. But copious quantities of a broad range of excellent free single malts tends to make up for it.
Anyway, I’ve been out of web contact and out of news contact. All I know that’s happened is floods at Glastonbury (my brother, driving security guards around, is fine – there has been no word from Europhobia’s Steve, so I can only assume he has been swept to his untimely doom somewhere amidst the plains of Somerset to join those foolhardy ancients who attempted to assault the fabled Isle of Avalon). Oh, and Britain is once again massively overly optimistic about both its tennis and rugby skills.
So, a quick flick, and Tim Worstall’s latest britblog roundup points me in the direction of Infinitives Unsplit, which may or may not be written by our dear semi-regular comments chappie Hew BG (who may or may not himself have connections to a certain region of Scotland, which is also a somewhat stereotypical Scottish name, through which I passed the other day). Good stuff – witty and in character throughout, so have a gander.
Thanks to a combination of blog-tracking site Technorati‘s recent changes being RUBBISH and the dear semi-anonymous blogger neglecting to link here on invoking my wondrous pseudonym I’ve only just become aware of having been “tigged” for that book meme – ’twas a fair while back now and all, and entirely possible someone else did as well, but Technorati’s recent changes are, as I believe I pointed out not overly long ago, RUBBISH.
Anyway – the whisky seems to have caused some rambling (currently supping on a wonderful 16 year old Mortlach – a beautifully smooth, amber-hued Speyside single malt which slips down an absolute treat). To wit, and in the absence of any knowledge of global events of the last four days, books:
1. How many books do I own?
At my London townhouse (aka crummy flat with no sodding space for more shelves) I’d estimate in the range of 900-1,200, with a similar number at the parental abode down south. Most are decent, but at the parental pad there is a sizable collection of trash fantasy – some of which (Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, David Eddings etc.) is actually surprisingly good.
2. Whatï¿½s the last book I bought?
Some regulars may recall I was at Hay-on-Wye a few weeks back, and I have refrained from buying any more since then. Thusly, I got a whole bunch at once:
- Swift – A Critical Edition of the Major Works (in the Oxford Authors series – good edition).
- Sterne – The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (because it’s about time I got around to reading that, really).
- Livy – The History of Rome From its Foundation (Books XXI-XLV, split in the 1970s Penguin Classics range edited by Betty Radice into The War With Hannibal and Rome and the Mediterranean – I’m on the lookout for the complete set).
- Goethe – Faust (Norton Critical Edition, 1976 – rather well annotated and with a selection of essays on the text and some of Goethe’s letters at the back).
- The Mabinogion – a bunch of rather quaint Welsh myths, handed down orally over the centuries and plagiarised quite horribly by the likes of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Mallory in creating the Arthur legends. Quite fun.
- R.B. Mowatt – The Diplomatic Relations of Great Britain and the United States (Edward Arnold & Co., 1925) – a random spot while wandering, but at only 50p I couldn’t resist finding out what everyone reckoned about the “Special Relationship” before that term had even – as far as I’m aware – been coined.
- Prefaces to Peace, A Symposium consisting of the following: One World by Wendell L. Wilkie, The Problems of Lasting Peace by Herbert Hoover and Hugh Gibson, The Price of Free World Victory by Henry A. Wallace and Blue-print for Peace by Sumner Welles (a fascinating collection of post-WWI essays published in the midst of WWII – rather unusual, and a bargain at only 50p).
3. Whatï¿½s the last book I read?
Homer – The Iliad – Martin Hammond’s transaltion for Penguin. It seemed OK to start with, but then got turgid fast (the translation, I mean, not the book itself, obviously). It was, however, the first time I’d read it (ridiculous, I know – especially as I’ve technically got a classical education), so I reckoned that I needed something fairly straightforward (prose rather than verse etc.) to keep tabs on what was going on. Wolfgang Peterson’s take, I reckoned, would not quite be enough to prepare me for leaping into Chapman. Chapman is, however, sitting waiting on the shelf. If Keats liked that version enough to write a poem about it, I reckon it must have something going for it.
4. What are the five books that mean the most to me?
Rather than content, I’ll go for the collection.
My oldest is a guidebook to the shires of England dating from the mid 17th century (1648 if I recall – a rather odd time to be knocking out that sort of thing, not to mention very early), but was sadly mutilated by some idiot many moons ago and is thus missing all the illustrations, maps etc. Nonetheless, it remains a little piece of history, still has its original leather binding and only cost me a fiver.
The most valuable I own – and a superb, if somewhat overly pompous read to boot – is probably the two-volume 1820 leather-bound pocked-sized collected edition of Samuel Johnson’s The Rambler, in rather fine condition – a near runner-up being the two volume edition of Vanity Fair, complete with the original illustrations from the author’s own hand, which I picked up for four quid about ten years ago from an unsuspecting bric-a-brac shop. Oh, and my first edition (with perfect dust jacket) of Under Milk Wood. (Which I accidentally – honest – stole while a schoolboy… but it did help spark the book collecting bug.)
Other than that, my first editions (English language) of Solzhenitsyn’s Lenin in Zurich and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being – both complete with near-mint dust jackets – and my signed copies of Umberto Eco’s Baudolino and Alan Clark’s history of the Conservative Party (sadly not the Diaries, but it is personalised, which is nice). Oh, and my growing collection of Thomas Carlyle – in particular the 1849 one-volume edition of his Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches with Elucidations – oh, and if anyone comes across volumes VI, VII and VIII of his History of Friedrich II of Prussia (Chapman and Hall Limited, London, 1897 – blue/green cloth cover), let me know.
I suppose I really should add on to that the two I’ve written, but that would involve revealing my utterly uninteresting real-life identity. (No, you haven’t heard of me or them, although they should be available in most decent-sized branches of Waterstones and both received good reviews.) Well, that and the fact that I’ve done far more than merely five. Ho-hum.
At which juncture I am supposed to nominate five other people to do this, but everyone’s already done it weeks ago, so I shan’t bother. Instead I shall point you to the discussion of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and invite you to join in – it seems somewhat to have stalled while I’ve been away.
Back to more political type stuff tomorrow, probably. For now – Richard Whiteley’s died. (Europhobia: Bringing you the news that matters…)