Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Books - One thing leads to another

So this is really just an excuse to reference the Fixx -- one of the better New Wave groups from my youth -- and their hit single.

But more seriously, as one learns about one author or another, it almost always leads down another pathway and before you know it you have yet another huge list of books that you just have to read.  Anyway, that's how it is for me.  This has certainly come up as I have begun the undertaking of documenting all my books.

Perhaps one of the more promising box sets I own is tucked away on the very top shelf (quite hard to reach actually).  It is comprised of 10 novels by female writers, all out on Virago Press.  I must have gotten a great deal for it while still in the UK (probably through the Guardian).

I'll go ahead and list the books here, as well as individually where they would belong in the alphabetized lists:
R Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God 
Kate O'Brien The Ante-Room
Elaine Dundy The Dud Avocado
Vita Sackville-West No Signposts In The Sea
Elizabeth Von Arnim The Enchanted April
E.M. Delafield The Diary of a Provincial Lady
Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence
Angela Carter The Magic Toyshop
R Willa Cather My Antonia
Rosamund Lehmann Invitation to the Waltz

Needless to say, this set is long OOP.

Maybe at or around the same time, Virago came out with another box set, which I unfortunately do not own.
It was comprised of:
R Barbara Comyns Our Spoons Came From Woolworths 
Josephine Johnson Now in November 
R.M. Dashwood Provincial Daughter 
R Molly Keane Good Behaviour 
Angela Carter Fireworks 
Rebecca West The Fountain Overflows 
Mary Webb Precious Bane
Pat Barke Liza's England 
Kate O'Brien The Land of Spices 
Vita Sackville-West The Edwardians

I don't think I will try to acquire the whole thing (quite expensive now) but I will probably pick up Good Behaviour by Molly Keane (and I already have Carter's Fireworks).  The rest, particularly Barbara Comyns, I'll try to get from the library (assuming I've made sufficient progress on clearing out my other books!)

So this led me to wonder what else had Barbara Comyns and Molly Keane written.  (And of course, I just found out that West's The Fountain Overflows is actually part of a trilogy and that Elizabeth Bowen (barely represented on Virago and not in these box sets) has many other highly regarded novels (beyond The House in Paris) that I don't own and must look into.  It truly never ends...)

Comyns definitely looks like a writer that it would be better to read once and then return to the library.  It seems that nearly all her core novels can be found in local libraries, so I will try to get to them before I move on (or at least the ones that cannot be found in Toronto libraries!*).

Barbara Comyns
R Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950) - @UBC
R Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (1955) - @SFU
R The Vet's Daughter (1959) - @UBC
R Out of the Red and into the Blue (1960) - @VPL
R The Skin Chairs (1962) - @Burnaby
Birds in Tiny Cages (1964) (apparently long OOP and only available in UK libraries)
R A Touch of Mistletoe (1967) - @SFU
R The Juniper Tree (1985)
R Mr. Fox (1987) - @SFU
R The House of Dolls (1989) - @SFU

There was a very appealing 5 novel box set for Molly Keane (probably from Virago) but the cost (outside the UK at least) was just too high.  As indicated above, probably I will just pick up Good Behaviour, which sounds up my alley, and read the others from the library.

Molly Keane (or M. J. Farrell)
R Taking Chances (1929) - @Burnaby
R Mad Puppetstown (1931) - @SFU
R Conversation Piece (1932) - @Burnaby
R Devoted Ladies (1934)
R Full House (1935) - @Burnaby
R The Rising Tide (1937)
R Two Days in Aragon (1941) - @SFU
R Loving Without Tears (1951) - @Burnaby
R Treasure Hunt (1952) - @Burnaby (a novelization of her play)
R Good Behaviour (1981)
R Time After Time (1983)
R Loving and Giving - aka Queen Lear (1988)

Finally, I will go ahead and list Iris Murdoch, though it will be years before I attempt to go through her ouevre (keeping in mind that everyone says the last one is best left unread).
R Under the Net (1954)
The Flight from the Enchanter (1956)
The Sandcastle (1957)
The Bell (1958)
A Severed Head (1961)
An Unofficial Rose (1962)
The Unicorn (1963)
The Italian Girl (1964)
The Red and the Green (1965)
The Time of the Angels (1966)
The Nice and the Good (1968)
Bruno's Dream (1969)
A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970)
An Accidental Man (1971)
The Black Prince (1973)
The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974)
O A Word Child (1975)
Henry and Cato (1976)
O The Sea, the Sea (1978) (winner of the Booker Prize)
Nuns and Soldiers (1980)
The Philosopher's Pupil (1983)
The Good Apprentice (1985)
The Book and the Brotherhood (1987)
The Message to the Planet (1989)
The Green Knight (1993)
Jackson's Dilemma (1995)

My mother had 4 or 5 of these in her collection, and I think I held onto them for a while, but finally abandoned them in one of my many moves.

Edit to add: Well, I just couldn't resist peeking at, and the 5 novel set of Keane was priced absurdly low, even with shipping to Canada, so I buckled.  This includes her final three novels (Good Behaviour, Time After Time and Loving and Giving) as well as Devoted Ladies (about lesbianism!) and The Rising Tide.  These perhaps are the best of the bunch, though it seems a couple of others could have been substituted in for Rising Tide.  I thought Taking Chances was pretty good, even a bit risque for a novel published in Ireland in 1929 (right before book censorship came back in a big way), and fairly non-judgmental about two characters who kind of smash up other people's lives (much less judgmental than Fitzgerald is about Tom and Daisy for instance, though of course they actually killed somebody).  It was definitely a more cohesive novel than Mad Puppetstown, which gets quite choppy about 2/3rd in -- and has an unearned happy ending.

* Interesting that Toronto has quite a few books by Barbara Comyns, but nearly all are reference books, which hardly helps me.  (Ironically, they do have The Juniper Tree, which is apparently impossible to find in the Lower Mainland.)  The situation with Molly Keane is only slightly better in terms of circulating books, though Iris Murdoch will not be a problem.  So perhaps I will read more of these than I expected over the next year...

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