Monday, June 25, 2007

Goodies from NYRB Classics


I've confessed before that I have trouble resisting any of the titles in the New York Review of Books Classics collection. Several of the Toronto bookstores that I frequent carry them, so I can usually get my pick of them straight off the shelf. But there were a few that I particularly coveted that I hadn't yet come across which prompted me to put in a mail order. My NYRB parcel has arrived bearing the books you see pictured above, along with a complete catalogue that makes future mail order extravaganzas a distinct likelihood...

Why these three books?

Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf was a childhood favourite of mine and it is every bit as delightful as I remembered it to be (although admittedly only tangentially related to the Scottish life it purports to depict). I had a very vivid memory of the Robert Lawson illustration of Wee Gillis manfully shovelling down a large bowl of oatmeal each morning which proved to be accurate to the finest detail. It's interesting to contemplate what snippets of childhood reading stick with one and why. I wonder if I can attribute my lifelong fondness for oatmeal to my early encounters with this book?

I have been keen to read The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy since noting several positive mentions of it by both Terry Teachout and Our Girl in Chicago at About Last Night. The news that a NYRB edition of it had just been released containing an introduction penned by Teachout called for immediate acquisition. I'm sure that the book will wend its way into Toronto bookstores eventually, but I was too impatient to wait. Paris, Pernod, and promiscuity in the 1950s--how could I go wrong with this one? (Incidentally, I note that NYRB has also recently published one of my all time favourite Paris books: Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco--a gloriously witty and irreverent account of literary Paris in the 1920s. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of that one if you haven't already read it.)

Patrick Hamilton is also on my radar thanks to mentions by litbloggers. For example, Isabella at Magnificent Octopus and Ellis at The Sharp Side have been eloquent in singing Hamilton's praises. When I first resolved to read some of Hamilton's work I thought that I would begin with Hangover Square. But since NYRB has opted to publish Slaves of Solitude, it's the first of Hamilton's books to make it into my hands, and it's the book with which I will begin.

I'll keep you posted on how I fare with both Dundy and Hamilton.


Sara said...

Hi Kate,

We unfortunately don't have Canadian rights to The Dud Avocado, but we do have them for Montparnasse. Let's hope your bookstores have ordered plenty of stock.

And happy Canada Day!

Robert Earl Stewart said...

Ah, Wee Gillis. The copy that was read to me as a boy in the 70's and early 80's is the copy that was read to my mother growing up in Scotland in the 40's and 50's. It's the same copy I read to my two boys today, the cover is a plain beige cloth weave. It's pretty beat up, but we read it faithfully (a few times a month). And yes, I think it's contributed to my entire lineage's love of oatmeal and the collection of stag horn-handled knives that've passed down to our home.

LK said...

I just started the Dundy book -- keep us all posted on your thoughts!

And congrats on the radio interview. Way cool.

Kate S. said...

I'm sorry to hear that the lovely NYRB edition of The Dud Avocado won't be turning up in Canadian stores. I will advise my compatriots to order it directly from the U.S. as I did. But I will certainly keep my eye out for other fabulous NYRB titles on the shelves of my local bookstores!

What fun to come across a fellow fan of Wee Gillis and of oatmeal. I must ask my mom and dad if they also read the book growing up in Scotland. The copy I read as a child was checked out from the Saskatoon Public Library. But likely it was my mom or my dad who directed me toward it. It's lovely to hear that you're carrying on the tradition, reading it to your boys. I was just lamenting the fact that my nieces are now past the point of having such a book read aloud to them.

I've begun The Dud Avocado as well and will likely be ready to post something about it next week. I will watch for your thoughts on your blog! The radio interview was good fun.