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.