There is a well-known quote, often recited to me in the shop, about book collections being a reflection of their owner’s personality. Unfortunately, like many things these days, I can’t remember it or track it down online, which is a shame as I would have liked to have quoted it here in a week when I have been looking through the library of a local writer.
Amongst the many books on Philosophy, Psycho-Geography and Literary Criticism, all most worthy and slow to sell, there is a more than a smattering of well-appointed literature, by which I mean books that look good on the shelf, that one should read, but never does (I am putting Ezra Pound in here, with, Dostoevsky and I am embarrassed to say, James Joyce). However, there are also well preserved and occasionally signed editions of John Banville and Julian Barnes and many women writers such as Elizabeth Bowen, Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters, plus a very rare thing: poetry written by women. This I find easy to sell and very hard to source, so I am pleased to swell my shelves with First Edition copies of Alice Oswald’s ‘Dart’ and ‘Falling awake’, chunky paperback editions of Emily Dickenson and Jane Barker. In a quiet moment I have sneakily enjoyed a new poet to me, Kathleen Jamie and her lovely lines from the poem Landfall:
When we walk at the coast
and notice, above the sea,
a single ragged swallow
veering towards the earth–
and blossom-scented breeze,
can we allow ourselves to fail
I won’t draw any conclusions, at least publicly, on the very fine state of this book collector’s mind, but perhaps his books have improved mine. I might just do a little sorting of my shelves though, in case I am run over by a bus next week. I wouldn’t like to go out with all that Georgette Heyer on my shelves.