Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: books

My new favourite bookshop

The interior of the London Revew of Books BookshopDo you remember book tokens? Well, I was very lucky to get quite a few of them for my birthday. They now seem to resemble credit cards more than paper vouchers, but they still are the most wonderful present. I love buying books, and having tokens for that very purpose helps allay any guilt that I should be spending my money on something more practical. After all, I have plenty of books at home waiting to be read. Book tokens give me the best excuse possible to buy more books. Read the rest of this entry »

What would Joe DiMaggio do? – Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

After this blog’s one moment of international fame, I thought I’d make a brief return to the work of your friend and mine, Ernest Hemingway.

So, to bring you up to speed on my Hemingway adventure, on the advice of this parish’s Steven Harris, I picked up the complete short stories late last year in one of those beautiful Everyman hardback volumes, using my Borders vouchers just before the place went belly-up. Then, for Christmas, as part of an array of writing-inspired gifts, my wonderful Significant Other gave me Ernest Hemingway on writing, a brilliant little book compiling many of Hemingway’s thoughts on writing and the life of the writer. So…I’ve been keeping up.

Last week I popped into one of those strange discount bookshops, that sometimes have some incredible bargains and other times have nothing but hopeless junk. This time, I got lucky. I picked up the slim The Old Man and the Sea, the story that won Hemingway a Nobel Prize for Literature.

My verdict? Well, I loved it. It is one of those stories that will stay with me a long time, hopefully forever.

And I used the word ‘story’ rather than ‘book’ quite deliberately.

Here we have a real tale, a fable even. Here we have an old man, a young boy, a fish and little else. Everything is honed down and necessary, like a good story should be. In its 100 or so pages there is no room for flowery prose, or padding. And while it is set in contemporary times, the 1950s, it feels like the kind of story passed from generation to generation, as old as the act of fishing itself.

The one concession to the modern-day is baseball. Oh yes, there’s another reason why I loved reading this, apart from Hemingway’s prose and its brevity (I do love a good short book to rip through). The Old Man’s mind often wanders to baseball, and in particular the great Joe DiMaggio, wondering how the Yankees’ great centre fielder would deal with the Old Man’s situation, being the son of a fisherman himself.

So, concise, timeless and it namechecks baseball. It’s as if this was written for me. Don’t you just love getting that feeling from a book?

I haven’t read a whole lot around the book yet, but it is clear that this is a book that divides opinion. There seems to have been a fair bit of criticism in terms of its symbolism, and if it veers too far from the writer’s famed realism.

I’ll just let the man himself reply:

“No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. … I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things”.

In praise of the printed word

I’ve been absolutely demolishing books lately. Not literally, of course. I mean, book-burning is kind of frowned upon, isn’t it? No, I’ve just been reading and reading and reading. I guess it is the one plus-side to a niggly, long commute. I suspect that a number of truly wonderful books for Christmas has helped too. As has finally addressing the many unread books already occupying the ever-decreasing shelf space. And, er…me buying some more.

Or maybe it is just a phase. I do always read. A lot. But the medium isn’t always the same. Sometimes I just have to read a newspaper every day. Other times I realise I get most of my news online (although it’s not the same), or find my brain rotting from reading the free newspapers handed out in London and decide enough is enough.

Other times I’m all over magazines and, for want of a better word, journals. There is some fantastic magazine design out there – Wire magazine, in particular, and the late, lamented Plan B. There’s also some genuinely great writing hiding away in your old periodicals. The New Yorker is always a wonderful, informative and luxurious read. The New York Review of Books is similarly brain-nourishing. But it’s not all about mags from the Big Apple – how about When Saturday Comes and World Soccer, for pretty much peerless football coverage? Or Private Eye, still great after all these years?

But then, after a while, I realise that as immediate and bite-sized and shiny as magazines are, it is a good book that I really crave. A book that demands to be read, to be devoured. The sort of book that leaves you with a sense of loss when it’s over, because you just can’t read it anymore, that the story of those characters (real or imagined) has now finished.

And in an age of iPhones, iPads and all that jazz, and working in a role that falls directly under the banner of, ahem, ‘new media’, it’s interesting to me that all of this ‘old media’ still brings so much joy. These print formats are still vital to me. There is nothing quite like the feel, touch, smell, experience of books, magazines and newspapers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love computers and would be lost without the internet. But nothing will replace flicking through a newspaper in a pub, or a magazine in the garden on a sunny day, or an old book, curled up indoors on a winter’s night. Long may these simple pleasures last.

Image from Jasoon via Flickr

Sports pages I’ve enjoyed this week

Hi folks. Talking of sports pages, does anyone remember “Sportspages”, the sports book shop on Charing Cross Road, London? I really miss that place. It went out of business, sadly, but this site sprung up, so the name, if not the company, lives on. I miss having a whole bookshop full of sports books and magazines to browse through, though.

CORRECTION: Sportspages does live on, as Word of Sport. It’s well worth a look. See comments for more details.

Just a few bits and pieces from me this week:

Faith and Fear in Flushing is falling in loathe again with the Yankees. It’s funny how disliking rivals is as much a part of sport as loving your own team.

Tonight’s England game against Ukraine is only on the internet. Pitch Invasion and Twohundredpercent share their thoughts on it. I think it’s an interesting development, but I’m not yet convinced it will be a success. I doubt I’ll order it…I’m planning on going to a match today, and doubt I’ll be back in time. I’m sure many people are in the same boat. And with England already qualified for the World Cup this is far from a ‘must watch’ game. Bet365’s deal seems the best bet (excuse the horrible pun) for ordering it. Start an account with them and once you’ve deposited some cash you can watch the game for free.

What sports stuff have you enjoyed on the web this week? Will you be ordering the England game?