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Unravelling Burushaski

Unravelling Burushaski

When I was young I thought I knew exactly where the real Shangri-La was. It was the land of Hunza, in north-west Pakistan, or if not, then Gilgit or Chitral, and those magical names remained with me as I grew up. Years later I was clearing out my father’s things and discovered a worn, spineless, much-used book on his shelves. It was called Language Hunting in the Karakorum. More years passed before I discovered where and what the Karakorum are and where my identification of Hunza with Shangri-La had come from.
SF magazine subscribers only

The Joy of Sex

In the late 1780s the librarian at the Bohemian castle of Dux, fifty miles from Prague, was trying to finish his autobiography. His employer, Count Joseph Karl von Waldstein, chamberlain to the Emperor, was an amiable man, but in his absence his jealous major- domo Feldkirchner made the librarian’s life a misery. The servants disregarded his orders, the cook served him cold, inedible meals, dogs were encouraged to bark outside his room at night, and during the day a hunting horn with a peculiarly unpleasant tone was sounded at intervals. Everyone in the castle was encouraged to laugh at the elderly man’s over-meticulous manners and old-fashioned dress. All in all, it was remarkable that Giacomo Casanova succeeded in completing his masterpiece – though despite its enormous length it still ends so abruptly that there might have been a few more pages to come.
SF magazine subscribers only
A Place to Call His Own

A Place to Call His Own

‘He had thought deeply about this house, and knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted, in the first place, a real house, made with real materials. He didn’t want mud for walls, earth for floor, tree branches for rafters and grass for roof. He wanted wooden walls, all tongue-and-groove. He wanted a galvanised roof and a wooden ceiling . . . The kitchen would be a shed in the yard; a neat shed, connected to the house by a covered way. And his house would be painted. The roof would be red, the outside walls ochre and the windows white.’
SF magazine subscribers only
Peak Experience

Peak Experience

I have a childhood memory of being ill in bed, bored and grumpy until my mother came up with an idea of genius. This must have been in late 1953 or 1954 because we had a children’s version of The Ascent of Everest and, like most people at the time, were captivated by the con- quest of the world’s highest mountain. My mother showed me how to position my knees under the eiderdown, roped two miniature naked pink plastic figures together with blue wool and we re-enacted the ascent. Through the Khumbu icefall, up the South Col and the Hillary Step and on to the summit. The magic of those names.
SF magazine subscribers only

Hearing Distant Thunder

A friend at college many decades ago was the daughter of a respected Kensington GP who was deeply involved in the history of the area. On one occasion when I was visiting she mentioned that her father was discreetly relieved at the recent death of a particularly eccentric and demanding patient, a novelist who, as a leading light also of the local history society, had had to be treated with especial tact. ‘Who was she?’ I asked. ‘Oh, she’s mildly famous, I think, but you’ve probably not heard of her. I wouldn’t have except that she’s been the bane of Daddy’s life. Rachel Ferguson.’
SF magazine subscribers only

What’s in a Name?

I was once interviewing Kingsley Amis when he mused, apropos of nothing, ‘Quinn . . . a Manx name, isn’t it?’ I mumbled that I thought it was Irish myself, since that’s where my forebears came from. ‘Yes, from the Isle of Man,’ he continued, ‘derived from McGuinn.’ Was it? The curious thing is that thirty years later I still haven’t bothered to find out. It feels of no more consequence to me than taking my own fingerprint. Amis’s friend Anthony Powell, a connoisseur of pedigree, would have been able to identify the name’s origin and place it exactly in the social pecking order. Not high, I imagine.
SF magazine subscribers only
Episode 32: Picnic at Hanging Rock & Other Stories

Episode 32: Picnic at Hanging Rock & Other Stories

‘Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves.’ It’s a scorching St Valentine’s Day in 1900 when three boarding-school girls and a teacher disappear during a day-trip to Hanging Rock in the arid Australian outback. Fact or fiction? Misadventure or murder? Accident or assassination? Join us on our latest literary podcast adventure as we delve into the mystery, history and hysteria of Joan Lindsay’s classic Australian Gothic novel with Kate Young, author of The Little Library Cookbook. From the slow-seeping horror of Hanging Rock to coming-of-age tales of tuck boxes and midnight feasts, high jinks and humour, Kate guides the Slightly Foxed magazine team through the school-story tradition and asks why it’s such fertile ground for fiction. On the way we visit the Chalet School, Malory Towers and St Trinian’s, and slip into darker territory with Decline and Fall, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
44 minutes
R is for Robinson, Marilynne | From the Slightly Foxed archives

R is for Robinson, Marilynne | From the Slightly Foxed archives

‘Once in a blue moon an encounter with a new book can be like falling in love’ Ariane Bankes, Slightly Foxed Issue 20 Greetings from SF, where we hope our contributors’ articles introduce you to a whole host of books to fall in love with. Or perhaps, at times, the magazine’s reading recommendations reacquaint you with beloved books you might like to revisit. Whether or not you’re new to the novels of Marilynne Robinson, Ariane Bankes states her case for picking up a copy of Housekeeping (and following this with Robinson’s equally acclaimed Gilead series) in her article from SF Issue 20. Please find a link to read the full article below, and we do hope you’ll enjoy it.
1st June 2021

Slightly Foxed Issue 70: From the Editors

Looking back over the past strange and difficult months, it’s cheering to see some of the good things that have come out of the ‘new normal’. One is Bookshop.org, a website launched last autumn to enable independent bookshops to continue trading online through the pandemic, which generated £1 million profit for indie bookshops in its first four months. It has enabled many a struggling bookshop to avoid furloughing staff and help pay its running costs and we hope it will gather strength in the online fight to challenge the behemoth that is Amazon. Definitely worth checking out.
- Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood
From the editors
Beautiful books bound in duck-egg blue | Plain Foxed Editions

Beautiful books bound in duck-egg blue | Plain Foxed Editions

‘Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves.’ Greetings from SF HQ, where this line from Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris is ringing in our ears as we survey our book-filled scene, roll up our sleeves and spring clean the office in preparation for deliveries of yet more delicious books next month.  If you’d like to help us clear a few shelves and take the opportunity to stock up on any Plain Foxed Editions you might have had your eye on, now is the time. By way of thanks for your support over the last year, we’re providing a special offer when you buy pairs or sets of books from this perfectly pocketable series until Friday 7 May. We do hope you enjoy browsing our bookshelves.
Going Solo | The Battle of Athens – the Twentieth of April

Going Solo | The Battle of Athens – the Twentieth of April

A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones: an autobiography must therefore, unless it is to become tedious, be extremely selective, discarding all the inconsequential incidents in one’s life and concentrating upon those that have remained vivid in the memory . . . In the second part of the book, which deals with the time I went flying with the RAF in the Second World War, there was no need to select or discard because every moment was, to me at any rate, totally enthralling.
Going Solo | From the Slightly Foxed bookshelves

Going Solo | From the Slightly Foxed bookshelves

Greetings from Hoxton Square where we’re hurtling through the spring quarter at pace. When looking at our diaries to plan the week ahead, we were surprised to find that we’ve already landed on 20 April, which, this year, marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Athens. The Battle of Athens (also known as the Battle of Piraeus Harbour) is the name given by Roald Dahl to a dog-fighting air battle, fought between the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe towards the end of the Battle of Greece. Dahl describes this airborne adventure in his second memoir, Going Solo, which is available in a handsome Slightly Foxed Edition. He was clearly a brilliant pilot, and his account of what it was like to confront the enemy from the cramped cockpit of a Hurricane, with minimal training in how to fly it, is stomach-churning.
Episode 31: The Magic of Angela Carter

Episode 31: The Magic of Angela Carter

Imagination, influence and the invention of infernal desire machines . . . Edmund Gordon, biographer of Angela Carter, guides the Slightly Foxed team through her colourful works and explores the wider realms of magical realism. Witty and wilfully idiosyncratic, Carter conjured sex and death from fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber, used her Somerset Maugham Award money to leave her husband and go to Japan to write, and absorbed the Latin American influences of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. We hear how she enlisted the Marquis de Sade as an ally of feminism, embraced pulp genres and opened doors for David Mitchell, China Miéville, Helen Oyeyemi and more, while always attending to the grammar of the folk story. And, to finish, there are the usual wide-ranging recommendations for reading off the beaten track.
43 minutes
Q is for Quiller-Couch, Arthur | From the Slightly Foxed archives

Q is for Quiller-Couch, Arthur | From the Slightly Foxed archives

Our series of recommendations for good reading via the magazine’s archives has brought us to a letter of the alphabet we thought could prove troublesome. However, all fears have been eased as it offers up a writer Daphne du Maurier ‘admired among all others’, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, whose works were published under the pseudonym ‘Q’. Du Maurier was far from Q’s only admirer. Helene Hanff enjoyed a volume of lectures by Quiller-Couch, and was inspired to seek out all the titles he recommended. This led to a correspondence with an antiquarian bookshop in London that lasted many years, and these letters became the beloved 84, Charing Cross Road. Helene pays her debt to her reading mentor in a subsequent memoir, Q’s Legacy. Derek Parker states his own case for Q’s legacy in this piece from Slightly Foxed Issue 21. Please find a link to read the full article below. We do hope you’ll enjoy it. 

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