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Following the Music

As deputy literary editor of the Independent on Sunday in the mid-1990s, it was my job to organize and compile several of the routine book columns and features every week. One such was the long-running ‘The Book that Changed Me’. It involved typing up a short telephone interview with a literary or other type of celebrity; less frequently, the contributor would write the copy themselves. It can be difficult to drum up fresh ideas once a column has been underway for some time, but we never ran short of suggestions and contribu­tions. One highlight for me was hearing Christopher Lee declaim at length down the line in Elvish, in his fanatical enthusiasm for The Lord of the Rings. I can only imagine how delighted he must have been to be offered the part of Saruman.
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The Sins of the Father

The Sins of the Father

A. A. Milne’s son musing with mixed feelings on his childhood as ‘Christopher Robin’; Daphne du Maurier’s daughter recalling life at Menabilly, the model for Rebecca’s Manderley . . . I’ve always been drawn to memoirs by the children of famous writers. They may not be as stirring as the life stories of the writers themselves, the Trollopes and Dickenses who emerge triumphant from youthful adversity, but those whose lives are lived in the shadow of celebrated parents have struggles and sufferings of their own. It can be as much a burden as an honour to bear a well-known name, and I’m intrigued to find out how they carry it.
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A Fresh Take on the ’45

Flemington by Violet Jacob was recommended to me by my grand­parents. Posthumously. When writing my biography of John Buchan, I came across a letter he wrote in 1911 to the author, soon after the book was published: ‘My wife and I are overcome with admiration for [Flemington] and we both agree that it is years since we read so satisfying a book. I think it the best Scots romance since The Master of Ballantrae. The art of it is outstanding.’
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Through a Glass, Madly

In my day, the A-level Spanish syllabus included a few score of the key pages of Don Quijote – windmills mistaken for giants, labourers for lords, prostitutes for princesses, and so on. When I got to univer­sity I found that we were supposed to know the whole novel. I struggled through most of it but couldn’t handle its digressions and longueurs. Cervantes could veer off at tangents and not return for a hundred pages or more. My tutors encouraged me to persevere. After all, Cervantes was revered as Spain’s Shakespeare.
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‘Your very good health’ | New Year Reading Recommendations

‘Your very good health’ | New Year Reading Recommendations

‘Your very good health,’ Brian said, raising his glass of champagne in the trio’s direction. ‘And by the way, gentlemen, I am not an old queen.’ He paused, forcing the men to look at him. ‘I am the Empress of Ireland!’ || Christopher Robbins, The Empress of Ireland Warm wishes from Hoxton Square, where we’d like to thank you all for your support throughout the past year – and raise a glass to good health and good reading in 2022. If you’d like some reading recommendations to brighten January, and help us clear a few shelves to make space for yet more delicious titles along the way, please do browse our selection of offers and highlights . . .
W is for Warner, Sylvia Townsend | From the Slightly Foxed archives

W is for Warner, Sylvia Townsend | From the Slightly Foxed archives

Greetings from Slightly Foxed, and a very happy New Year to you all. Before we look ahead to this year’s crop of new publications, we’re taking stock, delving through our bank of back issues and sharing some good reading from the archives. Sylvia Townsend Warner’s joie de vivre – evident in her diaries and described by Jonathan Law in his article from Slightly Foxed Issue 48 – is especially appealing this January.  ‘In 1927 Sylvia Townsend Warner was given a smart notebook by a friend; a day out prompted a few hesitant jottings and, before she knew it, she was off . . .’ If you have received a new diary this Christmas, or if we can tempt you with our selection of smart Slightly Foxed notebooks, then perhaps Sylvia can provide inspiration when faced with the blank page. Whatever the case, and wherever we find you, we do hope you’ll enjoy dipping into her life and writing.
Last orders, please | Seasonal reading from Slightly Foxed

Last orders, please | Seasonal reading from Slightly Foxed

Warm wishes from Slightly Foxed where wrapping paper is running off rolls, ribbon is spiralling from bobbins and the final post bags are filling up as we ready ourselves to close the office for Christmas on Wednesday afternoon. Tomorrow (Tuesday 21 December) is the last advised posting date for First Class mail to arrive at destinations in the UK by Christmas, and Wednesday 22 December is the last day for Special Delivery. Please do place any last orders for Christmas as soon as possible, making sure to select First Class or Next Day Delivery as your postal option on the website or over the phone. We’ll send out some cheerful missives to keep you all fully foxed while we’re away but otherwise we look forward to catching up with you when we’re back at our desks on Wednesday 5 January. Thank you all for your continued support and enthusiasm throughout the year.
The Empress of Ireland | Noël Coward visited Tangier

The Empress of Ireland | Noël Coward visited Tangier

My routine was to stay in the house and write most days, and then go out with Brian for dinner, either to a restaurant or the home of one of his friends. La Belle Hélène was the bar and res­taurant we most frequented, owned by a strangely glamorous, middle-aged French lesbian with a face of elephant hide. She was said to have bought the establishment with money earned during a long circus career as a motorcyclist on the flaming wall of death. We ate elaborately at La Belle Hélène and drank copi­ously, and Brian indulged us extravagantly at lunch and dinner.
‘An exquisite book’ | Letters to Michael

‘An exquisite book’ | Letters to Michael

An antidote to troubled times and a perfect Christmas present. ‘Between early 1945 and autumn 1947, Charles Phillipson, an illustrator in the publicity department of an electrical company, wrote 150 letters to his young son, Michael – amusing drawings of daily life accompanied by a few cheerful words . . . His wife, Marjorie, kept them all and they have been gathered into an exquisite book, Letters to Michael, published by Slightly Foxed.’ Country Life, 2021 advent calendar issue

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