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Literary Gifts & Seasonal Treats | Slightly Foxed Readers’ Catalogue

Literary Gifts & Seasonal Treats | Slightly Foxed Readers’ Catalogue

Warm wishes from SF HQ. Parcels and packages are flying out from Hoxton Square to readers at a great pace and, whether they are literary gifts for a fellow bibliophile or seasonal treats that have caught your eye, we do hope they bring much cheer. Gift ideas for booklovers are abundant here at Slightly Foxed, and we hope that our online Winter Readers’ Catalogue (which includes our pick of books from other publishers’ bookshelves) provides some interesting and unusual present solutions. Or perhaps you may be tempted to stock up on some reading for yourself.
Episode 38: Literary Drinking: Alcohol in the Lives and Work of Writers

Episode 38: Literary Drinking: Alcohol in the Lives and Work of Writers

Booze as muse or a sure road to ruin? In this month’s episode, William Palmer – author of In Love with Hell: Drink in the Lives and Work of Eleven Writers – and Henry Jeffreys – author of Empire of Booze and The Cocktail Dictionary – join the Slightly Foxed team to mull over why alcohol is such an enduring feature in literature. From the omnipresence of cocktails in John Cheever’s short stories and ritual aperitifs in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels to Mr Picksniff falling into Mrs Todger’s fireplace in Martin Chuzzlewit and P. G. Wodehouse’s hangover remedies for booze-soaked Bertie Wooster, drinks are social signifiers in fiction. Charles Dickens was fond of sherry cobblers and Jean Rhys knocked back Pernod in Paris, while Malcolm Lowry was a dipsomaniac and Flann O’Brien dreamed up alcoholic ink for the Irish Times, rendering readers drunk from fumes. We ask why gin denotes despair and port is always jovial, and question whether hitting the bottle helps or hinders the creative process in writers.
41 minutes
A Telegraph Best Book of 2021 | Letters to Michael

A Telegraph Best Book of 2021 | Letters to Michael

We are absolutely delighted to report that copies of our recently published Special Release – Letters to Michael: a father writes to his son 1945–1947 – have been flying out of Foxed HQ to readers around the world this month, many of them gift wrapped in good brown paper with hand-written notes to be opened on Christmas Day. This is thanks, in part, to glowing write-ups by Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail and Iona McLaren for the Telegraph a few weeks ago, and inclusion in a round-up of the very best books for 2021 by Telegraph critics this weekend. Thanks too to our bookselling friends at Daunt, John Sandoe, Hatchards and to many other wonderful independent shopkeepers up and down the country who have been creating delicious-looking displays featuring the book, pressing it into the hands of customers and selecting it for their seasonal catalogues.
1st March 2022

Slightly Foxed Issue 73: From the Editors

After a long winter of disruptions, there’s definitely a feeling of spring in the air at Slightly Foxed. We know we’re not out of the woods yet where Covid is concerned, but the start of the year has been busy, and we’re still enjoying the novelty of meeting in the office instead of facing unflattering versions of ourselves on Zoom. Outside in the square the trees are just coming into bud, and the tatty old London pigeons are bowing and flirting on the ledge outside the office window.
- Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood
From the editors
A Vintage Life

A Vintage Life

Anne Fadiman’s memoir of her father originated as one of several ideas for an article that she pitched to an editor at Harper’s magazine. ‘I think I could tell the story of my father’s life and character through wine,’ she proposed. ‘The Oenophile’s Daughter!’ he exclaimed. His suggested title was jettisoned when they discovered that hardly anyone else knew what ‘oenophile’ meant, or how to spell or pro­nounce it. And soon afterwards the editor parted ways with Harper’s. But the idea took root; and Anne Fadiman realized that she wanted to write a book on the subject, not an article. In many ways her eventual title, The Wine Lover’s Daughter, is a misnomer; The Wine Loving Father is a more obvious description – though of course, in telling us about her father, she also tells us about herself.

On the Slime Line

Those of us who prize a good literary thriller well above the price of rubies play a game resembling Fantasy Football. In our version we argue as to who are the top five thriller writers, then brood over which is their best book. For myself, the American author Martin Cruz Smith has never moved out of the top five, and his superlative Polar Star (1989), a story of murder and espionage on a Soviet fish-processing ship in the Bering Sea, is the book I most revisit.
SF magazine subscribers only

The Elephant Man in the Room

It would appear that many people love ‘clinical writing’, a distinct genre that embraces doctors, diseases and patients. As a medic I tend to avoid this territory. Stories about medical practice lean either to the sententious (e.g. A. J. Cronin’s The Citadel) or the facetious (Richard Gordon’s Doctor in the House), while the current big sellers favour medical heroics in war zones or harrowing tales from that other front-line of combat, the NHS. Also, I don’t much care for the doctors who appear in novels. Who would employ Dr Tertius Lydgate, the idealistic young physician in Middlemarch, whose pro­fessional ambitions are so easily thwarted by the pretty, but shallow, Rosamund Vincy? And what about Dr Zhivago? Poet, lover and counter-revolutionary but, let’s face it, not much of a physician.
SF magazine subscribers only
Death and the Duchess

Death and the Duchess

I’m not usually tempted by biographies of royals, living or not long dead. They tend to be written in deferential tones and I prefer some­thing neutral or, better yet, something with teeth. However, twenty years ago, when I was preparing to write my novel Gone with the Windsors, I read a huge number of books about the Duke and Duchess. Panegyrics, hatchet jobs, you name it. Hugo Vickers’s Behind Closed Doors had yet to be published. When it came out in 2011, I felt compelled to read it. Vickers had no axe to grind. He hadn’t known the Windsors. Could he deliver the sharp-eyed skinny?
SF magazine subscribers only

‘Hold on tight . . . and believe’

As I walked through the quiet twilight streets of the little Scottish fishing town in which I live, I unexpectedly came across two figures lounging on a pair of deckchairs. One was dressed in dark trousers, a red tartan jacket and matching tam-o’-shanter, while the other wore a silver sequined dress and an elaborate blonde wig. Although they were both strangely motionless, it was only when I got much closer that I realized these were not actually living people. They were dressed-up plastic skeletons, their gaping mouths laughing, their bony fingers pointing at me. How macabre, I thought, how grue­some. How very Stephen King.
SF magazine subscribers only
Contemplating Eternity

Contemplating Eternity

Although I want to tell you about a poem, let us begin with objects. I would like you to come with me first to Birmingham, to visit the Staffordshire Hoard. These rich and intricately worked treasures, most of which were once decorations for weapons, conjure images of kings and warriors in the Dark Ages: Anglo-Saxon noblemen, proud and brave, the gold and garnets on their war gear flashing in the light of the sixth-century sun. The few objects that are not overtly martial are reli­gious, and these show us how Christianity and paganism overlapped in England at this time: there are Christian crosses in the hoard, but they are decorated with the interlaced plants and animals characteristic of the pagan Germanic peoples. Perhaps most of all, though, the Staffordshire Hoard makes one think of passing, inheritance and decline. Some of the objects are decorated with re-used Roman glass, a reminder both of Roman technology and of Rome’s fall; more poignantly still, the majority of the items were systematically dismantled or broken up before they were buried, the precious metals and stones separated from the iron, wood, bone and cloth they once adorned. There must have been a reason for this, but that reason is lost, and those who understood it have been dust for centuries.
SF magazine subscribers only
Death by Chocolate

Death by Chocolate

Five years ago, I visited Pablo Neruda’s former home in Valparaíso, now a museum. La Sebastiana is perched on a hillside with marvel­lous views out over the Pacific. When I reached the poet’s study at the top of the house, the audio tour commentary mentioned the ‘thrillers’ that he’d enjoyed, some of which were gathering dust on the lowest shelf of a bookcase. My lifelong fascination with detective stories made it inevitable that I would get down on hands and knees and explore the books to see if Neruda and I shared any tastes. There were a couple of dozen paperbacks, including – to my delight – dog-eared green Penguins written by a favourite author of mine, Anthony Berkeley.
SF magazine subscribers only

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