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A Guest of the Party

A Guest of the Party

After two TV appearances and four radio interviews before 7 a.m., my wife and I were glad we could totter back to the Ambassador in Chicago or the Ritz Carlton in Boston and relax in our suite, lift the telephone and order breakfast for two. But that was half a century ago, when publishers organized publicity tours on a grand scale; now, when friends come to Australia to talk up a new book, I meet them at a hotel (three-star at best) at the back of Kings Cross.
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Letters to Michael | Introduction

Letters to Michael | Introduction

My father Charles Phillipson would have been amazed and delighted to learn that his series of letters to me, written when I was a small boy, were to be published. No such thought would have occurred to him during the long period of their gestation and delivery. When I started school in 1944, he had already made me a small book, containing playful drawings of the alphabet’s upper- and lower-case forms, to encourage my reading. He continued this process some months later through the sequence of letters pub­lished here, which begin on Saturday, 10 February 1945 and end on Wednesday, 29 October 1947. Developed as intimate gifts to me, they affirmed his love and revealed his way of engaging with my world.
In Pursuit of an Ideal

In Pursuit of an Ideal

On 1 January 1913 a new kind of bookshop opened in London. Located in a rundown street off Theobalds Road, it occupied three floors of a Georgian house, and was presided over by an idealist whose private income – largely derived from family-owned asylums – never quite met the shop’s expenses. This was Harold Monro, poet, publisher and editor of The Poetry Review, to whose subscribers he announced his intention of opening a bookshop ‘devoted to the sale of poetry, and of all books, pamphlets and periodicals connected with poetry’. For the next two decades he was to put the Poetry Bookshop at the heart of the London poetry scene. The other figure bestriding literary London at this time was Ezra Pound: in tempera­ment, taste and ambition the two men could not have been more different.
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Winter Reading | New from Slightly Foxed

Winter Reading | New from Slightly Foxed

Greetings, dear readers. We’re delighted to announce that the new winter issue of Slightly Foxed is being sent out to subscribers this week and should soon begin to land on doormats around the world. We do hope it brings much reading pleasure. And for those of you who are on a repeat order to receive each limited-edition memoir each quarter, your usual hand-numbered copy of The Wine Lover’s Daughter by Anne Fadiman will be with you very soon. There’s still plenty of time to order subscriptions, books and goods in time for Christmas. We ship our wares all around the world and we will send out all of your delicious (and most welcome) gift orders over the next few weeks. The office is well-stocked with smart gift cards bearing wood engravings, reams of brown paper and signature cream foxed ribbon in anticipation.
Bowled Over by Bunkle

Bowled Over by Bunkle

Bunkle began it for me. Searching for a gentle, undemanding get-me-to-sleep read, I happened on my wife’s childhood copy of a book called Bunkle Began It by Margot Pardoe. On a quick skim, I discovered that it was set in a seaside town on the edge of Exmoor which was my own home territory during the war. It also took me back to a Children’s Hour play with Bunkle as the lead character which had scared the wits out of me but was compulsive listening.
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Letters to Michael: a father writes to his son 1945–1947

Letters to Michael: a father writes to his son 1945–1947

‘My dear Michael, Mummy and I are very pleased that you are now able to read books for yourself . . . As you grow older you will find that good books can be some of your best friends . . . Much love from Daddy’ It is 16 January 1947 and, as he does most days, Charles Phillipson has taken up his fountain pen to write to his young son Michael. Before Michael started school in 1944 Charles had already made him a book of playful drawings of the alphabet to encourage his reading. From early 1945 to the autumn of 1947 a sequence of 150 illustrated letters followed in which Charles captures the delight to be found in the mundane detail of everyday life, seen through the lens of his own quirky imagination. Now these letters have been gathered together in a handsome cloth-bound hardback edition. Letters to Michael presents a touching portrait of the relationship between a father and his son and captures a bygone age when people still wrote letters using pen and paper. Altogether, this charming book is an antidote to troubled times and would make a perfect present.
Not While It’s Running

Not While It’s Running

My father used to tell a story about a Frenchman (the dependable butt of Edwardian jokes) being invited to some large estate for a shoot. Seeing a cock pheasant coming into the open and running alongside a wood, he levels his gun to aim at it. At which his English host says, ‘My dear man, you can’t shoot it while it’s running!’ The Frenchman replies, ‘Certainly not, I shall wait until it stops.’ This used to make my father fall about laughing but I could never understand why.
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Hell and Good Intentions

Hell and Good Intentions

It was the title that first attracted me, so many years ago. What adventure-hungry 13-year-old girl could resist On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers? My first love, Huck Finn, was overthrown within minutes. He was just a boy who had floated down a river on a raft; this was a young woman, a heroine, who had braved wolves, bandits and terrible hardships in a noble cause. And it was a true story! I longed to be Kate Marsden and ride through the Siberian wastes, a handsome Russian officer at my side. It was not to be: the book, borrowed from an elderly aunt, vanished during a house move and eventually real life supplanted schoolgirl dreams.
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‘Slightly Foxed is a very civilized way to appreciate books and writers.’

‘Slightly Foxed is a very civilized way to appreciate books and writers.’

‘Slightly Foxed is a very civilized way to appreciate books and writers. No shouting, no hype, just beautifully presented enthusiasms, most of which are irresistible.’ Michael Palin Greetings from Hoxton Square, where we’re sending books and copies of the magazine to readers as quickly as we’re receiving deliveries of top-up stock and freshly printed titles from Smith Settle in anticipation of the coming season. A particular high point in the calendar will be our forthcoming Readers’ Day, on Saturday 6 November. We’re delighted to report that Michael Palin will be among the excellent contributors speaking at our usual London haunt, the Art Workers’ Guild in Queen Square. There’ll be a reduced audience for this year’s event to allow for social distancing. If you would like to join us, we advise booking now to avoid disappointment.

Bedtime Stories

I can’t remember if my parents read to me at bedtime. If they did, it left not a trace behind. They did, however, pack me off at the age of 13 to a traditional boarding-school where bedtime reading to the new boys’ dormitory was an established ritual undertaken by the duty prefect. By the time I arrived this enlightened custom had degener­ated from the originating housemaster’s lofty ideals. Some of the prefects appeared, even to us, as barely literate. One would read two or three pages of whichever book came to hand. The following night his successor would repeat the process with a random extract from a different book. It was barely a system and did not lend itself to continuity. Some read fluently and with feeling. Some read to us in foreign languages, living and dead. It didn’t matter. We adored it. It was a ritual and we were much aggrieved if it was denied. Perhaps that housemaster was wiser than I give him credit for. Perhaps even the prefects benefited.
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