The summer seems to have flown by, with nothing more dramatic to report from the Slightly Foxed office than the theft of Jennie’s bike (two sturdy locks and all – that’s London for you) and the small dramas surrounding the presence of Chudleigh, our now not-so-new puppy who, though growing up fast, is still inclined to exercise his jaws on paper, pens, clothing, handbags and upholstery.
On summer expeditions out of London we’ve all enjoyed serendipitous visits to local bookshops – those delightful discoveries you make when a discreet ‘Books’ sign down a side street in a country town beckons you in. These are hard times for independent booksellers, but it’s cheering to come across ones who have quietly succeeded in making their shops part of the local scene and are managing to ride out the recession. On 30 November we’ll be in east Kent, where the owner of the wonderfully named Old Harlotry has invited us to launch the winter issue at her intriguing house. Invitations will be going out to local subscribers, but if any of you happen to be in the area we will, as always, be delighted to see you – please call the office for details.
These are certainly difficult times for books. The review pages of the papers seem to be shrinking, their space eaten into by music, film and theatre reviews. Ironically many of the plays and films are based on books. Then of course there’s the much-trumpeted e-book revolution. But really, is there anything more satisfactory than to hold in one’s hands a good, well-produced, well-edited book?
Speaking of which, this autumn’s title in the Slightly Foxed Editions, Michael Wharton’s The Missing Will (see p. 14), is not to be missed. Its author was better known as Peter Simple, whose satirical ‘Way of the World’ column in the Daily Telegraph featured such deathless creations as Julian Birdbath the unsuccessful writer, the psychoanalyst Dr Heinz Kiosk, and Dr Spacely-Trellis, the goahead Bishop of Bevindon. But behind the humour was a complex man with a deep and lyrical attachment to the English countryside. This first, darkly entertaining volume of autobiography describes his early years in Bradford and the path that finally led him, via a lamentable Oxford career, army service in India and years adrift in postwar bohemia, to Fleet Street.
By the way, if you’re thinking of ordering any of the first four Slightly Foxed Editions we now have only a few hundred of each left. So do order as soon as possible if you are thinking of buying any as Christmas presents.
There’s been much discussion of poetry this year, what with the appointment of a new Poet Laureate and the scandal over the election of the Oxford Professor of Poetry. On p. 61 the poet Ashley Harrold argues that there’s a place for even quite pedestrian poetry, and in the Winter issue Oliver Pritchett will share his passion for Ogden Nash. To our surprise, we find we’re quite topical.
And finally – even in Slightly Foxed, errors do occur: we apologize for the incorrect naming of the Hosking Houses Trust (www.hoskinghouses.co.uk) at the end of Frances Donnelly’s piece in the last issue. She would like to thank the Trust for her Residency in 2008 and for financial support.