By now most of us have probably begun the often rather agonized run-up to Christmas – the worry about what to buy for whom and where to find it. For Slightly Foxed readers, we suspect books are likely to feature somewhere in that list. Quite recently we read a piece by The Times columnist Jenni Russell bemoaning the fact that so many disappointing books by well-known writers are ludicrously overpromoted these days. Publishing, she wrote, ‘doesn’t prioritize what’s good, it prioritizes what’s new’.
So how to discover books that are worth reading and giving? ‘Those who guide us are floundering as much as the rest of us,’ writes Russell. ‘Overwhelmed by options, they can’t know whether they are missing gems. Books pages could address that by introducing us to work that has lasted, that others value or love, where people who take reading seriously tell us about the books that have meant most to them . . . It would be a starting point for leading us to the books that manage to do what all of them ought to; illuminate our lives.’
Familiar thought? We hastened to send her a copy of Slightly Foxed. It’s good to know the rest of the world is gradually catching up with us.
The latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions is certainly one of those warming and illuminating books. We’ve long loved Helene Hanff ’s 84, Charing Cross Road and now we’re delighted to be able to reissue it. Based on a correspondence that began in 1949 between the author, an eccentric, self-educated New York scriptwriter, and the antiquarian booksellers Marks & Co of London’s Charing Cross Road, it is really the story of a twenty year love affair conducted solely through literature, a funny, very poignant evocation of a gentler and more leisurely world. Maggie Fergusson originally wrote about it for us in an earlier issue and you can find her piece here on p.14.
For some time Jennie has been working on a new website for the Slightly Foxed bookshop and it’s now up and running. We hope you’ll find it as attractive and easy to use as we do. Excitingly, you can listen to bookshop readings and to sessions of the book group which meets regularly at the shop. There are also clearly laid out book recommendations including a second-hand section, news of forthcoming shop events, and gift ideas (‘A Year of Good Reading’ would make a very special present for the busy booklover in your life).
We do hope you’ll take advantage of the website and the shop’s friendly telephone ordering service for your book purchases this Christmas (www.foxedbooks.com; 020 7370 3503); and we’re very appreciative of those of you who already do. Any book now in print which is featured in the current issue of Slightly Foxed is available from the shop, and we’ll send any present elegantly gift-wrapped and accompanied by a handwritten card.
Speaking of gifts, we would just draw your attention to the lovely new Slightly Foxed shopping bag. Our sturdy grey book bag has long been a favourite with readers, but this unusually strong, elegant and capacious new bag fills a different need. There are more details in the enclosed catalogue.
Also in the catalogue you’ll find our seventh literary crossword. Entries should reach us no later than 14 January and the first correct one to be drawn out of a hat will receive a free annual subscription.
Meantime, dear readers, we wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas and hope that Slightly Foxed will be a source of sanity and cheer in the worrying world of 2016.
Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood