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MAGAZINE WINTER 2009 / ISSUE 6
CHESS FOR THE BODY
Rosie Thomas explores the Library’s Mountaineering stacks
POETRY’S DISUNITED KINGDOM Carol Rumens writes on contemporary poetry
GHOSTS AND LIBRARIES Andrew Martin discovers some disconcerting links
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THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE / ISSUE 6
Contemporary poetry is widely reported to be flourishing, yet the general reader still remains elusive. Carol Rumens argues that it is time to reassess the role of poetry and cherish its diversity
CONTENTS 5 EDITORIAL LETTER 6 CONTRIBUTORS 9 OVER MY SHOULDER Food writer Tom Parker Bowles on how he uses the Library for his research
Libraries are among the most likely places for hauntings, as Andrew Martin discovered during his recent research into British ghostliness. He relates his findings, as well as his own sighting of a ghost in the London Library
10 READING LIST Roy Hattersley selects the books he found most useful while researching his book on David Lloyd George
12 POETRY’S DISUNITED KINGDOM Carol Rumens offers some solutions to the problem of poetry’s split readership
16 GHOSTS & LIBRARIES Andrew Martin reveals the results of his research into hauntings in the stacks
18 © 2009 by Graham Jepson
Antony Beevor has an exceptional ability to relate historical events through the eyes of the individual. He explains his research techniques, and offers his views on historical fiction, to Erica Wagner
18 ANTONY BEEVOR The bestselling historian discusses his writing and views on the presentation of history today with Erica Wagner
20 HIDDEN CORNERS Rosie Thomas explores the Library’s quirky Mountaineering collection
24 CHRISTMAS GAMES Simon Godwin suggests some festive games to enjoy over Christmas and New Year
26 COMMONPLACE BOOKS
From peaks and avalanches to the recipe for Mummery’s Blood, novelist Rosie Thomas finds plenty of fascinating reading material for the armchair mountaineer in the Library’s bookstacks
John Julius Norwich on the addictive habits of a commonplace-book compiler
27 MEMBERS’ NEWS 30 RESTAURANT LISTINGS 31 DIARY
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FROM THE LIBRARIAN What a year it has been! As 2009 draws to a close, we are approaching a major milestone in the Library’s building development project with the completion of the main part of Phase 2. The next issue of the magazine will focus in detail on all that has been achieved but since construction work has loomed so large in our life in St James’s Square this year, you might care to turn straight to Members’ News on page 28 now for a brief outline of the new facilities just becoming available. Also in Members’ News this time, we see librarians at the start and at the end of their careers, with an introduction to our graduate trainee scheme and some recollections of a life in libraries from Alison Sproston, who retires from her post as Deputy Librarian at Christmas.
Cover Image Stapel 5/III (Kunstbücher) by Ralph Fleck, 2008. © Artist, courtesy Purdy Hicks Gallery, London.
In our very first issue of the magazine back in Autumn 2008, we looked at ‘the state of fiction’; in this issue, Carol Rumens considers the state of poetry in Britain today while Andrew Martin gives us a dark and wintry feel by exploring the apparent connection between libraries and ghosts. There is a touch of seasonal levity with some literary games and puzzles from Simon Godwin and a short piece on that favourite stocking filler, the commonplace book. (At this point I should put in a quick reminder about a very special stocking filler for this year, Modern Delight – not quite a commonplace book but an anthology on the delights of life published by Waterstone’s and Faber in aid of Dyslexia Action and The London Library. Available from Waterstone’s and just the thing for those last-minute Christmas presents.) Finally, as an antidote to what can be an especially slothful season, Rosie Thomas takes us on an imaginative ramble through some of the Library’s volumes on mountaineering.
Inez T.P.A. Lynn Librarian
Published on behalf of The London Library by Royal Academy Enterprises Ltd. Colour reproduction by adtec. Printed by Tradewinds London. Published 7 December 2009 © 2009 The London Library. The opinions in this particular publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The London Library. All reasonable attempts have been made to clear copyright before publication.
Editorial Publishers Jane Grylls and Kim Jenner Editor Mary Scott Design Joyce Mason Production Jessica Cash Researcher Emma Hughes
Editorial Committee David Breuer Miranda Lewis Harry Mount Peter Parker Christopher Phipps Erica Wagner
Advertising Jane Grylls 020 7300 5661 Kim Jenner 020 7300 5658 Development Office, The London Library Lottie Cole 020 7766 4716 Aimee Heuzenroeder 020 7766 4734
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Antony Beevor © Daniel Mordzinski
John Julius Norwich has written histories of Norman Sicily, the Venetian Republic, the Byzantine Empire and the Mediterranean, and he has recently completed a book on the history of the papacy. He has also written and presented some 30 historical documentaries for BBC Television.
Tom Parker Bowles
JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1992
JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1997
Roy Hattersley is a politician turned writer. He was an MP for 33 years, and is now a journalist. His 20 books include biographies of John Wesley and William and Catherine Booth. In Search of England, a collection of his essays, has just been published.
JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1999
Andrew Martin is the author of eight novels, including six featuring the Edwardian railway detective, Jim Stringer. The first of these was The Necropolis Railway; the latest is The Last Train To Scarborough. His book on British ghostliness, Ghoul Britannia, was published in October.
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Simon Godwin is Associate Director of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. He has directed plays across the country, including the world premiere of Mister Heracles at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Eurydice at Trafalgar Studios. His book on games, Ting Tang Tommy!, was published this October.
John Julius Norwich JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1960
JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1976
Antony Beevor’s books include Stalingrad and Berlin: The Downfall. His most recent work, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (2009), was a No. 1 bestseller in six European countries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was Chairman of the Society of Authors (2003–5).
JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 2003
Tom Parker Bowles is a food writer, with a column in the Mail on Sunday's Live Magazine, and is a contributing editor for GQ. He presents a weekly radio show, Food and Drink, on LBC. His most recent book is Full English: A Journey Through the British and Their Food.
JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 2005
Carol Rumens has written 15 poetry collections, a novel and several plays. Her latest collection is Blind Spots (2008). She currently writes the Poem of the Week Blog for Guardian Books Online. Carol was born in London and sometimes writes on working-class and suburban London themes.
JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1983
Rosie Thomas has published 18 novels, and twice won the Romantic Novel of the Year award. Her 19th book, Lovers and Newcomers, will be out in 2010. She has recently returned from an expedition to Ladakh and Kashmir, where she was researching the background for her 20th book.
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OVER MY SHOULDER Tom Parker Bowles, whose most recent book, Full English: A Journey Through the British and Their Food, was published earlier this year, discusses how he uses the Library for his research
What are you working on at the moment? Are you using any books from the London Library in your research? At the moment, I’m rather relieved to have no book deadlines hanging over me, but I’ll still be using the Library for my journalistic work. I’ve a piece on English food to write for GQ magazine, where I’m a contributing editor, and another on the beauty of old cookery books, for a new magazine called Fire and Knives. That lack of pressure also means I can spend more time wandering, rather aimlessly, among the stacks. This is the one form of prevarication and dawdling that can actually help my work – many and bounteous are the books I’ve stumbled across randomly in the course of my stack-based, time-wasting wanders.
Tom Parker Bowles. © 2009 Adam Lawrence
and what is your routine when you visit the Library? I try to go in with a plan, knowing the books I want. But I do tend to get distracted as I wander up and down the stacks, and often spend half a day browsing books with no relevance to the job in hand. Still, it’s a very civilised way to spend a morning. I tend to take books home to read them there. When I read in those leather chairs, I usually fall asleep. Again, hugely enjoyable but not so good when there’s a deadline hanging over me.
How can anyone pass a section named
areas and borrow books just for pleasure? I borrow for both work and pleasure and am always wandering off target. Also, how can anyone pass a section named ‘Clowns’ and not pause for a moment? It’s a battle to keep my mind on the job in hand. What do you think is special about the Library? What does it mean to you? It’s a unique institution, with a stunning collection of books. I love the calm that radiates from every stack and alcove. Also, you’re treated like a grown-up, allowed to browse and take home a huge number of books. As much as I adore and respect the British Library, I always feel rather like a naughty child, glared at and chastised for blowing my nose, or chewing my pencil.
“Clowns” and not How frequently do you use the Library? When writing a new book, up to three times a week. Less so in those blissful months of freedom with no book looming on the horizon. What distracts you from your work? Anything and everything … the internet, the view from my window, the need for a wander, cutting my nails. I’m a skilled and seasoned time-waster. How do you use the Library? Do you study books there or take them home
pause for a moment?
Do you have any favourite parts of the Library that you tend to go to? The stacks. There’s something very sexy about libraries, especially the London Library. All that enforced silence and slightly embarrassed encounters between the shelves. Do you generally use books on your particular subject from the Library? Or do you also explore other subject
Do you think there is a typical London Library person? Are you that person? That’s the joy of the London Library. There is no ‘typical’ member. All life is here. Is there a Library neighbour you dread? Grunters, coughers? (No names!) I don’t mind the occasional mutter or snort. But heavy snorers are a bore. Has the London Library had any particular influence on your work? Not directly, but I couldn’t imagine writing a book without it. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 9
BOOK The politician and writer Roy Hattersley chooses the titles he has found invaluable while researching his new book I have almost finished a biography of David Lloyd George, Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, due to be published in 2010. Information from his public and private papers has been complemented by an extraordinary number of published memoirs, collections of letters and diaries. More Pages From My Diary, 1908– 1914 by Lord Riddell (London 1934). Biog. Riddell. George Riddell, the proprietor of the News of the World and Lloyd George intimate, had already published War Diary and Lord Riddell’s Intimate Diary of the Peace Conference and After, 1918–1923 (both 1933) before this volume. His notes of conversations with just about every notable figure of the period are believed to be (unlike some modern political diaries) more or less honest revelations. In July 1914 a dinner party he attended was interrupted by a telephone call from General Sir John French, Chief of Staff of the Army, who wanted to know, if there was going to be a war, would Britain send an expeditionary force to France and, if so, who would lead it. The answer was yes, yes and you.
of ‘the man who won the war’ to his failure to espouse ‘Imperial Preference’ .
Politicians and the War, 1914–1916 by Lord Beaverbrook (2 vols, London 1928–1932). H. European War I. A highly personal account of how the author managed the campaign that ended Asquith’s premiership. It omits to mention how Bonar Law (who would have been the hero of the tale if the position had not been occupied by Beaverbrook himself) misled Asquith about the intentions of the Tories within his coalition. Its analysis of the events is almost as prejudiced as the companion volume, The Decline and Fall of Lloyd George: And Great was the Fall Thereof (1963), which attributes the political demise
My Darling Pussy: The Letters of Lloyd George and Frances Stevenson, 1913–41, ed. A.J.P. Taylor (London 1975). Biog. Lloyd George. This is the product of Taylor’s association with Beaverbrook. Jennifer Longford, Frances Stevenson’s daughter, told me that it was Taylor who, by assiduous references to dates and places, convinced her that DLG was her father.
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Life with Lloyd George: The Diary of A.J. Sylvester, 1931–45, ed. Colin Cross (London 1975). Biog. Lloyd George. An intimate day-by-day account of Lloyd George’s final years, by the man who had progressed from freelance shorthand writer to private secretary to the Cabinet Secretary and then the head of the elderly Lloyd George’s still substantial private office. He lived through all the domestic traumas – Lloyd George’s prostate operation at the time when he might have been asked to join or even lead the National Government, the discovery that Frances Stevenson had been unfaithful and the family’s bitter opposition to Miss Stevenson becoming the second Countess. He spares his chief nothing.
Lloyd George: Family Letters, 1885– 1936, ed. Kenneth O. Morgan (London 1973). Biog. Lloyd George. This gives a balanced picture of the home
life of a man who seemed genuinely devoted (if in different ways) to two women, both of whom he regularly betrayed. Consensus and Disunity: The Lloyd George Coalition Government, 1918– 1922 by Kenneth O. Morgan (Oxford 1979). H. England. A very good book with a title that encapsulates the author’s view of Lloyd George’s hopes for his four years as postwar Prime Minister. There is no doubt that he was by instinct in favour of coalition, which he thought was the best way of achieving his policy aims. But his definition of consensus was agreement around his own ideas. Morgan’s clear affection for his countryman does not prejudice the quality of the most intellectually distinguished book in the Lloyd George library. CB: A Life of Sir Henry CampbellBannerman by John Wilson (London 1973). Biog. Campbell-Bannerman. There are first-rate biographies of all the prime ministers whose political careers overlapped with Lloyd George’s half-century in the House of Commons. Wilson’s Campbell-Bannerman gets a special mention because it was not until this year that I realised that the author had been Ambassador to Hungary when I was a minister in the Foreign Office. I stayed with him in Budapest. He wrote his splendid life of Britain’s most underrated Prime Minister in his spare time.
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POETRY’S DISUNITED KINGDOM Carol Rumens examines the state of contemporary poetry
ritish poetry is regularly reported to be flourishing. Quantity signals health: poets are many and various, and there are numerous public outlets for their poems, especially online. Innovative small presses like Tony Frazer’s Shearsman may publish 50 or 60 books a year, via print-ondemand (POD), a process in which new copies of a book are digitally printed in response to orders. On the other hand, conventional publishers’ poetry lists are slim. The book chains stock fewer collections than previously, and for shorter periods. Very modest print runs can still fail to sell out. Poetry has never been more popular, and yet it is (as always) in crisis. Amy Wack of the Wales-based press Seren Books (publishing around eight poetry titles a year) distinguishes two types of poetry reader. Reader A is the intelligent general reader, and Reader B, the specialist. ‘As an editor I’m always after Reader A,’ she says. ‘As a publisher, it is much easier to reach Reader B.’ This goes to the heart of the problem: poetry’s split readership, and the difficulty of reaching that elusive target, Reader A. Those general readers are desirable not only for commercial reasons. For the writers, they complete the web of connecting tissue that carries their nutrients. A receptive audience that is both pleasure-seeking and critically alert in its book-purchasing habits, is a force within the creative process; not a force urging the writer to ‘sell out’ but motivating his or her public conscience, energising the impulse to communicate
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truthfully and profoundly. When poets write for other poets, they build their technique. But when they speak exclusively to other poets, there is a shrinkage of humanity and, ultimately, seriousness. Many poets are conscious of a duty to win more readers for poetry – and not only their own. They visit schools, run workshops and give readings. The new Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, initially denied wanting to continue the ambassadorial task of her predecessor, Andrew Motion. But she has already presided over Guardian features devoted to new work by contemporary poets, male and female, and has donated her honorarium to fund the annual prize in a new poetry competition. It is indicative that today’s poets laureate see the job requirement as that of promoting Cinderella, not the golden coach. The mass media still largely ignore poetry. When they take an interest (one not based on a scandal or debacle) the simplistic ‘isn’t poetry wonderful?’ picture they present seems doomed not to win over Reader A (who is intelligent, remember) while thoroughly annoying Reader B. Contemporary poetry creates panic about value. The BBC’s recent TV poetry season, for example, favoured the historical; as Amy Wack points out: ‘Living poets may appear, but only to comment upon the dead, acknowledged masters. ’ To be fair, Radio 4 has ventured into the scary new world of the Poetry Slam (though scheduling the first broadcast for 11 p.m., I noticed). And, of the BBC’s candidates recently up for election as the Nation’s Favourite Poet, at least
Bloodaxe Books’ Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, edited by Neil Astley (2002).
there were five living poets. But I wonder when programme makers will notice that there is a vibrant poetic culture beyond Big Safe Names and merry slams. The trouble is, most producers are Reader A types. They are the largely unreached, trying to reach out to the largely unreachable. Of course, the territory is complicated. Poetry was once a nation-state, with a king, a judiciary, a church, a shared narrative. Today, it is more like a bunch of warring statelets, jostling for the prize of an enemy
Poetry was once a nation-state, with a king, a judiciary, a shared narrative. Today it is more like a bunch of warring statelets
head and a brand name. UK poetry branding creates movements based on regionalist or ethnic identity, which may have originated from truly high-quality work with a distinctive identity, but which tend to atrophy into the fashionable and exclusive. Scottish poetry, for instance, has long been London-approved; Welsh, barely ever. Most countries and regions at least sometimes support their own poets. England, however, striving for internationalism, often appears vastly bored by its native product. Regional branding is complicated by the generic subdivisions. A sketchy list would include performance poetry and the avant-garde. Then there is the majority, the so-called ‘mainstream’where, to quote the raised-eyebrow comment an American poet-friend recently made to me, there are poets who ‘still write in iambic pentameter’ . A world language produces what is sometimes called ‘world poetry’ – and perhaps some so-far unbranded English writers would willingly be called ‘wold poets’ . It is perfectly valid, and helpful, to acknowledge different styles and genres, as in music. But I suspect that underneath all the labelling, poetry is often less differentiated than identity politics demands. The labels and references to poetries, plural, exaggerate the differences, and may hide samey-ness. Sometimes, of course, they exert uncomfortable pressures on a poet’s development. Tony Frazer says, ‘I really dislike the corralling of ethnic poets into something like reservations, where they are only given attention by the media if they exemplify their cultural heritages … I suggest that a black, or other minority, poet should be respected if s/he wants to write like, say, Hill, or Prynne, or Fanthorpe. It should not be a precondition that s/he use patois, or ethnic
slang, or exotic backgrounds. No problem, of course, if the poet in question does want to use patois, etc.’ I couldn’t agree more. The chaotic conditions that make poetry puzzling for new readers make it dizzying for new poets. A few landmarks of excellence remain, such as the Society of Authors’ Eric Gregory Awards for poets under 30 years old. But momentary competition-success does not guarantee future attention. Once, not so long ago, the novice poet kept to a well-marked footpath, beginning with submitting poems to little magazines, never self-publishing and finally, after multiple rejections, graduating to book publication. It was usually a tough slog, but there was a defined route and, once on it, the poet was reasonably sure of being taken seriously. Readers were aware of the route, and a culture of intelligent newspaper reviewing helped to track what was going on. Poets benefit from stern critics. Where are today’s equivalents of Geoffrey Grigson, Donald Davie, Ian Hamilton? These poetcritics could be tigerish and newcomers may have felt like their scratching-posts, but poetic skills were honed by such criticism.
There is a rocky desert of ignorance out there, where Parnassus once stood. Many readers cannot tell a good poem from a bad one: most poets, if they were to be honest, would not be entirely sure if the poem they had just written was any good. The brilliant, the bad and the mediocre vie for attention in the land of infinite self-publishing opportunity. Few editors care to make the judgements from which young poets learn, and older poets improve, their trade. Reviews are generally blandly descriptive since they are written by poets, and poets need all the friends they can get. Poetry’s democratisation has crushed the sometimes damaging elitism of the past, but created a culture that cannot bear any kind of value-judgement. The rise of Creative Writing as a university (in)discipline should have had a benign influence on the quality of new poetry, but has it? Tony Frazer finds the UK’s submissions disappointing compared with those from the States, veering between the excessively experimental and the ultraconservative. Amy Wack remarks on the dearth of good formal work. She describes the poetry she receives as typically ‘filmic … concerned with visual imagery and a swift emotional impact’ . Her view of the effect of Creative Writing courses is more positive than Frazer’s, but she, too, comments on the lack of originality. Nevertheless, there really is some wonderful poetry around.The list of writers whose new collections I consider to be ‘required reading’ would run to several paragraphs: they range from senior figures
Right Faber’s Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (2004). Far right Tamara Fulcher’s The Recreation of Night (2008).
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We need to read a poem not as we read a newspaper article, demanding a clear strand of argument, but sensuously and even a little lazily
like Geoffrey Hill, Ruth Padel and Derek Mahon, to a plethora of younger, or more recent, arrivals: David Wheatley, Leontia Flynn, Zoë Skoulding, Richard Price and Martha Kapos. I asked Amy Wack and Tony Frazer to suggest collections by their own authors that readers might enjoy. Tony Frazer chose Peter Cole’s What is Doubled (2005) and Tamara Fulcher’s The Recreation of Night (2008), and Amy Wack chose Sheenagh Pugh’s Selected Poems (1990) and also recommended poets Meirion Jordan, Tim Liardet, Pascale Petit, John Haynes and Graham Mort. The saddest thing is that Reader A has often given up altogether, and quite bitterly denounces contemporary writing. The schism is in part the old ‘modernist’ one. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Ezra Pound set out to sweep away all ‘Victorianness’ of diction. No inessential word was to be used, rhythm was to be fluid rather than metronomic, abstraction avoided. Few of Pound’s poet-heirs objected to the radical and timely overhaul. Many non-writers, however, continue to this day to yearn for a little Victorianness. They may seek in poetry familiar rhymes and themes, and the experience of comfort and ‘uplift’. Anthologies such as Faber’s Emergency Kit (2004) and Bloodaxe’s Staying Alive (2002) and Being Alive (2004) try to mediate, offering the mostly contemporary poetry they contain as a kind of psychotherapy or vitamin supplement for the stressed and anxious twenty-first-century reader. The poetry is there already, of course, not created by the anthologies (or not so far). As poetry it is often perfectly good. And it reaches Reader A. The branding induces a certain queasiness, however, because poets believe in writing for writing’s sake. We forget that the roles of poet and priest were once associated. While no one wants poetry 14 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
to deliver the mental equivalent of cups of weak sugary tea, or to be marketed as something it is not, there is surely no reason for poets to feel appalled that a poem can bring comfort or a sharper, brighter vision of the world. A recent argument, partly related to the rise of the populist anthology, has revolved around ‘difficulty’ versus ‘accessibility’. Should poetry appeal only to Ph.D. graduates? Alternatively, should it appeal only to Pam Ayres fans? Poets delighting in linguistic complexity have several arguments in their favour. The strongest is that poetry is made of language, and, because language is everyone’s, stained and battered by heavy use, poets have to refresh and refine it and, by making it new, make it seemingly more difficult. Difficulty, in any case, is not a solid concept. The poem that seems inaccessible today may be interesting tomorrow, and the Nation’s Favourite by 2050. I tend to the view that poetry is by nature a little difficult; it’s not a birthday card. But even reading a difficult poem is not as difficult as cooking dinner for ten, or finding out why your computer won’t start. Human brains are good at difficulty. Panic, impatience and the addictive culture of the instant solution are the real problem. I recently heard a comment by the wonderfully poetic children’s novelist, Philip Pullman, to the effect that it was often believed, by teachers and others, that poetry was really a fancy way of saying something simple, and that all their efforts had to be employed in deciphering the message. This goes to the core of the antagonism. We need to read a poem not as we read a newspaper article, demanding a clear strand of argument, but sensuously and even a little lazily, allowing the poem to draw us in with its mysterious and nonlogical qualities before we worry about
interpretations. The Keatsian art of ‘negative capability’ , of relishing doubts and uncertainties and not letting our mental critics dictate the rules too early, is as important for poetry’s auditors as its writers. When reading a poem, I try to forget I’m a Reader B. I’m willing to trust my inner Reader A, and I fully sympathise with people who expect poetry to move and entertain them. They’re right: art is for pleasure as well as profundity and shock. Poetry should charm and interest us if we’re to care about searching its depths. There should be an element of love-atfirst-sight with the poems we read. Some readers still complain that modern poetry’s problem is that it doesn’t rhyme. The fact is that a lot of it does – and a lot doesn’t. Diversity in this case is surely healthy. Rhyme is a resource, not a definition, of poetry. But poetry is still the stuff that remembers its origins in song and ceremonial. A poem is founded on the line, and the line forms an arc of rhythmic melody. Winding over it, the sentence sets up a counterpoint. This is what catches the reader first, and subliminally excites or moves us. While poetry can never compete with popular song for mnemonic presence, plenty of older people remember rhymed and/ or metrical poems in the way we (and they) remember pop songs: they can recite Thomas Moore or Robert Burns, a bit of Alfred, Lord Tennyson or snatches of John Masefield. The people who have this kind of poetic knowledge are a vanishing breed: they are living on the capital of an educational system that died with the grammar schools. The poetry they love has something to teach us, still, although we have to make our poetry new, and show the way to the pleasure of the new. Good modern poetry has not abandoned
POETRY’S DISUNITED KINGDOM
East Ending (For Becky and Roly, and for Wilton’s Music Hall) Cable Street, Royal Mint Street, Tower Hill, East Smithfield: history swims Through names too big for it, old working names Blitzed by re-development, black and still As stone that holds small life-forms in suspension. We hate and love this torpor of museums.
That thinks itself sheer function, – and improve The grade 2 concrete with new polymers? What’s the true art of architects? To make it New, to stitch the shoe we ought to fit? Let them re-invent the shadow-book – Not Stilnovisti but New Formalists!
Hate it, mostly. There are stones less rare, Readable narratives Threading, sprawling like a London bus queue – That crush of cultural idioms in one stare. The scag-mag little factories, done up new, Shift post-code in a street, get real, get lives.
We turn the corner into Ensign Street Where the best brothels were, and the best turns, And, prettily distressed as Daisy Bell, She begs our custom – Wilton’s Music Hall. Her fragile balcony’s a work-in-progress. Be careful! She’s fresh-bathed and tremulous,
Yes, real lives. Lilacs out of dead money – The terrace’s mild amour Propre of vases, lamps, wives who salaam On steps to shine that cockney dream of SunnySide-of-the-Street, sure as the Sally Army Bawled in the gin-shop, ‘Don’t have any more!’
Her tits like pearly scandals and her ankles Barley-sugar. To restore the old, Make old just new enough not to disturb The ghost of Champagne Charley and his girls Back-stage. It’s kitsch. So what? So’s Shakespeare’s Globe. An audience works the glitz until it’s gold.
History? It’s the writing on the walls Of pubs, a fish-bar called The Godfather; The inn we don’t go in, The Artful Dodger; The DLR train tracks it, and it falls With shit and feathers from the clattering bridge; It’s seven white skull-caps crossing at the zebra
Word-perfect, we belt out those choruses Oh, don’t have any more, Mrs Moore! And fill the wormy hollows with our noise Or you won’t find your front door, Mrs Moore! Our mobiles wink from gallery to pit, To catch the past, show us ourselves in it.
Towards (we notice now) a mosque’s small tower, So easy in its nook, It might have jostled longer than St Paul’s Among the old brass necks of palaces, powerMills and ships. Will someone list our malls One day, finding some pleasure in a look
melody and rhythm, assonance and harmony. Readers simply need to retune their inner audio-sets. And that means listening to new poetry and, ideally, starting young. Despite the fact that the Poetry Society and the various regional arts organisations work tirelessly at education, running excellent Poets in Schools schemes, for instance, this is where my pessimism rears its dinosaur head. Most school pupils miss such initiatives. They read little and recite less: some leave school barely literate. Unless this radical problem of the state-school curriculum be addressed, poetry need not even dream of a discerning audience.
Carol Rumens, June 2009
One lesson taught by the poetry of the past is the importance of teaching. I wish the classical education, the education in intensive reading and translation that once helped form great poets, and which is still there, but restricted to the moneyed few, could have been mine and my children’s: I wish it could be everyone’s. While this is utopian, our state schools could still become hives of linguistic activity. We need to own our native languages deeply and fully, not as consumers but as users. We need to master, or at least dabble in, other languages while we’re young, and to translate, translate, translate. Mandarin and Turkish are more ‘relevant’ than classical Greek and Latin? Fine! Put them
on the curriculum. All languages are invaluable, including, of course, those of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, W.B. Yeats, John Ashbery – marvellously rich ideolects that, even as native English speakers, we must learn how to read. No one wants to return to the closed canon of Eng. Lit. But we can cherish diversity while recognising value, and distinguish the fashionable from the timeless while enjoying both. Too few poets write criticism. Too few venture beyond their tribal affiliations. As for readers, they should do what the job title says: read. And Readers B and Readers A could, at least, shake hands. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 15
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GHOSTS & LIBRARIES Andrew Martin, whose book Ghoul Britannia has just been published, reveals some worrying links between apparitions and libraries
don’t wish to be alarmist but, having written a book about British ghostliness, it does seem to me that a library is about the most likely place for a haunting. In ghost stories, libraries symbolise the complacency of the rationalist. In Afterward (1910), the short story by Edith Wharton, the library is the ‘pivotal’ feature of the Tudor house in ‘Dorsetshire’ that the American couple, Ned and Mary Boyne, are so keen to occupy, even though they have been warned it is haunted. They move into the house, and Ned Boyne begins work in the library on a book with the title – highly provocative to any spirit – ‘The Economic Basis of Culture’ . It is while ‘waiting in the library for the lamps to come’ that Mary has her first misgivings about the house: ‘The room itself might have been full of secrets. They seemed to be piling themselves up, as evening fell, like the layers and layers of velvet shadow dropping from the low ceiling, the rows of books, the smoke-blurred sculpture of the hearth.’ And it is in the library that her husband will encounter the ghost. M.R. James’s stories feature many examples of hubris among library users. In The Tractate Middoth (1911), it is a librarian who is destined to receive a jolt. Towards the end of an autumn afternoon, a man with ‘grey Piccadilly weepers’ (mutton-chop whiskers) enters the library vestibule and presents to the assistant a slip on which is written the title of the book he seeks. The assistant, a Mr Garrett, looks it up in the index, and observes: ‘Talmud: Tractate Middoth, with the commentary of Nachmanides, Amsterdam, 1707. 11.3.34. Hebrew class, of course. Not a very difficult job this.’ He’s wrong about that, actually. When Mr Garrett goes to find the book, he sees it being taken off the shelf by an ‘old gentleman, perhaps a clergyman, in a cloak’ who, on further investigation, turns out not to be there ... Conversely, the possession or use of a library might be employed to buttress the intellectual credentials of some sinister individual. The occultist in a smoking jacket, for whom Latin is practically a first language, always comes equipped with a wellstocked library. In another M.R. James story, Casting the Runes (1911), the diabolist Karswell is not only a thoroughly creepy individual, but fiendishly clever as well – he must be, since he practically lives in the rare manuscript room of the British Museum. 16 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
Harry Price described Borley Rectory in Essex as the ‘Most Haunted House in England’.
It is also the case that in true, or (if you must) ‘true’, accounts of ghosts, a library is often the scene of the manifestation. One of the most compelling accounts in Apparitions and Thought Transference (1894), compiled by Frank Podmore, is listed as ‘Number 123’ under the heading ‘Less Common Forms of Hallucination’. It is recounted by a ‘Mr J—’ , who had succeeded the late ‘Mr Q—’ as the librarian of a Berkshire library. Late one evening, Mr J— was working in the library when he looked up to see a face peering round one of the bookcases. The face was pallid and hairless. ‘I saw an old man with high shoulders seem to rotate out of the end of the bookcase, and with his back towards me and with a shuffling gait walk rather quickly from the bookcase to the door of a small lavatory. ’ Mr J— followed the figure into the lavatory, and found it empty. He later mentioned the sighting to a local vicar, who said, ‘Why, that’s old Q—’. Podmore rationalised this as a case of thought transference, the fashionable theory of the time: ‘Mr J— saw the figure of Mr Q— in the library because some friend of Mr Q—’s was at that moment vividly picturing to himself the late librarian in his old haunts. ’ Of course, Mr J— is all the more credible because he is a librarian. Libraries bestow respectability, which is why that celebrated ghost-hunter of the inter-war years, Harry Price, was
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People are much more likely to see ghosts when they are sitting quietly, reading or writing
keen to associate himself with them. During his investigation of Borley Rectory in Essex (he called it the ‘Most Haunted House in England’), Price accommodated his researchers (often, as he would boast, ‘young Oxford men’) in a ‘base room’. The room, he was keen to remind everyone, had been the library of the house in the days when it was inhabited. This was supposedly for practical reasons: the room was convenient for the hall, where many strange things had occurred, and directly beneath the ‘blue room’ in which many strange things had also occurred. Its French windows gave easy access to the garden, patrolled by a ghostly nun. The room was also ‘comfortable’ and equipped with ‘a large number of shelves which were permanently fixed to the walls’ . Well, it would do if it was a library. There weren’t any books left on those shelves, but my suspicion would be that the library appealed to Price as a base of operations because it symbolised intellectualism, and ghost-hunters need this association to counter the suspicion among many that they are simply mad. Price had built up his own library in Kensington, part of a set-up he called the National Laboratory of Psychical Research. He wanted to merge this with the library of the Society for Psychical Research to create a sort of university of the supernatural, but he kept having political disputes with the SPR. (He eventually left his collection to London University who are now, I believe, looking to offload it.) Price can be seen speaking from his library in YouTube footage, boasting of his rare and ancient volumes, while chain-smoking and lurching strangely. The SPR’s own library – which is every bit as civilised as our own, if much smaller – is located in Kensington above ‘J.H. Kenyon Limited, Funeral Directors’. And if that weren’t Ealing Comedy-ish
enough, it is not quite clear which bell-push belongs to which concern. (This must be doubly annoying, since it’s the business of each to put the other out of business.) In the library, the orderly shelves, the sedate potted palms and the civility of the two staff contrast with the extravagance of the book titles: Almanac of the Uncanny, Heavenly Lights, The Other Side of Death, Ecstasy. On top of one bookcase is something resembling an old-fashioned radio. This relic of the heroic days of spiritualism is ‘a machine for testing mediums’. Nobody knows quite how it worked, but there is a switch marked ‘sensitivity’ , graded from 1/50, via 1/20 and 3/4 to ‘Full’ . The London Library has perhaps the next best collection of borrowable ghost books in London. Some are in Religion: Spiritualism, including Phantasms of the Living (1886) by Edmund Gurney, Frederick Myers and Podmore. The title of this beautiful, melancholic book (two of its authors would commit suicide) is a desperate lunge after optimism and a misnomer, since the work is a collection of accounts of what were known as ‘death wraiths’: visions of people who were at that moment dying in some distant location. (A typical example might feature an army officer reading in a fourth-floor London flat at midnight. He looks up, and sees at the window the face of his wife, who is in Brighton with her sister. The next day he receives a telegram informing him that his wife died at midnight in Brighton.) Most of the Library’s ghost books are to be found, fittingly enough, in the dark recesses of Science, under Occult Sciences. There, readers will find Apparitions and Haunted Houses (1939), edited by Sir Ernest Bennett, a compendium of plausible sightings, sent in by middle-class percipients. The tone is genteel. An extra man is observed by several guests at a ‘tea and music’ house party. He looked a ‘legal type’, and was observed to do nothing more alarming than sit on the sofa reading newspapers. But who was he? Four guests asked the hostess, who absolutely denied that he had been present. Entries include lines like, ‘After I had spent the afternoon, writing letters and reading’, ‘I looked up from my book’ , ‘I was smoking a cigarette and reading’ . There is praise for the ‘intellectual quality’ and ‘soundness of mind’ of the percipients, and their bookishness seems to back this up. It struck me, reading this book, that people are much more likely to see ghosts when they are sitting quietly, in the semi-dream state that reading or writing can bring on. This is why ghosts and libraries go together, and why fewer ghosts are seen in the raucous modern world. I did see a ghost in the London Library stacks once. Well, a potential ghost: an utterly pale, utterly silent man who sat in the same attitude over a thick volume for the entirety of one winter Saturday. I was sitting nearby, and he left without making a sound. One minute he was there, the next not. The book he’d been reading remained on his desk. It was The Registers of the Protestant Church at Caen (Normandy), edited by C.E. Hart and published in 1907 … which was just about right, I thought. Left to right M.R. James’s Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories (2005); Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories (1911), 2009 edition.
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ANTONY BEEVOR IN DISCUSSION WITH ERICA WAGNER Erica Wagner talked to the historian Antony Beevor in the Library’s Reading Room recently about his interpretation of contemporary material in his research, and the dangers of historical fiction in an age of ignorance
Last Letters from Stalingrad, and I suddenly realised after reading Erica Wagner: Antony Beevor was a soldier before he was an it that something was very wrong. I didn’t know what and I author and of course the two are not mutually exclusive. After couldn’t put my finger on it, and it was only after I was in the leaving Winchester College he was educated at Sandhurst, where Bundesarchiv in Freiberg that I managed to get hold of whole he studied under the great military historian Sir John Keegan. A batches of real last letters from Stalingrad. They were only about regular officer with the 11th Hussars, he left the army to write. two or three lines long, for the simple reason that most people’s His many books include The Spanish Civil War , fingers were so frostbitten that they couldn’t write any more than Stalingrad (1998), which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, and that. So there was something wrong with these long, far too Berlin: The Downfall 1945 . His book D-Day: The Battle for literary letters, and you’ve got to trust your nose to a degree with Normandy was published earlier this year. material like that. There are certain things obviously where you’ve I’d like to start by asking what it was like to study under John got to be very sceptical straightaway. It’s fascinating the number Keegan, who is a historian I admire greatly. of Russian memoirs, generals’ memoirs particularly, which are Antony Beevor: Well, John is a very unusual character from a written almost as pure dialogue when you know perfectly well military environment at Sandhurst, partly because of his that they had no record of that. On the other hand, if you have, disabilities, obviously, but this made him a far better student of say, Marshal Zhukov, who has just had a conversation with military foibles and mistakes, as he introduced a very necessary Stalin, you’ve got a pretty good idea that he probably noted it scepticism among his students. One of his most important down immediately afterwards because he needed to be sure of books, which influenced me and for which I am always grateful, what was said at a particular moment. So there is not a hard and was The Face of Battle, because it changed the way of looking at fast rule, but at the same time the contemporary material or military history. It was history from the bottom up, but not the oral history that we’ve seen as history from the bottom up. This diary material is actually the most important of the lot. Letters was a very carefully studied and analysed description of what it you have to be slightly more careful about; it’s not that they are was like being in the front line, and it was clear from this that dishonest, but soldiers at the front in most cases are wanting to military history really did need to change. One always had spare their families from suffering, and so as a result it’s a selfhistory written in collective terms – the history of the division, censored account, but there should still be enough detail there to the army or even the country – and suddenly give you a pretty good idea. one was starting to see history written much Whereas a diary is more truthful, and more through the eyes of the individual. that’s why they were very useful for Berlin, for I think that in the 1980s society started to example. Most of the postal system had change, and became much more interested in collapsed, but people living through this that form of history than in the old collective particular moment of history, knowing that histories of the past. The timing was very this was the downfall of the Nazi regime, kept lucky for me, as that was the way I was moving very careful accounts – above all women – anyway at that point. But much of that was and there is that superb diary, A Woman In thanks to John. Berlin by Marta Hillers. I think it’s one of the EW: You’ve referred to the bottom up and top most striking diaries I’ve ever read about down approaches to history. What are some warfare or the experiences of civilians in of the difficulties of integrating those two – those circumstances. because surely if dealing with contemporary EW: Since we’re sitting here in this splendid accounts or eye-witness accounts one has to library, it seems a good place to talk about judge how reliable they are? your use of archives and libraries. How does AB: I think with experience you get a pretty one say new things when new material good nose for documents that are false. I appears; for instance, you published a revised remember when starting on Stalingrad, I was edition of your book about the Spanish Civil doing some background reading which War, and in the case of your D-Day book, the Antony Beevor’s D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (2009). included a great bestseller in the 1950s called story has been told many times before … 18 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
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AB: Yes, there’s the Stendhal remark that the history of Napoleon needs to be rewritten every six years, which I think is slightly exaggerated, but no book is ever going to be definitive, and I think certainly at this particular distance in time from D-Day, you will always be finding new material. There’s been a huge amount of it over the last few years, and some has been made available, not so much through official documents having been opened, but because people before they died who were there at the time leave their diaries or letters to particular museums or archives, or after they have died their families hand them over, not knowing what to do with them, particularly in France – in the Mémorial de Caen. Obviously there are the provincial archives – the archives départmentales – but I think the most important thing in a way is to look for the material that has been overlooked. I think that it is the accumulation of detail from all these different archives that is vital, and it’s the way that you can create the mosaic through this particular collection of detail. To give an example about contemporary material – which I think is important – the United States army had an extremely far-sighted programme [during the Second World War] of employing combat historians. These were usually young historians, sometimes very young professors like Sergeant Forrest Pogue, who literally went straight in and interviewed the soldiers and officers as they came out of battle, so you had there a completely different version of events to what they may have said in interviews for oral history, 50 or 60 years after the event. One of the problems about oral history is that, although people are not in any way being dishonest – far from it – and they are not necessarily forgetting things, their memories have been filtered through what they’ve read about a particular battle. And it’s very easy to convince yourself – yes, I saw that, or I must have been there or whatever – because memory shifts and that’s why those combat interviews and contemporary diaries and other sources are so important. EW: Your books about history have certainly caused trouble, fuss, in the present in different situations – I think particularly your book about Berlin. Can you talk a little about this – again, because I think it’s looking at history from different viewpoints. AB: Well, that’s certainly true. Obviously one never sets out – or should never set out – to be controversial, and I didn’t realise that Berlin was going to be controversial until I started coming across the material in the Russian archives while researching the book, and this is the important thing – that most of the accounts of the mass rapes and all the rest of it were actually in the Russian archives – it wasn’t just from German research and German accounts. And maybe this is one of the reasons why it angered the Russians so much – I don’t know, but anyway the point was that they were absolutely furious. Funnily enough when Stalingrad was published in Russia in 1999, apart from one or two old Stalinist historians who were unhappy, the actual veterans – the Stalingrad Veterans’ Association and the rest – welcomed the book very warmly indeed, much more than I’d dared hope. So that, I thought, was very encouraging, but I guess that I knew the Berlin book was going to be a rocky ride, although I hadn’t expected it to be quite so explosive. Unfortunately what happened was that in January 2002 – five or six months before publication – I did an interview with The Bookseller. And you always think, well, who reads The Bookseller apart from booksellers; but unfortunately journalists do too. The Telegraph
rather naughtily decided to do a two-page splash, extrapolating from just one or two things that I’d said in that particular article and bringing in a bit of their own research and a lot of speculation. Anyway, all hell broke loose and the Russian ambassador accused me of lies, slander and blasphemy against the Red Army and more. I then wrote to him to try and calm things down, because the last thing that one wanted was a media storm at that particular point. To my astonishment, I got an invitation to lunch from the Russian ambassador – just the two of us – a vodka lunch, and this was on a Friday so needless to say I had a pint of full-cream milk before we started. Anyway, it was very strange, as his attitude at that particular stage was to say, ‘Oh, well, the Russian attitude to the war is going to change as the veterans die off and the people won’t be quite so sensitive about it and so forth’ . I made a big mistake by referring to Russia’s financial problems and saying that rather as Germany was able to face up to its own past after their economic miracle, it would be much easier for Russia when their economy took off. But the comparison with Germany was not popular, as I should have realised. It was a slight diplomatic faux pas to say the least. EW: Can we talk about the way things are for younger writers today, and the fact that historians are now turning to writing historical fiction. What do you think historical fiction has to offer history, and vice versa? AB: Well there are one or two extraordinary exceptions where historical fiction can offer a huge amount. For example the Jonathan Littell book, The Kindly Ones , which had this huge effect in France and won the Prix Goncourt, is a very important publication, not just as a superb work of literature, but also as a very significant work from a historical point of view. This novel takes on the guise of the defiant confession of an SS officer involved in the Final Solution, with Littell, who is Jewish, putting himself entirely into the mind of this SS officer. Now this approach, I think, can add another valuable aspect, because he can enter areas where historians cannot dare to tread because there simply is not the evidence nor the material there for them to use in a reliable fashion. Obviously one knows it’s a novel; it is not faction. There are some real characters who appear in it – including Himmler and Speer – in walk-on parts, but that does not in any way make it faction. I think that the curse and the danger today is faction, and especially cinematic faction, where you get Hollywood trying to convince everybody – and this is particularly dangerous in an era of historical ignorance – that what they’re about to see is absolutely true, by shooting a date up on the screen with a place name. And while feature movies pretend to be based on a true story, which is sometimes well done as in the case of the film Downfall  in Germany, they are moving slightly towards the documentary area. At the same time you get the documentary film-makers trying to move – purely for commercial reasons – into the feature-movie area with computer-generated imagery, dramatic reconstructions and all the rest of it. And this does worry me – that very grey area of faction – because people don’t have a clue what’s true and what’s not. This is an extract. Antony Beevor’s latest book, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, is published in hardback by Penguin Books. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 19
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FOR THE BODY The Library is a perfect Base Camp for members to read about someone else’s mountaineering escapades, as Rosie Thomas discovers
he 1948 Romanes Lecture was delivered on 21 May in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, by Lord Schuster, sometime Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor’s Office. The subject of Schuster’s lecture however was unrelated either to matters of law or government. His lordship was a skier, a keen alpinist and past president of the Alpine Club, and his chosen title was Mountaineering. The text of the lecture (to be found under Mountaineering in Science and Miscellaneous) is partly concerned with deploring nationalism in the sport, which given the date is hardly surprising, although not so relevant in this modern age of quests for the twin glories of extreme achievement and attendant publicity. Reinhold Messner, probably the greatest mountaineer of all time, might be taken as the embodiment of this more recent attitude. On returning from his oxygen-less solo ascent of Everest in 1978 and in response to a question about which flag he carried to the summit, he shrugged: ‘Iam my own homeland, and my handkerchief is my flag.’ Whereas Messner’s answer to the eternal question ‘Why?’ might be summed up as ‘because I can’, Lord Schuster concludes his address with some rather more sympathetic thoughts on the same topic: ‘We cannot say what we found in [the Alps], nor how we ourselves were transformed in them. But we know that, after our struggles, our defeats and partial successes, we found rest and peace in the evening.’ 20 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
It is the pursuit of rest and peace in the evening that is the theme of my explorations in the Library’s quirky Mountaineering collection. Given the actual restless night in the tent or hut followed by the pre-dawn stumble into outer darkness, and some aeon later the inevitable moment on an exposed belay with the cheek pressed to frozen rock, chips of ice and stone raining down from an invisible leader’s infinitesimal progress up
Rosie Thomas near the summit of the Eiger.
the wall, when you offer up the mumbled prayer, ‘if I can just get down from here … please … one piece … never again … I promise’, what better alternative could there be than sensibly and cosily sitting down to read about someone else’s escapades instead? The Library provides a fine virtual Base
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Above, left to right Gwen Moffat’s Space Below My Feet (1961); Heinrich Harrer’s The White Spider (1959), 2005 edition.
Camp for this purpose. The holdings in the subject are extensive, solid in most places, only occasionally shaky in others, like a riven Welsh crag. The armchair mountaineer will find in the Mountaineering stacks alone more than enough peaks and avalanches, glaciers, tweed breeches and compagnons de cordée, altitudinous feuds and séracs and magnificent Sherpas to occupy several seasons of winter ascents, even before investigating other shelf-marks. Where to begin? Perhaps with one of the great classics of the genre, the riveting Annapurna (1952) by Maurice Herzog, the first man to conquer an 8,000-metre peak. Written from his hospital bed where he spent six months recovering from frostbite, this unaffected account of the 1950 French expedition, in which triumph was closely followed by disaster and eventual redemption, was a deservedly popular bestseller. It concludes with the second-best closing line in the genre, the luminously calm ‘There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men’ . (All right – the best? At the very end of Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958), Newby and Hugh Carless bump into Wilfred Thesiger in a miserable village camp in the lower Panjshir. Getting ready for yet another night of privation the pair blow up their air-beds. ‘“God, you must be a couple of pansies,” said Thesiger.’)
Other titles in Annapurna’s we-made-it tradition range widely, including Lord Hunt’s The Ascent of Everest (1953), solid but slightly pedestrian compared with the Herzog; Graham Brown and Sir Gavin De Beer’s The First Ascent of Mont Blanc, an Alpine Club centennial volume (1957); H.W. Tilman’s The Ascent of Nanda Devi (1937), in which he writes of reaching the summit with Noel Odell, ‘I believe we so far forgot ourselves as to shake hands on it’; and my own greatest favourite, Heinrich Harrer’s The White Spider (1959). This classic doesn’t so much describe the first ascent of the Eiger Nordwand as haul the quivering reader up every successive ice chute and exposed traverse of the milehigh face. I first gulped it down as a teenager, and the words Hinterstoisser Traverse or Death Bivouac never fail to shiver the spine. Almost more fascinating still are the various accounts of unsuccessful or tragic expeditions, because these tend to give more weight to the precise combination of bravery and selfishness that compels human beings to climb high mountains in the first place. (The entry on Mont Blanc in Murray’s
Guide to France, 4th edition, offers the opinion that ‘a large proportion of those who have made this ascent have been of unsound mind’ .) For anyone who hasn’t read the ultimate mountaineering survival story, there is Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void (1988). I once sat on a plane out to Kathmandu next to a climber who was reading this book, and he couldn’t tear his eyes from the page for long enough to lift his drink. Mislocating his own mouth, he poured a beer straight into his lap and went on reading, oblivious. Elsewhere in this loose category there are various accounts of Edward Whymper on the Matterhorn, including an 1880 edition of Whymper’s own The Ascent of the Matterhorn, published by John Murray. Some mountains take on an overpowering significance to certain nationalities, for example the Americans on K2, for which see Charles S. Houston, K2, The Savage Mountain (1954), the Germans and their war of attrition on Nanga Parbat, described by Hermann Buhl in Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage: The Lonely Challenge (1956), and the British on Everest. The key Everest years are 1924, with the deaths of Mallory and Irvine; the success of John Hunt’s expedition in Coronation year, and the 1996 disaster that left eight climbers dead, including two highly experienced commercial guides. Books on these years and the intervening decades of events on Everest are thick on the shelves, with Peter and Leni Gillman’s life of George Mallory, The Wildest Dream (2000), giving a good picture of the early ethos and idealism, and James Morris’s Coronation Everest (1958), offering The Times correspondent’s view from actual Base Camp. Unfortunately Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997), a cool and convincing account of the 1996 debacle, is not to be found. Finally, for an overview of the entire history of Himalayan mountaineering, don’t miss Maurice Isserman’s and Stewart Weaver’s magisterial Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes (2008). It’s got everything, from Aleister Crowley on K2 to
The words Hinterstoisser Traverse or Death Bivouac never fail to shiver the spine
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the heartbreaking story of Nanda Devi Unsoeld on her namesake mountain, and a first-rate bibliography. Contrary to the impression I may have given, armchair mountaineering need not be confined to the Himalayas or even the Alps. One of the finest climbing books ever written, I believe, is W.H. Murray’s Mountaineering in Scotland (1947). Routes like Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis and Cir Mhor on the Isle of Arran are within the scope of the most knock-kneed climber, but Bill Murray’s modest, affectionate, lapidary accounts of days and nights with friends in the wild places of Scotland make the accessible precious. Incidentally it’s in writing about the Cuillin of Skye that Murray gives the recipe for the mountaineer’s cocktail known as Mummery’s Blood, consisting of equal parts Navy Rum and Bovril, served boiling hot. He claims that a pint ‘lowers angles, shortens distances and improves weather’. One supposes it would. There are eight of Murray’s books in the collection. The Biography shelves hold lives of the usual suspects, from Leslie Stephen through George Mallory to Chris Bonington, but there are less familiar names too. I’d recommend Gwen Moffat’s Space Below My Feet (1961), on becoming the first female mountain guide, and Two Star Red (1961), about the work of the mountain rescue services. Al Alvarez’s Feeding the Rat (1988), about the climber Mo Anthoine, is as essential as Annapurna. Alvarez has neatly described climbing as ‘chess for the body’ , and the title of this comic retelling of climbing exploits in the authentic deadpan register (‘it was so cold that his eyelids froze to his eyeballs’) defines the compulsion to court discomfort and danger as easing the gnawing of an inner rodent. After an epic day on the Old Man of Hoy in the Orkneys, Alvarez is asked, ‘How’s your rat, then?’ ‘He overate,’ Alvarez answers. ‘I think he just died.’ In Biographical Collections, among other promising titles is Wilfrid Noyce’s Scholar Mountaineers (1950). Alongside essays on Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and Goethe is ‘Petrarca Alpinista’ , in which Noyce identifies Petrarch as the father of mountaineering on the basis that he once climbed a mountain (Mont Ventoux) and then wrote about having done so, although he did not choose to repeat the achievement. Closer to home and the present is Bill Birkett’s Lakeland’s Greatest Pioneers (1983), describing the century-long gradual emergence of rock 22 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
Left to right: Howard Somervell, without trousers, Arthur Wakefield, and George Mallory, naked, after fording a stream en route to Everest. Photograph George Finch, 1922. © Royal Geographical Society.
climbing as a separate sport with different goals from mountaineering, and the local pioneers who forced more and more outlandish routes up sheer rock faces. Elsewhere in the collections, Topography is another rich source of material. From the Caucasus through Tibet, and home again via Wales, wherever there are mountains there will be books about them. The sort of semi-aimless browse here, familiar to all Library users, brought me to Tibet and Nepal by A.H. Savage Landor (1905), a wonderfully opinionated and completely batty read in which he asserts that ‘Any man who tries to go up a mountain by any but the easiest way is an idiot and should be confined to a lunatic asylum’ . (So there, Reinhold Messner). For further mountain-related discoveries, various categories within Science and Miscellaneous – Botany, Natural History, Geology and Volcanoes – all repay an exploratory expedition. Even in Universities there is the original 1937 edition of The Night Climbers of Cambridge by ‘Whipplesnaith’ , an engaging account of young gentlemen’s stegophilic feats. One of the jewels of the collection, however, is in Old Periodicals. This is a run of the Alpine Journal, the publication of the Alpine Club, the first of such societies to be formed. Subtitled ‘A Record of Mountain Adventure and Scientific Observation’ and dating from the first issue of March 1863, these were the days when peak-bagging was supposed to have scientific value as well as just being adventure for adventure’s sake. There are fascinating hours to be spent here deep in the golden age of mountaineering,
not just for the club members’ straightforward narratives of peaks, passes and glaciers, but for the ripe subtexts of class and empire: contrast this with the lives of men like Joe Brown and Don Whillans, who emerged from the working-class hard-men tradition of the northern mountaineering clubs some 80 years later. In Old Periodicals there are also some runs of L’Echo des Alpes, the parallel publication of the Swiss Alpine Club. Finally, there are the overhangs and gullies of the Fiction shelves to be negotiated. Mountaineering features in a variety of novels, some with more merit than others, but The White Tower was a famous bestseller for James Ramsey Ullman in 1945. It contains the expected sex-in-a-sleepingbag scene, for connoisseurs of the genre. There are four of Ullman’s non-fiction titles in the collection but, sadly, not his novel. Other favourites that are held include The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (1931), wildly eccentric but eerie and oddly memorable even so, and the magnificent The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by W.E. Bowman (1956), a wicked spoof of some of the square-jawed narratives listed above, and one of the funniest books I have ever read. On your eventual return to Camp I in Mountaineering, the ultimate choice to take back to the Base-Camp armchair might be Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination by Robert Macfarlane (2003). This erudite, passionate book is part history, part personal memoir, and it is particularly enlightening on that essential mixture of bravery and selfishness, and the forever intertwined wonder and terror of mountaineering itself. May there be rest and peace in the evening. And maybe also a beaker of Mummery’s Blood somewhere to hand.
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GAMES Simon Godwin
s a family we always played games at Christmas, but when I set about writing my recent book on games, Ting Tang Tommy!, I needed to find lots more. Fortunately the London Library proved a treasure trove of inspiration. For six months I became a games detective, scanning the Library shelves to find any kind of forgotten game that was simple and fun to play today. The S. Sports &c shelf became my second home. Squatting in the dusty corridor my first major discovery was Three Hundred Games and Pastimes or What Shall We Do Now? (1920) by Edward Lucas. The book is a collection of games, craft ideas, recipes and general tips on enjoying life. Lucas was a prolific writer (he wrote more than a hundred books) and a friend of A.A. Milne, who was also an avid games player. Both men were products of the Victorian craze for parlour games. By the mid-nineteenth century most homes were lit by gas and people were hungry for ways to fill their newly illuminated evenings. Games filled this need. As well as detailing lots of games, Lucas discusses different ways to have fun. He provides tips on having a good time at the seaside: ‘in paddling, a nurse is both a help and a hindrance. In so far as she will mind things and carry towels she is a help; but the fact that her presence makes it necessary for you to come out of the water at the same place you went in is a hindrance to true adventure.’ He gives advice on keeping pets (how to cultivate silkworms, train young squirrels and teach parrots to talk) and even provides basic recipes for fun foods such as barley sugar, coconut drops and peppermint toffee, ‘all of which can be made with very little trouble on a nursery fire’ . Life, according to Lucas, was an endless opportunity for fun. The travel writer and novelist Norman Douglas was passionate about collecting games that were played outside. In the first decade of the twentieth century he scoured the streets of London talking to children and recording their games. In the Library I discovered his London Street Games (1916), which is full of interviews with working-class children about their favourite games. It is a remarkable account of elaborate variations of 24 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
The Hand Dragon
Illustrations from Edward Lucas’s Three Hundred Games and Pastimes or What Shall We Do Now? (1920).
marble games (‘marlies’), ‘chalk games’ – such as Hopscotch and Noughts and Crosses – and cat and mouse games like Kick the Can that eventually morphed into Ting Tang Tommy! – the game I grew up playing in the streets near where I lived. As well as exploring the history of games, I needed to find examples that could still be played successfully by families and friends today. For this, Cassell’s Complete Book of Sports and Pastimes from 1893 proved handy. As well as sections on ‘lawn games’ and ‘manly exercises’ , it described many classic games such as Consequences, Blind Man’s Buff and Hunt the Slipper. After a week in the Reading Room carefully transcribing games into my notebook, I would try them out on Sunday afternoons in my flat with a group of hardy volunteers. After tea and biscuits we would embark on a couple of hours of hardcore playing. Which games would still work? Hunt the Thimble, Murder in the Dark and In the Manner of the Word all made it through. Others were discarded for being too hard to follow, too didactic (the Victorians were fond of games that taught you something) or too elaborate. My aim was to find simple, short games that required minimal equipment. And they had to be great fun. Gradually games that had lain dormant in the shelves of S. Sports &c became alive once more. Reviving them was a thrilling process, as I discovered that our need for games is as strong as ever. Even though the world has changed dramatically, our desire for collective enjoyment remains undiminished. Opposite are a couple of games from Simon Godwin's new book Ting Tang Tommy! to play over Christmas and New Year
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Chinese Pictures For 5 to 15 players This new game is being played by more and more people I know, and when you play it you’ll realise why. It’s well structured, can be played anywhere, and is open to many different ages and levels of skill. It comes with its own inscribed magic. A variant on the Consequences model, its origins are hinted at in a book called Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games from 1889, but this version is a lot more fun. Everyone begins with a pile of papers, each about the size of a quarter of a piece of A4. It’s crucial that you begin with the right number of papers. For an odd number of players you’ll need the same number of papers; for an even number of players you will need one less. So for nine players you’ll need nine papers, for eight you’ll need seven. On their first piece of paper everyone writes down a film title. Now everyone passes their entire pile, with the title still on top, to the person on their right. This player looks at the title and places it at the bottom of the pile. Now they must attempt to draw the film title on this new piece of paper. They can do this either by breaking down the title of the film or by drawing an image that communicates its essential content. When this is done, players pass the entire pile to the player on their right. This person looks carefully at the picture and then puts it to the bottom of the pile and on the next new piece of paper writes down the title that it suggests to them. When they have done this they pass their entire pile to the person on their right, who reads the title, places it on the bottom and draws the picture that expresses it. It’s essential that the entire pile is passed on each time and this process of reading/ writing/ drawing continues until people get their original title back. After they have been reunited with their original title, each player now reveals their sequence of words and pictures. Players talk through their sequence, holding up one paper at a time. A potential example might go: I wrote down One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Dad drew [a strange drawing of a flying bird]; Granny wrote Chicken Run; Mum drew [an abstract figure distantly related to a chicken fleeing a prison]; Grandpa wrote The Fugitive; and so on. It’s fantastically rewarding when one pile of papers succeeds in conveying one consistent title, but this is rare. There is no winner; the pleasure lies in the often crazy relationship between image and title. Players should try to be as precise as possible, but more often than not this is a celebration of distortion. Also, don’t be put off by people being confused or grudging at the start. The game reveals its magic gradually, and it’s thrilling to discover the way you arrive back at your title and the mad journeys everyone has gone on.
Boys playing marbles, c.1891.
Ex Libris For 4 to 12 players; materials required: pens, paper, hat, shelf of books. This is an advanced game for wannabe authors. You need a good collection of books on hand and people who are very keen. I know people who live in fear of playing this game and others who spend entire weekends doing nothing else. Someone begins by choosing a book. They will be the umpire for this round. Let’s say the book is D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. Everyone has a pen and paper. When the book has been chosen, the umpire reads out the first line. Inspired by the style of the writing, everyone must now write down their best impression of the novel’s last line. So, in this case, you might write something like, ‘Amongst the falling soot of the evening, Aunt Mary began her long walk home.’ Everyone writes their suggestions down and puts them into a hat. At the same time the umpire writes down the actual last line and throws it into the hat, too. When everyone has submitted their suggestion, all the entries are taken out of the hat and read out by the umpire. Everyone now votes for what they think is the real closing line. You get one point for choosing the true version and one point for all those who vote for your untrue version. You can keep going, with different people taking it in turns to be the umpire, until your brain melts and a winner is declared. The actual last line of Sons and Lovers is: ‘He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly.’ So, it’s not as hard as you might think.
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MEMBERS’ NEWS DEPUTY LIBRARIAN RETIRES As Christmas approaches we are preparing for the retirement of our Deputy Librarian, Alison Sproston, who leaves us at the end of the year. In London Library terms she has been with us but a short while – seven and a half years – since succeeding me in the role in June 2002, but she will be much missed not just for the exceptional skill and dedication she has shown but for her infectious enthusiasm, warmth and kindness to everyone she encounters. The role of Deputy Librarian is a critical one for the well-being of both Library and Librarian so we have been fortunate indeed to have Alison in post. There are two main strands to the work: the first involves leading, coordinating and overseeing the provision of all aspects of the Library’s services to members, ensuring that service is seamless and of the highest quality we can manage in every circumstance. This means acting as line manager to the heads of departments directly involved in the provision of library services such as Reader Services, Cataloguing, Retrospective Catalogue Conversion, IT and Membership, taking the lead in continually reviewing the services provided and coordinating the planning and implementation of service enhancements. The second strand underpins this; it involves responsibility for everything to do with staffing, from recruitment and training to ensuring that the Library remains compliant with the ever-changing requirements of employment legislation and recommended practice. And while most people might be forgiven for hoping to wind down gently over their final year of employment, Alison has had the busiest year of her career, combining all the above with taking the lead in resolving all the logistical challenges of keeping our services going during a period of major construction. Never has retirement been more richly deserved and we wish her a long and happy one as we welcome her successor Jane Oldfield to the role. Jane comes to us from the British Architectural Library where she has been Deputy Director (and no stranger to construction projects!) and she will introduce herself properly in a future issue. For the present we will let Alison have the final word … Inez Lynn, Librarian, 2002–
THE LAST FAREWELL Bustling, lively public libraries, calm scholarly college libraries, libraries with bookshelves designed by Basil Spence and with those designed by Christopher Wren – I’ve said goodbye to quite a variety of libraries as my working life has progressed. I feel enormously privileged that the last Library I am leaving should be this one: a library that still adheres to the principles which attracted me to a library career in the first place. Helping to bring enlightenment, learning and delight to large numbers of people through the provision of good, well-managed libraries
Alison Sproston at home amongst the stacks.
was a fine prospect to the idealistic library students of 1968 – it was an age for youthful ideals – and for the first few years of my professional life, governments seemed keen to support such lofty aims. New libraries were springing up in every local authority in the UK, a golden age of publishing for children had begun, and new universities were establishing libraries for more students than ever before and needing competent qualified librarians to staff them. Then came the excitement of computer applications in libraries – the wonders of barcodes and on-line catalogues that revolutionised our working lives: those were heady days indeed for enthusiastic librarians. Things changed, of course, and I watched professional colleagues in the 1980s and 1990s, in academic and public libraries, become increasingly demoralised by harder economic times and, as it seemed to us, the philistinism of successive governments, which was resulting in library closures, reduced book funds and sidelining of skilled staff. But of course there was one library unaffected by government whim, the wonderful London Library. I could not believe my good fortune in 2002 when I was appointed Deputy Librarian here, and I was unaware how absorbing and challenging this last stage of my career would prove to be. These seven years spent supporting Inez Lynn, the most brilliant and clear-sighted of librarians, as she has initiated and steered the Library through successive phases of the Development Project, have been exceptionally rewarding. Throughout, I have been helped by a group of colleagues whose dedication, capacity for hard work and sheer ‘niceness’ leaves me in awe. So it’s now goodbye, London Library – but of course retirement brings precious free time – time to read! Books on ballet, Romanesque architecture, formal garden design, wine – not to mention frivolous and not-so-frivolous novels – to name but a few personal enthusiasms. My brief seven years here have taught me many things, but above all the absolute necessity of access to this incomparable book collection, and my first action as a pensioner will be to join the London Library as a subscribing member. Vale, London Library, atque Ave. Alison Sproston, Deputy Librarian 2002–2009 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 27
LIBRARY REDEVELOPMENT: PHASE 2 At time of writing we anticipate that by early to mid-December when you are enjoying this latest issue of the London Library Magazine, the fine new spaces in the Library created during the construction programme this year will be finished and open to members. To help you find your way around the extended building more easily we have developed a brand new floor plan and have mounted a new and, we hope, clearer system of signage in all the new and refurbished areas. The Library has been divided into five distinct ‘buildings’: the St James’s Building; the Back Stacks; the Central Stack; T.S. Eliot House and the Basement, colour-coded on the new signage. T.S. Eliot House is now fully integrated with the earlier Library buildings with through access on five floors enabling members to move seamlessly between the old and the new. The room on the first floor which housed the temporary Eliot Reading Room during the building works has now been fitted with shelving ready to accommodate part of the Art collection which will flow into it from the Art Room gallery. Our stunning new Art Room is also finished, returning the space to the airy, double-height glory it enjoyed in the 1940s, though in a carefully updated style. The room is shelved on two levels, with a beautifully designed gallery and four convenient reader spaces on the upper level, allowing members to work in the heart of the art collections. The move of the books back to the new Art Room from the Basement is due to take place in mid-December, and we hope the room will be ready for members by Christmas. The Library’s new Times Room in the Upper Basement, open to members since May this year, gave a sneak preview of what to expect from the rest of the Basement redevelopment. Formerly dark and uninspiring, the Basement now boasts a lofty threestorey lightwell, visible from the Issue Hall and the original staircase, offering ten new WiFi-enabled reader places. The rolling racking around the lightwell has been designed to accommodate the collections of bound periodicals currently stored on the upper levels in the Back Stacks: these volumes will be moved into the Basement in the New Year. A bank of new lavatories including one designed for disabled access complete the Basement transformation. Most importantly we now have the lift back again, roomier and wheelchair-accessible. It serves the Basement to floor six as before, but now makes additional stops in the Upper Basement (Times Room), and the Art Room. The secondary staircase, which used to start at the second-floor landing, has been extended right down to the Basement, obviating the need to cross over the building via the narrow corridor in the St James’s Building literature block.
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Navigating around the Library is now a good deal easier, thanks to the new, roomier lift and extended secondary staircase.
A surprise additional element of Phase 2 of the Development Project has also been unveiled. The Prevost Room, originally the trustees’ meeting room on the first floor, has been turned over to members as an additional place to work. This charming room, complete with Adam fireplace, has been fitted with 15 WiFienabled reader spaces. The Library’s first floor is now a dedicated Reading Room floor, offering members the choice of working in the main Reading Room, the North Bay or the Prevost Room. Beneath the Prevost Room is an extended Catalogue Hall, and we now offer members the use of a self-service digital scanner, which replaces one of the photocopiers. The success of the Library’s fundraising for Phase 2 has enabled a further surprise element to be added to the building programme. Between now and June next year, the Library’s Issue Hall will be given a much-needed facelift, and another entrance, from Mason’s Yard, will be added. This work will provide level wheelchair access directly into the Issue Hall, a proper cloakroom space with many more lockers, and a redesigned reception area. Disruption to members is expected to be minimal, though the Issue Hall will be partitioned while the works are carried out. More details will follow in the next edition of the magazine. We encourage you all to visit and explore the Library’s new and improved facilities, which would not have been brought to fruition without your support, forbearance, patience and generosity during this year. We look forward to inviting every one of you to celebratory events and tours to take place in mid-2010, when Phase 2 draws to a formal close.
TRAINING THE LIBRARIANS OF THE FUTURE Trainees Each year, usually around August and September, members comment on the arrival of ‘lots of new faces at the Issue Desk’. This is the time when newly recruited graduate trainees take over from their predecessors to start the training programme, which the Library has been offering for well over a decade. In common with many other libraries (academic, legal, institutional, specialist) we recruit graduates who need to gain practical experience in a library before enrolling for a postgraduate library/ information science qualification. Our two trainees this year are Rebecca Carby and Sarah Maule, both of whom are based in the Reader Services department. They learn first how to perform the essential issue, return and reservation routines, and are then taught how to assist members with bibliographical enquiries using a wide range of reference sources, and how to handle books and help preserve the stock in good condition. Each trainee (in common with all the nonmanagerial members of staff) is allocated a section of the bookstacks which it is their responsibility to keep tidy and reshelve daily. Later in the year they attend training sessions given by senior staff in all areas of the Library’s work, they learn some basic cataloguing skills while contributing to the work of the Retrospective Cataloguing project, and book repair techniques in the Dept of Preservation & Stack Management. Visits to other libraries are arranged, and each trainee is encouraged to complete a personal project, often a survey of a particular subject area: recent topics have included children’s books, the library’s ‘Gothic horror’ holdings, and our First World War poetry collections. From their first day at work trainees are introduced to two fundamental cornerstones of the profession: the importance of aiming to provide the best possible service to users in all areas of library activity at all times, and the requirement for exceptional accuracy and attention to detail throughout. Most of our trainees gain places on the graduate course of their choice (in the 2008–9 academic year we had four ex-London Library staff training at UCL’s Department of Library & Information Studies).
Wanted: New Writers! Members are reminded that submissions for our 2010 Fiction Issue will be accepted until the end of January. For the chance to have your work appear in the London Library Magazine, please email your short stories of no more than 3,000 words to firstname.lastname@example.org Post-qualification training The Library is keen to help newly-trained librarians gain postqualification experience. We have recently employed two staff who completed the UCL course in 2007–8: Catherine English, who has a particular interest in the physical care of books and in rarebook librarianship joined our Department of Preservation & Stack Management, and Steven Archer was appointed Chief Library Assistant (Reader Services). Steven explains why he was keen to apply for the post, and what he hopes to gain from his time here:
Christmas Delight For those still puzzling over their festive gift-buying list, don’t forget Modern Delight, our wonderful volume produced in collaboration with Waterstone’s. With more than 80 mini-essays by prominent names including our own Tom Stoppard, Bill Nighy and Lynne Truss, Modern Delight is an entrancing catalogue of life’s simpler joys. This perfect slice of Christmas pleasure is available in Waterstone’s stores and online (waterstones.com) for £9.99, with proceeds going to the London Library and Dyslexia Action.
‘I’ve been working in libraries since I was 16 and had my first holiday job with Sunderland Public Library service. I studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at university in Cambridge, where the palaeography and codicology courses really cemented my interest in book-culture. On this basis I applied to be a graduate trainee at Trinity College, Cambridge, attracted by the reputation it has for its medieval manuscript collection. It was a fantastic opportunity to work with such materials on a daily basis, whilst gaining practical experience of modern librarianship, as I was responsible for serials management. Whilst studying for the MA at UCL I was lucky enough to be offered a maternity-cover post back at Trinity where I was responsible for all acquisitions and cataloguing, which provided fantastic experience of collection management and budgetary control. I was attracted to the post here at the London Library because of the opportunity to do something a bit different! The reputation of the Library in professional circles was a definite draw, as was the opportunity to work in a more customer-focused environment. It is refreshing to return to the human side of librarianship – I really enjoy the interaction between staff and members that enquiry work brings. Behind the scenes, I’m responsible for timetabling the staff across the department and for making sure the Library is adequately signed among many other things. It’s great to get some staff-management experience, which is so essential for career progression in the field, and will really add to the skill-set which I have built up since those early days back in Sunderland!’ Moving off to other libraries During the last ten years, more than forty aspiring librarians have been through our training scheme, gained their professional qualifications and are now occupying positions in a wide variety of libraries. Former London Library trainees are to be found for example at Westminster School, the Wallace Collection, the University of Notre Dame in London, the British Library, the DTI and in several medical libraries around the country. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 29
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THIS SEASON’S LITERARY EVENTS
Fiona Shaw, whose acting abilities enable her to break down gender barriers by assuming both male and female characters, will feature in the exhibition Identity: Eight Rooms Nine Lives, along with other individuals who have illuminated our thinking about the fascinating topic of human identity, at the Wellcome Collection until 11 April (wellcome.collection.org).
Half a century after C.P. Snow's The Two Cultures, the arts and sciences are still keeping themselves (mostly) to themselves. LSE’s Space for Thought Literary Festival (11–13 February, lse.ac.uk) will be nudging at these boundaries, combing the borderlands between social science, natural science and the humanities for insights into mind, self and society.
The picturesque Theatre by the Lake in Keswick is the setting for this year’s Words by the Water Literature Festival (5–14 March, wordsbythewater.org.uk). Writers and readers will congregate on the edge of Derwentwater for workshops, book launches and special exhibitions.
To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the first formal biography of Shakespeare, Charles Nicholl* has contributed the introduction to a new edition of Nicholas Rowe’s The Life of Shakespeare. On 9 December, he’ll be providing a personal view of Rowe’s biography at Shakespeare’s Globe (shakespeares-globe.org). Present-buying for the literary someone in your life? Why not give them a first edition or a rare print? Sotheran’s in Piccadilly (sotherans.co.uk) has a huge range to suit all tastes and budgets. You could pick up a privately printed edition of W.H. Auden’s Three Songs for St Cecilia's Day, or even a 19th-century Yoshida print. If the early modern era is more to your significant other’s tastes, the antiquarian booksellers Quaritch in Mayfair (quaritch.com) are presenting a display of Elizabethan and Jacobean texts in the upper foyer of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre over the Christmas period – and they’re all for sale (shakespeares-globe.org). JANUARY Newsweek made Jonathan Lethem one of its ‘100 People for the New Century’, and Edward Norton recently bought the film rights for his novel Motherless Brooklyn. He’ll be at the London Review Bookshop on 7 January (lrbshop.co.uk) to talk about his latest novel, Chronic City, which features a faded child-star actor, a cultural critic, a ghost-writer and a city official.
Barbara Demick’s new book Nothing to Envy (Granta) has been described by Jung Chang as ‘a most perceptive and eyeopening account of everyday life in North Korea’. The author will be speaking to Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor for Channel 4 News, at the Royal Festival Hall on 16 February at 7.45 pm (southbankcentre.co.uk).
RECENT LITERARY AWARDS Congratulations to the Library members who were nominated for or have won literary awards since August 2009 Roy and Lesley Adkins, Jack Tar, nominated for Mountbatten Maritime Award 2009 for best literary contribution Adam Foulds, The Quickening Maze, shortlisted for 2009 Man Booker Prize Michael Holroyd, A Strange Eventful History, winner of 2009 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography Meredith Hooper, The Ferocious Summer: Palmer’s Penguins and the Warming of Antarctica, winner of 2008 Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-fiction at the Victorian Premier’s Awards, Australia James Lever, Me Cheeta, longlisted for 2009 Man Booker Prize M.M. Mahood, The Poet as Botanist, equal winner (with Frances Wilson) of 2009 Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy
* Current Library member
April Ashley, backstage at Le Carousel, c.1958, who features in the Wellcome’s Identity exhibition.
Patrick Ness, The Ask and the Answer, shortlisted for 2009 Booktrust Teenage Prize Kaori O’Connor, The Hawaiian Luau: Food as Tradition, Transgression, Transformation and Travel, winner of 2009 Sophie Coe Prize in Food History Christopher Reid, A Scattering, shortlisted for 2009 Forward Prize for Best Collection Jacqueline Wilson, nominated for 2010 Astrid Lindgren Prize Correction: Sabina ffrench Blake, Henry Tonks, was the recipient of the Society of Authors 2009 ‘Authors’ Foundation Award’, not the ‘Authors’ Modulation Award’, as stated in the last issue of the magazine. The magazine would welcome any information from members who have won or been nominated for prizes, to be included in future issues. Please send details to: email@example.com
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