Saturday, March 5, 2016

Slightly Foxed what pleasure I get when this charming British quarterly with paintings on the cover arrives by mail, bearing its discoveries from writers describing treasures from the past. The latest volume brings Autonauts of the Cosmoroute (1983) by Julio Cortazar and his wife, Carol Dunlop, about a month-long journey they made in a red Volkswagen camper, named Fafner after Wagner's dragon, from Paris to Marseilles on the autoroute, stopping twice a day "at every one of the route's 65 motels, cafeteria. lay-bys and picnic areas" without leaving the highway. Sarah Bakewell (How to Live: A Life of Montaigne and At the Existentialist Cafe) calls the book "one of the most adventurous and wide-ranging travel books ever written." Next, a treatise on wilderness manuals from Gaylen O'Hanlon while Robert McFarlane (Landmarks) writes about Lexicographer-Poet James Stout Angus's A Glossary of the Shetland Dialect (1914) and the poetry within, i.e. "ABER, adj., sharp, acute, as an edge tool; clear, well-defined, as a cloudless sky; eater, as a hungry fish at a bait; secure, as a knot on a line, ardent, severe; v. to sharpen as a knife; to stir up and make bright, as a fire." More amazing entries cited on the sea (ADNASJUR, BAA, UTSHOT), and on flora and fauna (BARK-LEAF, 'the blade and blossom of tormentil' and SWABBI MAA, 'the great black-back gull.' Margaret Drabble extols the contradictory and moving life of James Joyce as illuminated by Richard Ellmann in the biography of 1980. And so many favorites written about with charm and panache: Evan Connell's Mrs. Bridge, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, Alison Lurie's Real People, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, and authors Brian Moore, J. G. Farrell, Penelope Fitzgerald with titles we may have missed. Not that title choices are a problem for me, "so many books, so little time," but what fun to read these contributors who have a light touch and deep appreciation of good tales, for instance one note on a writer says: "retiring from 36 years as a Fleet Street sub-editor, Patrick Welland invested in a huge chair in which to drink red wine and read books." I've done the same.

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