Tag Archives: Lucy Mangan

Plus a phantom Phantom

And another thing I discovered at Waterstones. Book, I mean.

After reading Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm, I knew I needed to read her beloved The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. I put it on my Christmas wish list and the Resident IT Consultant sourced a copy and gave me.

Because it was an ex-library copy, he took the liberty of first reading it himself, and he seemed a little confused as to why I’d want it. Well, I didn’t know, did I? Except if it was life-changing for Lucy, then…

Anyway, I was astounded to discover this very book for sale at Waterstones on Thursday. Seemed like the same cover and everything. It was – apparently – a 50th anniversary edition. Made sense to me.

Except, when I got home and searched, I could not find such a cover, and the only 50th edition seems to be from 2011 [book first published in the US in 1961].

Did I hallucinate this Phantom?

Reading it, I can understand how the book had such an impact on Lucy, experiencing it at school where an enlightened teacher read it to the the class. It’s perfect for reading aloud. Although I wonder about the many illustrations by Jules Feiffer. Did the teacher show them every page?

I like the quote [in Bookworm] from Jules, about how he’d have used nicer paper to draw on, had he known it was going to be a classic!

And dear Lucy owns at least three copies of this book. It’s reassuring to find someone who understands about safeguarding against a lack of books at some ghastly point in the future.

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A thought for our time

Before we look too deeply into our mince pies, I want to share the quote Lucy Mangan shares in her Bookworm. It’s from one of her ‘older’ children’s books, Summer of my German Soldier, by Bette Greene.

Set in the American deep south, the quote comes from a [hidden] German soldier, who’s made friends with a young Jewish girl, and his explanation of ‘how Hitler succeeded is still my go-to reference as I’m reading the headlines about the rise of whichever new (or ancient) evil is dominating the news cycle that day.

“His first layer is an undeniable truth, such as: the German worker is poor. The second layer is divided equally between flattery and truth: the German worker deserves to be prosperous. The third layer is total fabrication: the Jews and the Communists have stolen what is rightfully yours.”

Evil builds in increments. Your understanding of this basic truth may grow in sophistication and detail over the years, but the earlier and harder you grasp the simple, unchanging bastard fundamental, the better off you’ll be.’

Needless to say, I want to read this book.

Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading

I want to be Lucy Mangan. We are so alike in many ways, but I haven’t read all the books she has, nor can I write like she does. I want to [be able to] write like Lucy Mangan!

I don’t expect that will happen.

I also want to know what her house/library/bookshelves look like. I can’t conceive how you can keep that many books – in a findable way – in a normal house. Assuming she lives in a normal house.

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm

After reading Lucy’s Bookworm, I now love her parents, too. I especially feel I’ve got to know Mrs Mangan better – and that’s without the letter to the Guardian stating that the Mangans were happy to have their daughter adopted by some other Guardian letter writer.

A friend of mine often mentions the fear induced in millions of people by the four minute warning so ‘popular’ in the 1980s. I’d almost forgotten about it, and never really worried all that much. Little Lucy was extremely concerned, but was reassured by her mother, who clearly knew what the child needed to hear. Basically, it would be in the news, so they would be prepared. They’d not send her to school if the end seemed imminent, and they would all die together at home. Problem solved.

Bookworm is about what one bookworm has read – so far – in her life of loving children’s books. She is not repentant (I must try harder), and will keep reading what she wants, as well as keep not doing all those ghastly things other people like, if she doesn’t want to. That’s my kind of bookworm!

This reading memoir is full of the same books we have all read, or decided not to read, as well as some real secret gems I’d never heard of and will need to look for. Lucy rereads books regularly, but doesn’t mention how she finds the time for all this.

It’s been such a relief to discover that she dislikes some of the same books I’d never consider reading, and even more of a relief to understand how acceptable, and necessary this is. Lucy even has the right opinions on clothes. Very useful to know there are sensible women in this world.

I had to read Bookworm slowly. I needed to savour what I could sense wouldn’t last forever. Although one can obviously reread Bookworm, just as one can other books. (Where to find the extra time, though?)

Growing up a generation – not to mention a North Sea – apart, we didn’t always read the same books. But by now we sort of meet in the here and now, and Lucy ends her book by listing a number of today’s must-read authors, and her judgement is almost completely spot on and correct.

So to summarise; I can read the same books. I can probably not store as many in my house. But I will never be able to write as well. (And I rather mind that.)

(According to Lucy, she loves her young son more than she loves books. Bookworm was given to me – after some hinting – by Daughter, whom I happen to love more than books too.)

Generosity

Translator Daniel Hahn had two pieces of good news to share yesterday. First he won the International Dublin Literary Award with author José Eduardo Agualusa for the book A General Theory of Oblivion. They share the €100,000 award, which is very generous as literary prizes go. Even Daniel’s 25% is a lot of money.

And then Daniel decided to give some of it away again. He’s using half his money to fund a new First Translation Award for the Society of Authors, with an annual £2000 given to a first literary translation, to be shared by the translator and the editor.

But the generosity of people does not end there. Many of our favourite illustrators have donated art to an auction starting tomorrow, in aid of stranded refugees in Greece, via the Three Peas charity. I’ve had a little look, and there are many, many beautiful illustrations that would look great on anybody’s wall. Go on, you have about ten days to bid!

Not surprisingly the dreadful tragedy of the fire at Grenfell Tower in London has caused many authors to join in to help raise money for the British Red Cross to help residents affected by the fire. Authors for Grenfell Tower can be found here.

As always, there are many interesting and diverse items and services on offer. I quite fancy naming a character in Philip Pullman’s 2nd Book of Dust. I’m guessing that could fetch a lot of money. Or I could go book shopping with Lucy Mangan.

Goodwill, to some

Before we all succumb to Christmas cheer and goodwill, I can’t resist mentioning this, to anyone who didn’t already read it in last week’s Guardian Review.

I love Lucy Mangan. I have, for some reason never managed to like Russell Brand. I have worried – probably unnecessarily – that I’m being unfair in this. I really like Chris Riddell and I have a strong admiration for Neil Gaiman’s work.

I envy Lucy’s power as a Guardian reviewer (although, where is she most of the time? I miss Lucy!), and the fact that when I want to be mean on Bookwitch, I run it past Thumper’s mum first, and then usually resist my urges. You can always say nothin’ at all.

So, it cheered me immensely to find Lucy writing this about Russell’s new book: ‘Chris Riddell’s tumbling, vigorous, plentiful illustrations give the book a beauty it does not deserve and a coherence the text does not deliver. It pains me to think how often he must have had to read the thing…’

I agree that illustrating Neil’s new children’s book was most likely a more satisfying task. I don’t know what The Sleeper and the Spindle is like, however. For some reason I receive very few books from this publisher, and after considerable email exchanges last year about Fortunately, the Milk, I ended up buying a copy. I feel sufficiently raw after that experience, that I will not mention this new book to the publisher.

It must have been something I said. This time I consulted with Thumper’s mum and she reckoned it was all right to write what I’ve just put in this blog post. But I’ll stop here.

Ash

I hadn’t given Thai orchids a moment of thought. It would be wrong to say I don’t care. But most of any care I have over the lack of orchids from anywhere, would be to do with loss of income for those whose livelihoods depend on them.

Until Monday evening we didn’t know whether Son would be able to turn up here this morning, and for a while it looked as if he’d be one of the lucky ones, with flight not yet cancelled and due to arrive 15 minutes after Manchester airport reopens Tuesday morning (if it does). But it was not to be, which I suppose should have been expected after he has narrowly avoided other air traffic disruptions this academic year. Son has a certain talent for ending up with travel disruption where his education is concerned, so why would now be any different?

But let’s return to the subject of Eyjafjallajökull, which Son can pronounce almost to perfection after his year in that place where he’s stuck for the moment. The Resident IT Consultant was amused at the Icelander interviewed on air on Thursday when it all began, because he reported that ‘the ways were closed and the cows were in the houses’. Of course they were.

Son has found himself increasingly annoyed with the BBC on this subject, and has resorted to Icelandic news on the internet. And as the orchids above indicate, I’m a little intrigued at how our trusted newspapers are reporting things.

It’s worth covering the repercussions of businesses going under, and possible shortages of tomatoes, say. But the Thai orchids can’t be unimportant only at Witch Towers, surely? Or the pre-washed salads. Convenient (and yucky, when you think of it), but hardly essential. I noted to my surprise that elusive ingredients for medicine is bad for the pharmaceutical companies. I’d have imagined it’d be worse for those who are ill and may need the medicine to survive. And I’m not going to lie sleepless if Robert Downey can’t make his film premiere next week. Will you?

Why do papers report such silly news? I’m the first to enjoy Lucy Mangan or Tim Dowling poking fun at stuff in an entertaining manner, but who checks what gets into the news pages?

Ladybird books

It would appear that foreigners can sometimes get things right.

I know that as one of them I can never lay claim to the kind of past many of my readers have with Ladybird books. You sort of imbibed them with the first milk, and a person can only have one past. At least most of us. Lucy Mangan has been spot on again, writing about her Ladybird collection, and being generous enough to concede that her otherwise hopeless husband also has an excellent Ladybird past. Wow.

On my first visit to these shores I bought one book. Aged ten, and with one year of school English behind me, I wasn’t well placed to read much at all. But Mother-of-witch let me buy one book, which we then laboured over together. There were many tempting ones in the shop, but I settled on something solid about two children on a farm. It personified my early image of English children, with their sweet sensible shoes, boys in shorts, with mothers who bake cakes and fatherly fathers.

So I tried to learn English with Ladybird, although by the time I really could read the book, it was far too childish for me and I had moved on to Agatha Christie.