Monday, 5 July 2010

Too many books

I write this not quite sitting in the kitchen sink but nearly, as I have had to find a bit of space to settle amidst all the boxes, strewn furniture and general chaos. We have, at long last, moved to Oxford. The bell will now chime from a different tower and hopefully more frequently than it has been of late!

All my fantasies about sitting by the river in the warm summer sun are so far coming true as the weather has been wonderful. We have spent evenings strolling along the canal and looking for tucked away pubs in search for a quiet drink.

Moving has highlighted to me how bad my book obsession has become as my arms are now extremely sore from all the lifting and struggling with box after box of precious cargo. In light of the pain, nay agony, that I am now in I have made a dramatic decision. I am not buying any more books in 2010 and from now on I am giving books away after I have read them - unless they are absolutely vital, of course. Hopefully this will solve some of my current storage problems as well!

Over the past few weeks my whole life has been about moving so I am looking forward to having more time to myself to explore Oxford and get some reading done. I don't really theme my reading but I thought that over the next couple of weeks I might read novels with an Oxford connection - so, I asked some literary types and they suggested some great books. I have already read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy which I loved so I think that I will re-read them to refresh my memory (provided that I can find the box that they are in!). I loved Joanna Cannan's Princes in the Land (which I wrote about here) and Verity recommended one of her other novels, High Table, which I will borrow from the library. I adore Dorothy L. Sayers' Gaudy Night which is also set in Oxford so that might be another re-read possibility. I would be grateful for any recommendations for good Oxfordian novels.

Of course, the grand-daddy of Oxford novels has to be Brideshead Revisited. I adore Evelyn Waugh and I adore him even more for his great friendship with Nancy Mitford; an idol of mine and not just because she kept a white chicken in her Paris apartment, well almost.


  1. It's still weird that you're not here! ;)

    Glad all is going well at last and I look forward to my forthcoming tour of Oxford hopefully in the sun :). May I suggest Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth if you haven't already read it, there's big sections about how amaaaazing Oxford is.

  2. You can borrow it from me if you like :) Maybe we should meet up soon.

    I empathise with number of books - I realised that I have nearly 1500 books now and I am DREADING moving.

  3. I would love to live in a city like Oxford--I love to walk and I think it would be an amazing place to walk in--if that doesn't sound too strange. I also loved Gaudy Night and Princes of the Land by the way. I have a feeling you will find no shortage of books set in Oxford!

  4. I loved Oxford when I was there, and I regret not going back to visit the year I studied abroad. Le sigh. Have you read Connie Willis at all? Everyone raves about her To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I believe is at least partly set in Oxford.

  5. Just moving books from one room to the next can dishearten me, so I understand the decision you have made...and it does work...I give away whatever books I know I can live without after reading them and it has helped me to keep my book space under control. I recently read and fell in love with Barbara Pym's Crampton Hodnet which is set in Oxford. Enjoy your reading and your new home:)

  6. The bell which you will now be listening to, or at least the Christchurch bell is called Great Tom. Oxford-fact of the day for you.

    I will try to supply Oxfacts (see what I did there) intermittently so that you can blend in with the locals. I addition to the Oxfordonian reading, you should watch an episode of Morse or Lewis a day. Its a rule I try to live by, but my great Tom doesn't like it very much.

  7. A few further Oxford-themed reading suggestions...

    Veronica Stallwood has written an enjoyable series of 'light murder mysteries' (funny how that isn't an oxymoron isn't it?) featuring a writer/librarian/sleuth based in the city. They all have Oxford in title - Oxford Mourning, Oxford Exit, etc.

    In a similar mould, though with a mathematical twist, is Guillermo Martinez's The Oxford Murders.

    Colin Dexter just look what you started! How come Oxford gets all the murders, whereas the acadmic intrigue type books (e.g. C. P. Snow's The Masters or Rosy Thornton's Hearts and Minds) are so often set in Cambridge?

  8. I'm in the process of packing to move now, and I keep putting off boxing up the books. It's amazing how quickly they pile up.

    It sounds like a lovely place to move, though, and I hope the rest of the unpacking and settling goes smoothly.

  9. Yes to Dorothy Sayers (a master) and yes yes to Colin Dexter! Morse was one of my favorite characters even before the TV series (which really is good fun). Happy unpacking, happy pub-crawling, and happy reading!

  10. I believe some of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart books feature Oxford, though not as much as HDM. Good luck with the rest of the move, your life there so far sounds lovely!

  11. Many a bibliophile has sworn off their formerly acquisitive ways after enduring a move. But I speak from personal experience when I say that those intentions frequently do not last. I remember feeling very virtuous about my book buying habits for a while after our last move ut them went back to my old ways after I cleared out a bit. Wishing you more willpower! Enjoy the lovely new home!

    Now to go look for that Sayers you just reminded me of! :)

  12. Wishing you lots of happiness in your new life in Oxford. It is hard to reduce one's book collection but I have recently become more disciplined and if I know I won't read or look at a certain book again I give it to the charity shops for someone else to enjoy.

  13. Brideshead Revisited is true Waugh. Vile Bodies is also true Waugh to a lesser extent. True Waugh comes out in smatterings of his other work by degrees. And who cannot but tingle at the passage:

    I slept until my servant called me, rose wearily, dressed and shaved in silence. It was not till I reached the door that I asked the second-in-command, ‘What’s this place called?’

    He told me and, on the instant, it was as though someone had switched off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly, fatuously, for days beyond number, had been suddenly cut short; an immense silence followed, empty at first, but gradually, as my outraged sense regained authority, full of a multitude of sweet and natural and long forgotten sounds: for he had spoken a name that was so familiar to me, a conjuror’s name of such ancient power, that, at its mere sound, the phantoms of those haunted late years began to take flight.

    (Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead Revisited. 1960).

    Auden Wrote:

    Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.

    (W. H. Auden. The Dyer’s Hand. Faber & Faber, 1962. 372).

  14. Glad that the move went well! My book obsession has got a little out of control recently, I try to give a lot of books to my local charity shop but there's quite a lot that I want to keep!

  15. Thanks to such wonderful reviews by bloggers I filled a bookcase last year. Now when I'm in a bookshop I can happily leave empty-handed knowing my shelves at home house loads of fabulous reads.

    Enjoy your new life in Oxford and some of the great titles you've been recommended!

  16. Well, if the kitchen sink is good enough for Cassandra Mortmain, then I guess it'll do. Good luck with your settling in!

  17. Belated congrats on the move. One of the nice things about packing and unpacking books is that you see ones you had forgotten that you had! Enjoy your Oxford reading and if you get too tired of that watch the old Anthony Andrews/Jeremy Irons Bridesheaad Revisited!