To live in

I’ve been going through my non-fiction and turning out a lot of stuff that I’ve never read or never want to read again. There goes a biography of Herzl, one of Philip K. Dick and two biographies of Ezra Pound (what was I thinking?); there goes a book on Yugoslavia called “The Improbable Survivor” (of its time, that one). I’ve no longer got anything by Boris Kagarlitsky, Meaghan Morris or Bernard Porter; my holdings of Chomsky, Pauline Kael, Anthony Summers and Brinsley le Poer Trench are all severely reduced. (B. le P. T. (a.k.a. Lord Clancarty) was the author of some of the worst UFO books you’re ever likely to see.) When the charity shop sees this lot, I said to my wife, they’ll think three different people have died. “In a way they have,” she said, consolingly.

What does that leave? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a complete list of authors by whom I’ve got three or more books:

Perry Anderson
John Berger
Jan Harold Brunvand
James Cameron
Guy Debord
Michael Foot
Paul Ginsborg
Stephen Jay Gould
Ken Knabb
Sebastian Moore
Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham
Christopher Norris
George Orwell
Fredy Perlman
Douglas Reed
Sheila Rowbotham
E.P. Thompson
Raoul Vaneigem
Marina Warner
Raymond Williams

The Noakes and Pridham volumes are a trilogy & were all bought together, which almost disqualifies them, but not quite. Sebastian Moore is or was a Catholic mystic; his books were all presents (from two different people). Douglas Reed was a British National Socialist (tendance Strasser); his loathing of Hitler seems to have made his views palatable to publishers (who apparently never asked why he hated Hitler). And the Perry Andersons only just survived the cull; I haven’t read any of them. One of these days, possibly.

Jake Thackray used to introduce a Christian-themed song by saying, This is a song of which I’m not particularly… ashamed. I feel a bit like that about hanging on to my Cameron and my Gould and all that bloody Orwell: not especially proud, but not, particularly, ashamed.



  1. Posted 29 May 2007 at 18:08 | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t think I have ever thrown away an undamaged book, with perhaps the exception of something like Playfair Cricket Annual 1989. Given that all I have to show for my 41 years on the planet – in terms of accumulation – is my books, it’s just as well. Having had to drag them – not literally – across the Channel, through France and over the Pyrenees, I’m not throwing them away after that, either.

    It’s maybe a librarian thing, though by no means all librarians adhere to the principle. I worked with one who said she operated a “one-in-one-out” policy. Mind you she also reckoned she’d read every nineteenth-century English novel, which can’t be true. Perhaps she meant all the famous ones (where famous means “famous enough to still be in print) which would be scary enough on its own.

    I have a feeling that I attended Raymond Williams’ last public lecture. He talked about the socialist novel and the fact that (with the possible exception of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists) there aren’t any.

  2. Posted 29 May 2007 at 21:32 | Permalink | Reply

    Getting rid of books? Noooo. I could only get rid of some very crappy sf novels through constant pressuring from my partner.

  3. Posted 29 May 2007 at 23:32 | Permalink | Reply

    I used to think I could never get rid of books. But I also used to pride myself on being vaguely into a broad and eclectic range of things, which resulted in acquiring a lot of books I wasn’t really that bothered about reading. Alan Bennett described his father’s hobbyist phases – his fretwork phase, followed by his double-bass phase – and I’ve felt a bit like that: there’s my Left Book Club phase, there’s my Kennedy assassination phase…

  4. Igor Belanov
    Posted 30 May 2007 at 11:06 | Permalink | Reply


    Socialist novels: How about ‘Fame is the Spur’ by Howard Spring, ‘The Stars Look Down’ by A.J.Cronin, Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘In Dubious Battle’?
    Read them all when I was 14, they seem fairly radical to me. No doubt there’s a few more as well.

  5. Posted 30 May 2007 at 13:14 | Permalink | Reply

    But not necessarily specifically (as opposed to implicitly) socialist, though I read The Grapes Of Wrath some time after the lecture and thought it might qualify. Doubtless Williams was aware of it and the other three as well.

  6. Posted 1 June 2007 at 18:15 | Permalink | Reply

    Actually i think getting rid of books is quite liberating. After all they are just stuff , and all of life we end up with more stuff.

    I see no values in keeping books unless: i) they are a book you are going to refer to again for facts; ii) sentimental value; iii) might want to read it again or lend it to someone; iv) it is possibly out of print or won’t be reprinted, and it is worth preserving.

    Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, is by the way both explicitly and implicitly a socialist novel.

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