I recently enjoyed an audio version of Thinks by David Lodge – a rather quirky, unusual novel about academics who have an affair. I have been enjoying David Lodge’s books for years. His Nice Work, a modern version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s superb North and South, is a funny and excellent read (there’s also a TV version available on DVD), and Changing Places is a delight too.
When the movie of Out of Africa screened in the 1980s I, like so many others, fell in love with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep and the fabulous scenery of Africa. The film showed flocks of pink flamingos rising into the air, magnificent maned lions prowling across the grasslands, giraffe (“gentle amblers of the great plains”) loping along with easy elegance, and spectacular flights over the hills.
Do you know why Agatha Christie visited Australia? What did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle do here that was so controversial? What did D.H. Lawrence do at the zoo? And what did Rudyard Kipling have to say about Sydneysiders? The Writers Walk at Circular Quay consists of 60 brass plaques set into the pavement between the Opera House and the Rocks. These plaques commemorate the visits of various writers to Sydney, some from other parts of Australia and others from much further afield.
One summer evening in 1852 Anthony Trollope found himself in the cathedral city of Salisbury on post office business. He stood for some time on Harnham Bridge looking at the distant spire of the cathedral and there he conceived the idea of writing novels about clergymen, showing them not so much in their clerical roles, but as ordinary men, as beset by greed, ambitions, lust and envy as other men.
I do love reading books set in bookshops. Recently I very much enjoyed The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell. It recounts the joys and pains of running a second-hand bookstore and is full of amusing anecdotes. I do not much share Shaun’s reading tastes, and almost every book he himself read or recommended, or even sold, seemed to have been written by a man and I was tempted to send him a good list of books by women. But his book was funny and sad at the same time, and it did make you ponder the troubled future of bookshops. He describes how one day he shoots a kindle, then sticks the damaged kindle on the bookshop wall, as a warning to his customers of what e-books are doing to shops like his.