1 February 2021 Susannah

Literary Titbits

Literary Titbits

Some literary titbits to start your month:

H.G. Wells died 75 years ago this year and Britain marked the occasion by bringing out an H.G. Wells coin. However, someone really should have consulted the novels more carefully. The famous Martian tripod from his The War of the Worlds seems to have grown an extra leg.

Did somebody at the bank not understand which number is denoted by ‘tri’? On the other side of the coin is another error – the Invisible Man, from the novel of the same name, is wearing the wrong sort of hat. The designer has put him in a top hat, instead of a “wide-brimmed hat”. And there’s more – the quote around the edge of the coin is “Good books are the warehouse of ideas” which, although it has sometimes been attributed to Wells, is not something he ever actually said or wrote. While it is very nice to see Wells being memorialised, you’d think some basic fact-checking, or a quick call to the President of the H.G. Wells Society, might have set things right.

Science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin is this year to be honoured on a postage stamp. Her image and a scene from her book The Left Hand of Darkness will feature on a US stamp in 2021.

One hundred years ago this year there were some interesting new novels published – D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, Georgette Heyer’s first novel The Black Moth, John Galsworthy’s To Let (the last volume of The Forsyte Saga), L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside, volumes 3 and 4 of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan the Terrible.

Authors little read today who brought out new books in that year include Hall Caine, Marie Corelli, Walter de la Mare, Compton Mackenzie and Elinor Wylie. No doubt each writer viewed his or her new publication with pride, and it is sad to think their works are now forgotten. I find it interesting to look at literary anniversaries and see which books have lasted, and which have sunk from sight.

What do you think about the errors on the commemorative coin? How about commemorative postage stamps – do you think this is a good way to honour someone? And which authors, whose books are little read today, are, in your view, unjustifiably forgotten? Let me know by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Albert Namatjira, untitled landscape,1955, https://artsearch.nga.gov.au/detail.cfm?irn=120666
Body image credit- £2 coin commemorating the life and work of H G Wells, via Yahoo News, https://au.news.yahoo.com/queens-historic-birthday-to-be-marked-with-rare-5-coin-105638453.html
Body image credit- Literary Titbits, Image by Comfreak from Pixabay
Body image credit- £2 coin commemorating the life and work of H G Wells, via Yahoo News, https://au.news.yahoo.com/queens-historic-birthday-to-be-marked-with-rare-5-coin-105638453.html
Body image credit- Ursula Le Guin postage stamp, https://www.openculture.com/2021/01/ursula-k-le-guin-stamp-getting-released-by-the-us-postal-service.html
Body image credit- Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9784.Women_in_Love
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Comments (13)

  1. Malvina Yock

    I confess I was also an avid childhood fan of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan series. I have reread some of these in recent years, and they do have some outdated characteristics, such as imperialism and racism, but they were amazing pulp fiction for the time.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it interesting to read books you loved as a child and see what has dated? I adored the Billabong novels and never even noticed the references to Black Boys and the racist comments about Asians. But I certainly notice them now – still love the stories though and I think I’ll always be in love with Wally and Jim.

  2. Malvina Yock

    I consider Compton Mackenzie such a witty writer, rich with humour and a deep love of Scotland. And whisky! Some people may have watched The Monarch of the Glen, or indeed Whisky Galore, but reading him is a treat.

      • Heather Grant

        I have not read Whisky Galore and must put it on my list.

        Naming Compton McKenzie, reminded me of Alan Bennett’s novella The Uncommon Read. The Queen discovered a mobile library at the back of Buckingham Palace near the wheelie bins! The first novel she takes out is one by Compton McKenzie – a delightful and amusing read.

  3. Dominic Lehane

    It is surprising to notice the error on the H. G. Wells coin, but in this modern age of multimedia can we be sure it is a mistake and not an artistic interpretation?

    In the Lord of the Rings movie Gandalf wears a grey wizard’s hat and a grey cloak, but in the book by Tolkien he is said to wear a blue hat and a grey cloak.

    It may be that in this age people prefer to impress with what looks best than to be completely accurate.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      In this age of multimedia, it would surely be easy to check on such things and make sure you get them right. And when there is someone who really loves the books, they are sure to pick up small errors.

  4. Gwynn Roberts

    Did you really mean “it is sad to think their works are not forgotten”?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      No, it should have been ‘now’ instead of ‘not’. Thanks for picking that up.

  5. Honey

    I think Whittaker Chambers’ Witness should be read by every American.

    One can have no understanding of the 20th century without having read this book.

    As for this century, already we have two seminal books, America Alone by Mark Steyn and The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky, which has the wrong title – it should be The Case for Liberty.

    Solzhenitzen’s books are important, especially The Gulag Archipelago.

    Act One by Moss Hart is lovely.

    Carlos Eire’s two memoirs are very important to read, especially today.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It was more novels representing a country that I was looking for, but these are all great suggestions for non-fiction books that make you understand a country better. Thanks.

  6. Anne Williams

    I find it astounding that you have picked up three errors in the printing of this coin upon seeing it.
    One wonders how many hands it passed through prior to minting that no one realised the errors made.!
    Makes me sad when something so lasting as a coin misrepresents the very thing it was made for.

    I don’t mind commemorative stamps honouring people, for a short time a lot of people are exposed to
    that person but in this day of dwindling snail mail how many really see stamps.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I didn’t pick up the errors – someone in the UK did and it was reported in the papers. But it is incredible that they did not take more care and check it with an HG Wells authority. Especially after all the controversy concerning the Jane Austen banknote.
      I love literary stamps and actually collect them, so am always glad to see a stamp featuring an author or fictional characters, but yes, stamps are certainly being used less and less.

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