Those of you who know me well will also know that I love books. I read them. I devour them. I collect them. I love them.
At home, we had books everywhere, and I have many wonderful childhood memories built around reading. The way we lived, it was perfectly normal to hear harrumphs and guffaws as you wandered in and out of rooms, the sounds made by people enjoying what they read; there were times of day (and night) where all those who were awake were reading.
We read eclectically. And voraciously. We were the kind of people that would walk a mile for a Camel or a new Rex Stout; if we had to choose, then Rex Stout won. We quoted from poetry and from plays, from books as well as magazines. We were Walter Mittys and Holden Caulfields, we lived among Empresses as well as Queens, we moved from misty-eyed meanderings about “acres and acres of golden yellow pajamas glinting in the noonday sun” to equally misty-eyed meanderings about the liquefaction of Julia’s clothes.
We read Wodehouse all day as if our lives depended on it; at high noon it was Max Brand; in between games of Cluedo it was Perry Mason time; our Grishams weren’t Grisham, they were Desmond Bagley and Alistair Maclean and Hammond Innes. [An aside. We played a short-lived charade game where you had to guess “composites”, weird creatures that were portmanteau phrases merging a popular film with a popular song. And the worst one I can remember was “The Guns of Navarone A Sunday“, which should need no explanation. That one hurt].
We read Shakespeare as well as Pynchon, Dante as well as Rabelais, the Thousand and One Nights as well as George Mikes, Salinger and Mailer, Dumas and Swift, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Hawthorne and Eliot, Whitman and Twain, Carroll as well as Castaneda, Sellar with Yeatman. We moved from Parker to Parker as if nothing was amiss. Leo Rosten kept warm alongside H Allen Smith. Somewhere in between we read a lot of comics as well, but that’s for another post.
We dwelt among many untrodden ways. We would talk to each other about the books we’d read, the books we were reading. [An aside, about “untrodden ways”. I remember a time when the men of the house were busy reading the oeuvre of Nevil Shute book by book, while the womenfolk were equally busy with …. Mills and Boon. It drove us crazy. So we the menfolk did the only thing possible, we started reading the Mills and Boons as well. Which drove the others crazy. Yup, I’m confessing to having read a horde of “Violent” Winspear (Violet’s heroes were always festooned with romantic scars) and Anne Mather and Janet Dailey and others of that ilk). We laughed and teased about Innocent Deceptions and long tall drinks with cubes of ice clinking at the bottom of the glass (sic).]
Yes, we read a lot. And we treasured books. So when I came to this country, I was unprepared for some of what I saw. People tearing chapters off books and throwing the “read” bits in the bin. People clearing houses and throwing hordes of musty mouldy books into skips. People actually destroying books.
I was aghast. And I’ve been collecting books ever since. Some strange collections, some very strange collections. For example, I have over 180 different first editions of just one book. Don Quixote. Just for the illustrations.
Bearing all this in mind, I had some mixed feelings when I first saw the works of Brian Dettmer, one of which I’ve used as an illustration above. I’ve decided I quite like his stuff. What do you think?
If you do like it, you can find out more at Aron Packer Gallery, which is where I found out about him. How did I get there? I Stumbled.