Happy New Year everyone! I’m delighted to start of the Inheritance Books for 2013 with someone who is a reader and reviewer – Moira Briggs of Vulpes Libris.
In real life I’ve been the manager of a tiny complementary healthcare charity – the Centre for Complementary Care – in the Western Lake District for over 20 years. It’s based in a beautiful old vicarage on the slopes of Muncaster Fell, with gorgeous views over lower Eskdale. (When we moved I deliberately positioned my desk to take advantage of the view – probably the best ‘view from an office window’ in the country …). I’m lucky and I know it.
In what passes for my ‘spare time’ I’m Co-Administrator of the literary blog Vulpes Libris. It was started 5 years ago by Leena Heino, just as a bit of a fun thing between a group of her friends, but it’s grown exponentially since then and become something of a runaway pony, taking us all by surprise and regularly attracting in the region of 1,000 hits a day – more if we’re running a particularly popular article or review. We’re an extremely diverse and opinionated bunch of people, but manage to rub along together remarkably well. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved together … and excited by the plans we have for the future.
The Lake District is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. How wonderful to see that through your office window!
Which book have you inherited from the generation above?
I inherited my love of poetry from my mother, and one of my most cherished books is her extremely battered copy of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. (My mum, incidentally, is still very much alive, but she hasn’t seen her copy of Palgrave in years because it lives with me …).
The Golden Treasury was – and remains – THE standard poetry anthology in the UK. Originally compiled by Frances Turner Palgrave in the mid 19th Century it’s been regularly updated ever since and has never been out of print. I could – and probably eventually will – buy a new edition, but it would never supplant Mum’s battered old copy in my affections. The 1948 Oxford University Press “World’s Classics” edition was my introduction to poetry … all the ‘best bits’ without having to plough through acres of verbiage I was too young to appreciate. And even now – when I have shelves and shelves of books of my own – poetry and otherwise – it’s still my ‘go to’ book for slipping in my pocket as a travelling companion, or picking up late at night when I want to read something but can’t settle to a ‘proper’ book.
Unfortunately it’s very much the worse for wear. The many loose pages have been stuck back in over the years with – horror of horrors! – adhesive tape, and at some point in its life it was left on a damp windowsill leaving the trademark dark blue cloth cover stained and mottled … but I love it still, both for what it is and what it contains but even more for the hundreds of memories it carries with it.
I think books are all the more precious for being loved. Which book would you leave for future generations? Why is it special?
I own hundreds of books, possibly thousands. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t counted them – but they cover the walls and floors and a good percentage of the flat surfaces of the house. Of them all, the one I would pass down to a future generation would be Whistle Down the Wind by Mary Hayley Bell. It’s a wonderfully simple book – written by the wife of the actor John Mills and subsequently turned into an iconic film starring their daughter Hayley – and tells the story of a group of children who find an exhausted stranger in the barn and decide that he’s Jesus. It’s a manhunt seen through children’s eyes and along the way it poses some remarkably profound questions. It’s currently out of print and, inexplicably, has been for some time – but I reviewed it a couple of years ago on Vulpes Libris, and it’s one of the reviews I’m most proud of.
Why would I like to leave it to future generations? Because, as I say in the review: “it’s just 135 pages long, and in larger-than-average print to boot, but those 135 pages probably contain more humanity and wisdom than an entire Booker shortlist”.
Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with me, Moira. I hope I’ll see you again at an RNA conference.
You can read Moira’s Reviews on Vulpes Libris, which is full of thoughtful and honest reviews.