whatpageblog in may ’22 [no. 2]
The Classics Edition
Read the full issue here.
This Classics Edition is inspired by all the time I spent this month loitering around second hand book stores. At the beginning of the month, I bought myself some dusty copies of Catch 22 and Barchester Towers. I love buying old editions of classics — the ones with yellow and musty smelling pages — and these did not disappoint. I was surprised to see that my Corgi edition of Catch 22 was only published in 1985, but the retail price back then was just $2.45 in Australia, half the price of a coffee today!
Perusing second hand classics sent me into a research spiral of Penguin books through the ages. The most fascinating edition to me was the one that used the Marber Grid in the 1950s and 60s. It was first used for Penguin’s Crime Series, and later throughout Penguin’s range (and Pelican’s range) because it was so popular. A design based on the Fibonacci Spiral, I think it is Penguin’s most elegant edition, and it inspired the cover illustration for this month’s book blast.
If you’re interested, The Pulp Librarian’s thread on Penguin covers throughout time is so fun to peruse. I’d also like to know who thought the ‘graphic’ covers in the 1970s was a good idea…
What I’ve been reading
A perpetual problem faced by over eager bookworms, I read less than I bought, and a whole stack of classics have been tentatively set aside for my June TBR. In any case, I’ve checked 1 more book off my 100 Must-Read Penguin Classics list — Heart of Darkness. 30 down, 70 to go.
Sorrow and Bliss | Meg Mason
☆☆☆☆ | This one’s made quite a splash in the literary world and for good reason. Martha suffers from an unnamed mental illness that bleeds into every aspect of her life and relationships. She is one the most relatable and raw narrators I’ve read in a while. Reminiscent of Sunset | Jessie Cave and Fleabag | Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
The Pachinko Parlour | Elisa Shua Dusapin
☆☆ | Not my cup of tea but definitely a unique read. I see why Shua Dusapin made the pages with her debut Winter in Sokcho. Reading this book felt like squinting through a tiny peephole into the lives of the characters — you get the sense that their lives are richer than the writer lets on.
The House of Mirth | Edith Wharton
☆☆☆☆ | My first venture into Wharton’s books that left me wanting more — The Age of Innocence is next. Wharton paints an intricate stage on which her protagonist Lily Bart dances. Her characters all live in the moral grey — in other words, they are all incredibly annoying.
Heart of Darkness | Joseph Conrad
☆☆ | I have joined the millions who don’t really get this book.
Adventures of a Young Naturalist | David Attenborough
☆☆☆☆☆ | An absolute delight (especially when you read it in Sir Attenborough’s voice). One that reminded me of all those nature documents I binged as a kid. See my review here.
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone | Lori Gottlieb
☆☆☆☆☆ | One I could not put down. A memoir of a therapist (who also has a therapist), you get to watch her and her patients become better people. Touching and unfiltered and reminiscent of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes | Caitlin Doughty.
We all know David Attenborough as a gracefully ageing man with an iconic voice and a delicious vocabulary, but who was he before he became the legend? … [read more]
Doughty comments on our anxiety and phobia of death — our culture dictates that we do everything possible to hide decomposition and death. For a book with such a bleak title and subject matter, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is remarkably warm and spirited… [read more]
Reviews I’ve been reading this month
When the Times Book Review Panned the Classics | Jennifer Harlan
The New York Times takes us through their archive of book reviews — they’re classics now but they were reviewed pretty harshly by NYT’s reviewers back in the day. This one makes for an amusing read.
Whether, from the viewpoint of literature, ‘La Nausée’ was worth translating at all is another question.
On Nausea, by Jean Paul Sartre
Articles I’ve been reading this month
One of the most interesting articles I read while falling through the rabbit hole of classics’ cover designs.
“If anything has characterised the Penguin design ethos, it’s a kind of elegant simplicity — there’s something deceptively simple about a Penguin cover. It takes a huge amount of work to put them together.”
Something to look forward to in August 2022
The Pachinko Parlour | Elisa Shua Dusapin will be in bookstores on 30 August 2022! Sweet enough to send me a copy, Scribe Publications is again responsible for introducing me to a unique read.
Originally published at https://whatpageblog.substack.com on May 31, 2022.