My local bookshop is having a festival this week. This is the kind of thing that makes me happy to be back in London. Authors are discussing books, signing books and talking to readers at Daunt Books, 83-84 Marylebone High Street. Click here for a link to the festival details.
This morning I attended the first event. Lennie Goodings from the Virago publishing company asked three authors, Deborah Levy, Maggie O’Farrell and Susie Boyt, about their favourite “Virago Modern Classics”. One comment from Susie Boyt could sum up today’s recommendations – “dark books with high spirits”.
Deborah Levy praised the “lethally funny” Muriel Spark, and then recommended Angela Carter as someone who sends her female characters to chase after the wolf and bite back.
Maggie O’Farrell chose the comedy and cruelty of Barbara Comyns, and the peculiar hermetic Anglo-Irish cosmos of Molly Keane (which contains “the most repulsive dish in literature” – rabbit mousse).
Susie Boyt went for short stories instead of novels, and recommended Elizabeth Taylor, who is not an actress, but an author who, in a single sentence, could make her readers feel disgust and great sympathy for her characters .
There are more events on Thursday and Friday, but do check before you go, because some are already sold out. I’m not surprised, because Daunt Marylebone is a special shop. It looks like a beautiful old library, and it presents its books in a seductive way. If you manage to walk past the “ordinary” fiction, biography and non-fiction shelves and tables without buying anything, you find yourself in a treasure store of “books arranged by country”. That’s a one-stop shop for your next destination – not just guidebooks and phrasebooks, but novels, memoirs and histories.
Imagine you are a traveller heading to New Zealand…where better to stock up on books?
We plundered these shelves on every trip home from China.
A Kindle is invaluable to an traveller or expat, but real books, and bookshops like Daunt, do provide some extra nourishment. Especially today and tomorrow, when they promise flapjacks and drinks at various festival events.
EDITED TO ADD: Emily Rhodes writes about the festival on her Books Blog – click here to read about Emily’s Walking Book Club/