Saturday, September 30, 2006


What a Life!

Over at the Telegraph, John Gibbens drops in on my old haunt, Booth's in Hay on Wye:

Could one succumb to an overdose of second-hand books, like a king to a surfeit of lampreys? I hadn't thought so until I visited Booth's in Hay-on-Wye, the self-proclaimed World's Biggest Second-hand Bookshop. The wilderness of shelves receding into twilight, the sheer mass of volumes, staggered my brain; the air of ageing paper caught in my throat, and I fled, back into the streets of this little village that is a bibliopolar metropolis.

Yup. That sounds about right.

What he does find in Hay, though, is a book (The Second Post) by the very prolific E.V. Lucas, whose work I only just discovered earlier this year in much the same way -- in my case, by picking up an old copy of Lucas on Charing Cross.

Though out of print now, Lucas and George Morrow laid the groundwork for Donald Barthelme, Terry Gilliam, and innumerable others with their 1911 "autobiography" What a Life!, which cut and paste department store catalogue illustrations around an absurd narrative. The book is now online:

The eccentric Sir William Goosepelt was a friend of mine. Among his other odd ways he often indulged in the luxury of a treacle bath.

Sir William's ears were so large that he required a chin-strap to keep his hat on. From this circumstance he earned an unenviable reputation for impoliteness towards ladies.

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