Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Virago Modern Classics

Here's another bookshelf; this time my collection of Virago Modern Classics out in the conservatory (although any sharp eyed book bloggers might spot there's a non-Virago there, far left, top shelf, reason being that I wanted to put the hardback copy of Violet Trefusis's 'Broderie Anglais' that I'd found next to the Virago edition of 'Hunt the Slipper'.

The two shelves represent a mix of books waiting to be read, those waiting to be read a second or third time (I never tire of Elizabeth Taylor) and a few that I may never have time to read again but which I cherish for the gorgeous covers almost as much as for the content. The two I read most recently are at the top (they would be in the middle of this text, except I seem to be too technically inept to do that! Shame on me.)

Anyway, could there be a better marriage of cover and text than those images from the work of the quintessentially, quirky English painter, Sir Stanley Spencer and the quirky eccentric, utterly engaging writing of Barbara Comyns? It's unsurpassed, in my view, and I'm sorry to say I've been very disappointed by some of the recent Virago covers that have appeared lately, the cover for the new edition of Comyns 'Our Spoons Came From Woolworths' being a case in point. The new cover shows a photograph of a young woman with two dogs on a lead and tells us almost nothing about the book other than hinting at the period in which it is set (and why dogs, I wonder, when the heroine of 'Our Spoons Came from Woolworths is devoted to a newt called Great Warty?); the old cover, a detail from Stanley's Spencer's 'Marriage at Cana' is far more indicative of the mood of the book, with all its picturesque incidents and off-the-wall, wry humour.

I'm sorry to say that I frequently fail to buy the new Virago's because of my aversion to the bland new covers, preferring to go without until I can locate one of the lovely old Virago Modern Classic editions, with their painterly covers. (And they seem to be getting increasingly difficult to find these days!)

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