Magazine article The Spectator

These I Have Loved . .

Magazine article The Spectator

These I Have Loved . .

Article excerpt

The Best of Books and Company

edited by Susan Hill

Long Barn Books, £8.99, pp. 198,

ISBN 9781902421421

Like many bookworms, once or twice a year I am struck down with reading doldrums.

Then the stash of paperbacks on my bedside table seems less a collection of future delights than a useless repository of dust.

Nothing pleases. This disgruntlement generally passes of its own accord, but sometimes it takes the recommendation of a friend or a trusted reviewer to restore the pleasure of reading. Susan Hill's lovely anthology is just the thing to rejuvenate the appetite of a jaded bibliophile. It is a tonic in paper form.

Books and Company was a delightful little magazine, founded, edited and published by Susan Hill, which ran quarterly from 1997 until 2001. Unlike the books pages of most papers and periodicals, the contents of the magazine were not market-driven: contributors could write pretty much what they liked about whatever they liked, so long as it was to do with the world of books. Often there were pieces about forgotten authors, or books that were out of print.

The 25 pieces reprinted in this book touch on such universal favourites as David Copperfield and Heart of Darkness. Andrew Taylor makes a spirited case for Enid Blyton's Noddy series, including the scurrilous suggestion that PC Plod may have been smoking dope. There are essays on the Brontes and Sir Walter Scott and the ghost stories of M. R. James. But many of the entries, as was the case with the magazine, praise obscurer work. William Maxwell, known in America but less widely read here; the marvellously named Edith de Born (I picture a lesbian in an aviatrix's cap, wrongly no doubt); Rider Haggard's daughter Lilias (another name resembling the heroine of a novel by Radclyffe Hall).

Francis King's essay is stuffed with interesting sounding writers I'd never heard of, among them L. …

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