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Column Editor: Bruce Strauch (The Citadel, Emeritus)
Against the Grain V34#2
Hatchards is said to be the oldest bookstore in the UK (1797). Forest green shopfront, oak staircase, Georgian tables, a tea table where Oscar Wilde sat and proofed Oscariana, his book of maxims. And three Royal Warrants, making it the official bookseller to the Royal Family.
It’s at 187 Piccadilly in London when you’re in town. Right next to Fortnum and Mason.
See: Emma J. Page, “Hatchards,” English Home, April, 2022, p.104.
Obit of Note
Duvall Hecht (1929-2022) was bored out of his wits on his hour-long commute to a banking job. Pop music was crap and smothered in ads.
In the 1970s, he sold his Porsche and recorded a drama coach reading George Plimpton’s Paper Lions. Over five years, Books on Tape exploded.
In 2001, he sold it to Random House for $20 million.
He is not happy that classics are being shoved out by best-sellers and says, had he expected, he might not have sold.
This business success followed being an Olympic oarsman in 1952 and 1956 and founding and coaching the rowing program at U-Cal Irvine.
Then he became a long-haul trucker with his wife riding along. They listened to Books on Tape.
See: “The Olympic Rower who Invented Books on Tape,” The Week, March 4, 2002, p.35.
Let’s Read Houses
Jack Mclaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello (1988) (the construction of the house reveals much about Jefferson); (2) George Howe Colt, The Big House (2003) (farewell tour of a house where a family spent each summer); (3) Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814) (social constraint as the price of harmony in a house of grandeur); (4) Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (1938) (Manderley as a character in its own right); (5) P.G. Wodehouse, Pigs Have Wings (1952) (Blandings Castle as an upside down Mansfield Park).
See: Max Byrd, “Five Best,” The Wall Street Journal, March 5-6, 2022, p.C8.
Max’s most recently novel is “Pont Neuf.”
Essex is an ancient county of England to the east of London. It has Roman ruins and landscapes that Constable painted. It also has spill-over from London that would have once been called cockney. And mobsters. And the materialistic dunce with a spray-on tan called “the Essex girl” who is the butt of endless jokes. And then there’s the reality TV show TOWIE — “The Only Way is Essex” — which has been compared to “Jersey Shore.”
Feeling blighted by the imprint of the show, county council has launched a half million dollar campaign to change perceptions to one of culture and history. But TOWIE is reality TV after all. Which is to say the “chav culture” stereotypes are pretty truthful. Hence the cast and locals are furious. They see themselves as having put Essex on the map. Plus they like white stilettos and the vajazzle.
See: James Hookway, “In U.K. Version of the Jersey Shore, Rebranding Plan Strikes a Nerve,” The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2022, p.A1.
Novelist Lee Durkee writes about scuffling for a living as a cab driver in Oxford, Miss. and his favorite drinking hole Ajax Diner. You really have to read it in full. Total Southern wacky characters and barroom/diner ambiance. He says a restaurant is not some foodie menu or special sauce, but “its long term workers and regulars.”
Richard and Lisa Howorth of Square Books get honored mentions as drinking regulars along with Joey Lauren Adams of Chasing Amy fame.
Lee is the author of The Last Taxi Driver and Stalking Shakespeare.
See: Lee Durkee, “The Spirit of Ajax Diner,” Garden & Gun, April/May, 2022, p.172.