paper nourishment

I buy books about three to four times the year - the rest of the time I rely on my very excellent neighbourhood public library. This has been a fiscally responsible move because if I had paid for all those books I've read and disliked, I would be significantly poorer for it.

In any case, inspiration struck me recently, and I went to the bookstore on Monday with a very specific set of goals. I wanted:

- a classic by an author I have not read before
- a beautiful edition of a book I love
- something published last year

I left with "Bonjour Tristesse" by Francoise Sagan in an edition that also included "A Certain Smile". I finished "Bonjour Tristesse" on the same night. I found Cécile annoying - maybe I needed to read this 10 years younger to appreciate it. Plus, it was either a sub-par translation, or Francoise Sagan has no flair for language - I felt like the story and characters were very two-dimensional.

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She must have been a very hip and cool Parisian in the fifties, publishing this when she was 18, but it's not a great book at all. It may be a very authentic point of view, but maybe not all authentic 17-year-old minds are interesting to read about. And it's not even effective as a book reflecting its times. Does anyone have an opinion on this?

The second book I bought was a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, with a charming cover illustration, beautiful binding, and nice typeface. I loved Sherlock Holmes as a child and even when I read it now, I still enjoy his characters. I toyed between this, and those stunning editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald books with the Deco-ish covers by Coralie Bickford-Smith. In the end, I bought Doyle, as well as "The Great Gatsby".

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I didn't buy the third item on my list because everything I was keen on ("Freedom", "Great House") is still in gigantic hardback editions. Instead, I found a box set of the "Myths" series by Canongate, which got contemporary writers to re-tell classics like "The Odyssey".

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Presumably they'll be more of a success than Sagan. Bonjour tristesse, I hope.

Comments

K. said…
Some of the imagery in Bonjour Tristesse are beautiful - a brilliant short story when considering the fact that Sagan was merely 17 when she wrote this but by itself, it has yet to demonstrate artistic mastery. I am interested in what you think about A Certain Smile though! It is good that now Penguin put them in the same book since the latter is so hard to get hold of by itself!

The 'Myths series' covers are amazing.

x
e said…
I didn't like Bonjour Tristesse that much either, I think A Certain Smile is a lot better. I think the book is so overhyped, and if it wasn't for this, my expectations would not have been so high, and I would perhaps liked it better.
lin said…
K: I'm definitely going to reread Bojour Tristesse in a month or so to see whether it reads better, haha. I read a comment somewhere where someone said it was one of the few books with a teen protaganist actually written by a teen (unlike The Catcher in The Rye, I Capture the Castle), and I suppose that is one of the charms about it. I'm going to start on A Certain Smile this week!


e: Yes, hype can be so deadly to a book; but I've read lots of very-hyped books that lived up to it.
If Jane said…
oh i read sagan's bonjour tristesse when i was 16 so....i guess i would have to read it again...
lin said…
If Jane: It must have been an interesting read at 16 then?
marzena said…
this particular edition of f. scott fitzgerald's classics is simply stunning.
Stephanie said…
I read Bonjour Tristesse as a teenager and I couldn't relate to it. But something about the character's glamourous lifestyle left an impression on me. Sagan really was the toast of the town when it came out though—and I do find the book quite groundbreaking. I would love to know what you think about Gatsby!
lin said…
marzena: Agreed. I'd like to collect them all, even though I'm not a fan of all his books.

Stephanie: Gatsby is such a thin boo,, but everytime I read it, I few like I discover something new about each character. It's one of those things that should be read and reread. And I'm always reading new books that remind me of it in style and structure - I guess that's saying something about Fitzgerald's influence.

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