Friday, October 13, 2006

A posting over at Patternings has me reflecting on becoming sidetracked while looking at books - this is an all too familiar pastime for me. I especially liked part of a quotation she gives from Anne Michael's Fugitive Pieces (an excellent book, if you haven't yet read it):
I would be distracted by marginalia, slips of paper tucked between pages, scraps of bills used as markers...
I had the wonderful experience recently of finding in our local Oxfam bookshop the entire African Writers' Series from Heinemann, now largely out of print. A couple of years ago Heinemann was bought out by Reed and the AWS was discontinued, causing a rippling grumble in the world of African bookselling. Those titles they have stock of in the warehouse are still in print, but most of the others have been declared out of print, although there was some talk last year of print on demand bringing them back into stock. A case in point is Ayi Kwei Armah's The Healers, declared out of print by Heinemann, yet we sold 200 copies of it in less than six months in our small shop. But I suppose that's the point, publishers want to sell thousands not hundreds for a book to make business-sense.

Anyway, back to the point - the collection I bought from Oxfam were clearly from one collector (mostly remarkably well preserved first editions from the 60s and 70s). This person had obviously followed news about the respective African writers, and the books had tucked into them newspaper clippings - a report on a fresh-faced Chinua Achebe visiting "Rhodesia"; press releases; statements calling for a writer's freedom - eg. an announcement on Jack Mapanje's imprisonment; and what I loved most, photographs! The collector had clearly met some of the writers and photographed them at their desks or in study - charming photos of a young Francis Bebey, among others. Marvellous stuff.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home