Old School and Literary Deliveroo

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How does anyone keep up with everything that is going on in the digital age? What would Charles Dickens do in this age when more books are published than ever before across three different forms – digital, audio and hard copy – and when authors are expected to post regular updates about their life and work across the many platforms afforded them by social media? Would he be tramping across London still? I like to think of him, armed with a smart phone, updating his Insta with selfies with Wilkie Collins or a beef pie and pint taken after a good tramp. Would he have tweeted ‘Carrying Wilkie in Cumberland #sillysprain#BFF’?

This article is not on Dickens, the digital age or social media. I really just wanted to share two recent literary discoveries with you. The first is an old school, hard copy publication, beautifully produced with the kind of illustrations I remember from my childhood. Slightly Foxed, the magazine, is produced quarterly and its mission is to provide respite from the 21st century and the age of the publishing phenomenon. Instead, the quarterly produces articles for booklovers who don’t feel entirely at home in the here-today-and-gone-tomorrow world of overnight publishing sensations and over-hyped new books’. 

The Bateson half of Tyle&Bateson is on a frugality drive – there’s some overseas travel looming in the second half of the year – but I was lucky enough to be lent a couple of issues of Slightly Foxed by a friend who also happens to be one of our local librarians. In them I discovered thought-provoking, nostalgic and beautifully written tributes to books that had moved or inspired the authors. Simon Barnes wrote about Gerald Durrell and his wonderful book, My Family and Other Animals – a favourite of my own. I borrowed The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates on the recommendation of another article – such an eccentric novel! I vowed to re-read Truman Capote and Dashiel Hammet and wrote down half a dozen more writers and novels to track down and add to the ever-increasing pile under my bed.

Slightly Foxed is an antidote to the 21st Century. It is not about new releases, the new anyone or the bestseller lists. It’s about reading for pleasure, the remembered reading that shaped the human you grew into – the reading you never forget. Better than all those new magazines that admonish us to slow down, take a breath, be mindful, the essays in Slightly Fox demonstrate how books provide the slow-burning comfort of imagination and intellect at pivotal times in our lives. You can’t rush reading the essays and you can’t read them without a pen in your hand, making notes of future reading. You can’t read them and not look up, glance outside and take notice while you digest a particularly fine sentence.

From an artefact to hold in your hand – admire the quality of the paper! – to a web page that promises to bea single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life.’ How had I missed this? If you sign up to the Lit Hub newsletter, you’ll have a wrap up of the most interesting digital articles delivered via an email straight to your Inbox. Sound like too much work? They’ll condense it to a weekend delivery instead. Given the shrinking book pages in our weekend papers these days, that sounds like a good plan to me!

It – like all the media recently – has been a little Trump dominated as writers grapple with ways forward into an unimaginable political fiasco. It is American dominated – the list of partners reads like a who’s who of the American literary icons – City Lights, New Directions, The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review and Kirkus Reviews but also include our own The Lifted Brow, Overland and Kill Your Darlings.

I’ve been reading up on the short story over the past couple of weeks and the Lit Hub has pointed me to some very useful and timely articles. Well worth having it drop in your Inbox. I wish I could have Slightly Foxed drop into my old-fashioned letterbox, too – perhaps the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come will read this… 

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Guest Tuesday, 22 August 2017

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