Friday, 26 July 2013

On bookshops, and Leila Berg

This week’s TLS Freelance column is me writing on the experience of the pop-up bookshop that Todd Swift of Eyewear and I ran at the start of this month. I sent a copy of the proof to a bookseller friend, and he didn’t like it – the piece trades on the stereotype of the independent bookseller as male, grumpy, and inefficient, the last two of which he is certainly not. I can see his point. His own shop is thriving; at present it is expanding into the next-door premises.

Bookshops continue to amaze. In London this afternoon, from a box outside one shop I picked up a first edition of Ezra Pound, Selected Poems, ‘edited and with an introduction by T. S. Eliot’, published by Faber & Gwyer in 1928 and pre-owned by L. C. Knights, who bought it in Oxford in August 1930. I paid £3. Inside the shop was a Jacob’s Ladder construction (below) by Lisa Beth Robinson entitled ‘Waiting for the glue to dry’.

Then to Housmans bookshop where, shockingly, mid-conversation, I learned that Leila Berg died last year, aged 94. I have no idea how I missed this. In 2008 I visited her. I wanted to reissue her autobiographical Flickerbook, which to me is one of the finest memoirs of the last century; it takes her from Manchester Jewish working-class beginnings into political engagement (she had two lovers who died in the Spanish Civil War, and there I was, talking with her), and ends at the outbreak of the Second World War. I wrote about her at the time on this blog: here and here. The Guardian obituary is here. None of her books is in print. If you see copies of her Flickerbook or Look at Kids in a box outside a second-hand bookshop, get them.

1 comment:

Ross Bradshaw said...

I liked Flickerbook and her book on Risinghill. Someone I'd like to have met/heard.