It’s good to have the First Tuesday Book Club back on air.
It was especially good to hear those lovely people talk about David Marr’s choice, which was Graham Greene’s The Quiet American - a book which qualifies as a Little Gem. And you can almost always be certain to find such back-list titles at Abbey’s. I checked Abbey’s website after the programme and found sixteen Graham Greene titles available ex-stock and almost all of them at the excellent price of $12.95 or $12.99. What more can you ask? We even offer The Third Man in Persian or Short Stories / Nouvelles in French. Of course this means you must go upstairs to the First Floor but remember, if you are in a hurry or your legs are not so good, you can now go up in the lift from the lobby. Just ask one of the staff.
Also upstairs is GALAXY Bookshop. I read a nice piece of trivia about Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. This classic film was not initially met with great acclaim. For a year, while sales were hard in London, John Lennon bought two seats to every performance and gave them away. Is that called Bums on Seats or Word of Mouth? They both work.
I went, with much expectation, to see a preview of Ralph Fiennes’ new film The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens, as this is one of my favourite books. It is a scholarly and exciting investigation into the rumour that Charles Dickens, that supreme icon of domestic bliss, had a young mistress for thirteen years before his death. Claire Tomalin, the author, is an excellent biographer and she makes a more than positive case. It is amusing that the male reviewers of the film find it hard to admit the rumour might be true! Just as the early biographers of Dickens, usually his friends, made no mention at all of Ellen Ternan, yet must have met her sometime, if not regularly. I was disappointed that the new edition of The Invisible Woman was not mentioned in the opening remarks. Some knowledge of the story would be very helpful as the film goes forwards and backwards often. The film wisely concentrates on the single story line of Ellen and Dickens but read the book for further stories. Ellen’s sister, Fanny, married Thomas Trollope, the brother of Anthony and thus became a second Fanny Trollope. To confuse you even further the second Fanny Trollope also wrote novels, not very good ones, but she was well-known, although nowhere near as famous as his mother.
Of course Dickens’ life is as entertaining as his famous novels and if you know a little of this you will enjoy the film even more. A recent addition to the list is by Claire Tomalin. It is called Charles Dickens: A Life. All Tomalin’s biographies are wonderfully readable. Jane Austen: A Life is a standard text. There is a new edition due of Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life while other titles are Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, or The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft and most importantly, Mrs. Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King. This is a terrific story. Mrs. Jordan was not only a hugely popular actress but also the mother of ten children to the son of George III. This is part of the story of how Victoria became Queen.
While I was thinking about how useful it is to read Invisible Woman when you see the film I remembered the film of The Go-Between. When this was showing, years ago, people were so puzzled about what was actually happening in the film that eventually Abbey’s took copies of the book by L.P. Hartley over to the cinema and people bought it on their way out! Very thankfully! Some films are spoilt if you have read the book and some people really demand that you read the book. Have fun! I’ve heard from the shop that Invisible Woman is reprinting but stock is due next month. Maybe try your library.
It is surprising how exciting non-fiction can be. I was absolutely enthralled when I read the latest expose of the financial world from Michael Lewis. His first book Liar's Poker, published in 1989, about the deals on Wall Street, was an enormous bestseller and since then he has written many other books with an emphasis on the financial world. He has an Economics Degree and did once work on Wall Street, before he wrote Liar's Poker. His latest book, Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code is really a thriller and it has caused a few important people to look again at the most recent improvements on Wall Street. The story concerns the effect of the activities of High Frequency Traders who are able to make enormous amounts of money buying and selling because they have first look at incoming trades. It all comes down to micro-seconds.
A manager with Royal Canadian Bank first began looking into this (and the “dark pools” where trades were kept hidden until the right moment) and gradually he gathered around him a team of exceedingly unusual (read that as nerds, crackpots and genius) but all interested in remaking the Exchange as a place of fairness for everyone. It won’t spoil the story to know that they did indeed succeed in this – by starting a new exchange called IEX which stands for Investor Exchange. Lewis admits this would not have been possible without last minute support from newly appointed managers at Goldman Sachs. The whole story is fascinating and the writing superb. Don’t miss it, even if you have never bought a share.
Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers