You can’t beat a second hand book shop and an afternoon is never wasted when spent rummaging through the stock of a really good one. What’s so good about a second hand book is that its story, its message has been sent already to someone else and now that same message, that same story is coming to you; If you buy the book. I love it when I pick up a book and there is an inscription on the front page: ‘Best wishes and happy birthday John, love Anne.’ I spend a lot of time wondering who Anne was and where she is now. Who was John and why has he decided to part with this book? Anyway, here are two selections from my book collection.
Miscellany One by Dylan Thomas.
I love lots of writers but probably my all-time favourite is Dylan Thomas. I love the outstanding power of his writing, his incredible imagery, and the wonderful pictures he creates with his words.
‘Miscellany One’ is a collection of poems, stories and broadcasts by Dylan and I picked it up one windy afternoon at a bookshop in Morecambe.
Dylan is the sort of writer I’ve always wanted to be: A bohemian, pub crawling, boozing writer who fought with himself as he laboured to paint his word pictures. Whether that was really the case I don’t know but Dylan did like his pubs and he did enjoy a drink.
The fact of the matter is that I’m nothing like Dylan, except we both share a love of words, particularly the sound of words, which is the key to the richness of Dylan’s work, especially his poetry. If you think about it, there must be a connection between the sound of a word and its meaning, a deep organic connection. After all, how did words begin? Imagine some ancient caveman, just wanting to get some concept over to his mate. What are the deepest and strongest feelings for a human being? Well, for a caveman food must be one, and love too. Surely love was present in those primordial days when every caveman went out on Saturday with his club looking for his mate. There must have been a moment when ancient man strived to say something to his mate, tried to express his feeling and a sound that was the precursor to the word love slipped uneasily from his lips.
If you have read any of Dylan’s poems and are yet to understand his magic, let me give you a tiny bit of advice: Listen to Dylan’s voice. Yes, Dylan, like many poets wrote for his own voice and if you click on to any Dylan Thomas page or search anywhere on the internet you are bound to come across some old recording of his voice. Don’t make do with lesser voices, even when we are talking about great actors like Richard Burton or Anthony Hopkins. Search out Dylan himself and you will be won over, like me, by the power of his voice.
It’s not just his poems that are rich with the power of words. Dylan wrote and performed a good many radio plays and broadcasts and my very favourite is ‘Return Journey’ and can be found within this slim volume. It’s about Dylan himself returning to Swansea in search of his former self ‘Young Thomas.’ He visits young Thomas’ old haunts and meets with people who knew him fleetingly; like the barmaid who used to serve him, journalists who worked with him and even the park keeper where Dylan and his young friends would play in the park. It’s a lovely piece where drama merges with prose and we slip in and out of the two as the story progresses.
Many years ago I visited Dylan’s former home in Laugharne, now a museum dedicated to Dylan. I can only say I loved the place and didn’t want to leave. I wandered through its rooms and looked at the black and white photos on the walls and tried to imagine Dylan living here and banging out his poems and stories in his writing shed then later ambling down to the pub for a pint. I had to leave early the day I visited so I went back the next day and the staff recognised me and let me in without paying so in return I bought some books about Dylan and a copy of his collected stories. Keep a look out for Miscellany One and its companion volumes, you’ll love them.
A Kind Of Loving by Stan Barstow.
In the late fifties and the early sixties the UK film industry underwent a minor revolution. A new type of gritty realism began to emerge in a series of films like ‘A Taste of Honey’, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, ‘Alfie’, ‘Georgy Girl’ and of course, ‘A Kind Of Loving’. The movie is a wonderful slice of early sixties northern life and for a northern lad myself a great chance to see the north represented in the cinema. The movie was based on the book by Stan Barstow and it was another find in a second hand book shop. The book shown here is actually a trilogy, three books in a series about the main character Vic Brown: ‘A Kind of Loving’, ‘Watchers On the Shore’ and ‘The Right True End’ and the cover pictures are not from the film but the TV version that was made in the eighties.
The story is a simple one, boy meets girl, she gets pregnant, the boy doesn’t really love her but gets married to her anyway. Reading this book brought back my own early childhood and all the stories about office working and family weddings all ring true for me, so much so that sometimes I felt as though I was reading about myself. I do love that in a book when the writer finds something inside me, the reader, and turns it round to make a personal connection between reader and writer. Stan Barstow was born in the west Riding of Yorkshire. He was the son of a coal miner and worked in a drawing office like his character Vic brown. He died in 2011 aged 83.
To read part one of my second hand books post, click here.
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