Thursday, September 13, 2007

Birthday Trip

Birthdays are great and, I think, even better when they are nondescript numbers which don't apply any pressure to celebrate/comiserate in style. The day before my birthday R and I went to Winchester where, in one of the second hand bookshops I was able to shop as I liked and put it all down to birthday expenditure. Remarkably, the shop I was in appears to have recently bought someone's collection of gay literature and I could have bought twice as many items as I actually did. Instead I came away loaded down with:

4 hardcover Gay Mens' Press books. The GMP was mostly known throughout the 80s and 90s as a publisher of gay paperbacks and whilst I'm aware that it is possible to buy their much scarcer hardcover editions online, I've never seen one in a real live bookshop before. So it was something of a treat to find four in one go and all in near fine condition. A particular treat was that one of the four, The Carnivorous Lamb by Arcos-Gomez is one of my all-time favouite books. It is a sultry and claustrophobic tale of love between to brothers in Spain, influenced heavily by Les Enfant Terribles by Cocteau, the relationship becomes an incestuous one. I think perhaps one of the reasons I love this book so much is that I first read it in a battered GMP paperback, ex-library copy as a teenager (I still have that copy) and the claustophobic and rather hothouse atmosphere chimed very well with the introverted struggles of a young gay man to come to terms with a bursting sexuality.

I once tried to start the project of creating a bibliography of the GMP but, although one-time editor Peter Burton was kind and helpful, I could raise no interest from other figures in the history of the publisher and so the project foundered as they still held the majority of the company's records. Burton was the life-partner of the late author Robin Maugham which brings me neatly to the next couple of books. Maugham, nephew of the much more popular Somerset, was a fairly prolific and I think underrated novelist and I have been gathering his first editions unto my collection for some time so it was nice to find another two in my scavenging through Winchester. Search for Nirvanah is an autobiographical travel book which I haven't yet read. The Wrong People is an incredibly powerful if slightly overblown novel about a young English school master who gets caught up in the world of powerful ex-pats in Morocco and falls for a beautiful and capricious Arab boy. This is Maugham at his best and I already had the rather salaciously decorated Pan paperback version of this book. And to finish, two other books, the Aldo Busi, I know nothing about (and likewise the author except by reputation) the Joseph Hansen is going to be my introduction to his writing too. Hansen is the author of probably the first series of crime novels with a gay protagonist, the Brandsetter novels, this book is not in this series but I had long thought it would be good to read the crime books so when I saw this one it seemed a great opportunity to try out the author.

A good haul.


Thevina said...

You really did come away with some great books! And how timely that they coincided with your birthday. I hope that you're able to have some time to yourself to enjoy reading them; you do seem very busy with your publishing side of things of late. Happy belated birthday, now, and glad that it was spent in a way you wished!! XOX

Jim said...

Happy birthday to you!

-Jim D.

John C said...

We're starved of good non-chain bookshops up here so it's the charity shops or nothing. The last place left in Manchester moved all their wares online where they still make sales but have completely negated the opportunity of a chance discovery or--perhaps more important--the ability to look through a book before buying it.

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