Tag Archives: Dodie Smith

Paddling in the Bloody Moat on Gulf Coast

I have an essay up on Gulf Coast! It’s a comparison of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns, two novels quite dissimilar in style, if not in certain motifs. A snippet:


Yet for all the sense of being invited in to a rarefied girlish world, with the vivid evocations of place, the nostalgic setting, there is more than a shade of the ephrastic about I Capture the Castle – even the title seems fit for a painting, and you can almost see it, stripped of irony, an oil landscape in nineteenth century gothic revival style, all soaring towers and red-haired maidens leaning out of windows, as in the distance a river banked with willows wends its way across a dappled countryside.




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World Book Night – collecting the haul

A little while ago, I posted that I’d been selected as a giver for World Book Night. Today I picked up the 24 copies of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith that I’ll be handing out on Monday.

First of all I want to say – ouch, my arms! I carried the box they came in from the Central Library all the way to my flat – only about 10 minutes walk, but ouff. Next time I’ll try to recruit some help from D. 24 books are heavy of course – but the box was awkward too. Long and shallow, slippery at the corners. Still, I made it, and this pile artfully arrange on the floor represents half of the books ‘done’. That is, signed with my name – my legal name, in my wobbly, arm-achey handwriting –  the location of pick up, and a unique ID number so that recipients can register their book online, if they like, for later tracking. The hope is that the books will drift between hands, being read and passed on with recommendations to read this, it’s good. Eyes will be opened. People will realise the pleasure of reading, just by being gifted a book of their own. It’s a lovely thing to be a part of.

Now, come Monday the 23rd, I hope for dry weather, and to not be mistaken for a ‘chugger’ (charity mugger, one of those people who harass you in the street for money, while being paid a lot by third-party organisers, so that the original charity doesn’t see the full donation). If anyone is in the neighbourhood of North and South Bridge around 5pm-8ish (however long it takes!) please stop by and say hello – though if you are a reader already, you’ll probably not get a book from me. If you love words already, the magic will not work! However, if you know someone who is a reluctant reader, someone who hasn’t read since school, bring them along and I’ll gladly hand them a copy.


Filed under 2012, consolations of reading

Day and Night, Books

The books above are my collection so far for the month of March – the first of which I started a couple of days ago. Three presents (one of which was a book given out free with a newspaper) and one charity shop purchase of two pounds. Endless Reads 2012 is going at a fair old pace. So far I’ve been pretty good about not buying too many, mostly thanks to the generosity of others. So I felt this was a relevant (if slightly awkward) segue into the fact that it’s World Book Day today in Ireland and the UK! But not the rest of the world. The rest of the world celebrates World Book Day on the 23rd of April, but the day was moved to the first Thursday in March in Ireland and the UK, according to Wikipedia, to avoid having it fall in the Easter holidays.

Today, every child in education (up to the age of 18) will receive a one pound book token which they can use to help cover the cost of a book, or to buy a specially printed book for a pound. It’s a pretty wonderful thing, although none of the cheap books seem to be particularly long  reads, which is a shame for more advanced readers. I’d have loved to get my hands on some more challenging books if the scheme had been in place when I was younger. I was reading Les Miserables (along with a lot of other more age-appropriate fiction) when I was twelve or thirteen, and reading has always been my main occupation – in that respect perhaps I wasn’t really the target audience.  Still, maybe they’ll eventually print up some copy-right free classics (usually available for three quid or less anyway).

I’m not doing much for today – other than reading, which I do every day anyway – but I will getting actively involved in World Book Night (which is the evening of World Book Day, so, on the 23rd of April). In the UK (and Ireland? I’m not sure) and in the US, book enthusiasts sign up to hand out 24 copies of one of a hundred books chosen by national poll as a ‘great read’.

I’m going to be wandering around North and South Bridge in the centre of Edinburgh, merrily foisting a free copy of my book of choice to non-readers. The vetting process was quite strident – I had to fill out a form saying what I wanted to give out (from the list of a hundred, chosen by readers’ votes) and why, who I would give the book out to and why, where I was going to stand and why – Mostly, because I think books are ugly and beautiful and can give insight into the human condition and make us slightly kinder and more at ease with human difference, and that no one should be denied a book just because it’s too expensive, or they think libraries are not for them or what have you. In the end, I got through, and was chosen as a giver – and though it’s over a month away, I’m really looking forward to the event.

I chose I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. There were a lot of books on the list that I liked, so why this particular one? Why not one of my favourites, Ishiguro’s The Remains Of The Day? One is a sweet, mildly funny coming-of-age-and-love story set in a marvelous crumbling English castle (rented by the protagonists) featuring a keen writer and some dashing American visitors – the other is an achingly beautiful meditation on aging, loyalty and loss as seen through the eyes of an uptight butler on his holidays. Which would be easiest and most inspiring for a non-reader to read? I wanted immediate appeal, which would open the world of books up to a reluctant reader, rather than risk putting them off with a licorice sort of book.

Are you getting involved in World Book Day or Night? If not, which book would you give away to non-readers to really draw them towards reading?


Filed under 2012, book cover, consolations of reading, Edinburgh, Endless Reads 2012, North Bridge, reading, Scotland