East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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A book for the rest of my life

And in the end I gave myself a gift for my fiftieth birthday.
I wanted a good book, one that I’ll be able to take along for the remaining years of my life.
A book I’ll be able to read and re-read, and that I’ll have placed in my casket when the day comes.

So, I have this mild fetishism for the Everyman Library books. They are beautiful and sturdy and come with this Victorian conceit: a library of classics in classy edition for the common readers.
Now that’s something.

It was conceived in 1905 by London publisher Joseph Malaby Dent, whose goal was to create a 1,000 volume library of world literature that was affordable for, and that appealed to, every kind of person, from students to the working classes to the cultural elite. Dent followed the design principles and to a certain extent the style established by William Morris in his Kelmscott Press.

Despite my fetishism, I only have three volumes in the series: a selection of Flashman Papers by George MacDonald Fraser, and the two volumes containing the complete short stories of Ray Bradbury and the complete stories of Roald Dahl.
So I went on Amazon and browsed the stacks and emerged with a short list of five volumes, and who am I trying to kid here, it is obvious I’ll get each one of them sooner or later1.
But right now, as I said, I was looking for something symbolic – and a good thick book at the same time.
So I bought myself a copy of the Everyman Arabian Nights. Continue reading


Short stories

dahlIn this weird summer that alternates suffocating humidity with cold showers, I have a craving for short stories.
Don’t ask me why.
Maybe it’s because I can start and finish a story in a single sitting, even after a long day spent writing, or translating, or doing stuff; it engages my brain at the right level, without being too demanding on my time, or eyesight.
Or maybe it’s because in the last few years I’ve been writing mostly short stories and I am curious about what the great ones did.
I’m trying to steal their secrets.

So, I went through John D. MacDonald‘s The Good Old Stuff, and right now I’m going through the Everyman edition of Roald Dahl’s Collected Stories.
Afterwards I’ll probably go through Muse and Reverie, by Charles de Lint.
And then some Sam Shepard.
As I said, I’m craving short fiction, and studying with the best. Continue reading