Ms. Mirabile on The London Box & Do We Like Writers?


The London box:  Dickens’ Mrs. Lirriper, Jane Bowles’ Everything Is Nice, a D. J. Taylor omnibus, Compton Mackenzie’s The Adventures of Sylvia Scarlett, and Mavis Cheek’s The Lovers of Pound Hill.

The London box arrived.

Yes, I FedExed a box of books to myself from London.

Another stack from the London box:  Platanov's The Foundation Pit, Mishima's The Temple of Dawn, Penelope Fitzgerald's The Means of Escape, Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, Dicken's The Pickwick Papers, Robert Graves' The Golden Fleece & L. P. Hartley's My Fellow Devils

More from the London box: Platonov’s The Foundation Pit, Mishima’s The Temple of Dawn, Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Means of Escape, Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men, Dicken’s The Pickwick Papers, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece & L. P. Hartley’s My Fellow Devils

I wasn’t home to sign for it, so I begged my husband to take me to the FedEx store to pick it up.

“Couldn’t we get it on our bikes?”

“It’s huge.”

And in my mind it really WAS huge.

When he saw it, he couldn’t stop laughing.  It was the size of a slightly oversized Amazon box.

“We could have biked.”

“But it weighs 9 pounds.”

All I know is it was a struggle to lug a laptop bag and a tote bag of books into the taxi.

It’s satisfying to receive a box of books.  My husband wants Platonov’s The Foundation Pit.  We both are fans of Russian literature.

It is ridiculous that I bought a copy of The Pickwick Papers at the Dickens Museum, when I could have found it at home.

It was something about being in the Dickens Museum.  I wanted books I had bought at the Dickens Museum.

I also bought a copy of Dickens’ Mrs. Lirriper, which I have never seen anywhere except at the Dickens Museum.

And below is a scene from Hereafter, one of my favorite movies, in which Matt Damon visits the Dickens Museum.  Unfortunately there’s no sound, but you can see the museum.


Although I’m patting myself on the back for traveling cheaply, I am also relieved that my husband understands why I bought my Dickens at the Dickens Museum.

He is disappointed I didn’t go to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

It didn’t occur to me because I was burning out, but next time.

I will return to London after I’ve read all my London books.

And I have a couple of more boxes coming, because at the end I was madly paying money for the bookstores to ship books to me.

I spent almost nothing!  Everything I did except the Dickens Museum was free.

My husband looked askance at my food bills from Tesco Express and Waitrose.  Five pounds?  All I can say is, it was a great deal cheaper than eating out.  And everything cost at least five pounds, except coffee!

Free things to do in London?  There are so many.


Storied Life of A. J. FikryI have just finished one of the most charming novels I’ve ever read, Gabrielle Zevins’ The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. I couldn’t resist a novel about a bookseller, and it is very, very funny and smoothly written.

The main character, A. J., is a rather cranky bookstore owner.  He is lonely.  He is a widower.  He misses his wife.  He has poor social skills, so he doesn’t have a particularly strong customer base. It was his wife who did the PR and who sponsored the Vampire Ball.

Every chapter begins with a brief journal entry by A. J. about a short story, and he  loves short stories more than novels.

There are many things he doesn’t like, among them Y.A. vampire books.

He doesn’t like writers.

And the only writer event he hosts in the book is something of a bust from his point of view, but the customers love it.

A. J. says about writers:

Despite the fact that he loves books and owns a bookstore, A.J. does not particularly care for writers.  He finds them to be unkempt, narcissistic, silly, and generally unpleasant people.  He tries to avoid meeting the ones who’ve written books he loves for fear that they will ruin the books for him.

This made me burst out laughing, because I organized a series of readings for various bookstores and schools years ago.  (I was a fanatic about books, and did this pro bono.)  Most of the writers were very kind and charming, and some wanted to hang out with me.  (I was MUCH younger then, and I read their books.)  Very few people at these events have read the books.

There were a few difficult writers.  I won’t pretend there weren’t.  You want to stay away from prima donnas, if you know they’re prima donnas.  They are not better writers than the non-prima donnas, but they are picky about everything:  their flights, their food, their escorts, professors putting their arms around them (these particular professors put their arms around everyone, male or female), they want juice instead of water, they can’t eat anything at the restaurant, because they’re on a special diet of beef, and they make fun of the people at the reading.  Sometimes it really puts you off a writer.  In general, though, I found them to be very easy-going people.  Book touring is part of the job.  And they were getting paid an honorarium.

So overall, though I love books, I don’t need to meet writers, even if I would like to. I do wish I’d attended something at the Oxford Literary Festival, because their standards must be high (it’s Oxford!).

There are, however, a lot of readings in Iowa City, if I want to attend.  For instance, on Saturday Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers, will be in Iowa City for two events.  And she has been longlisted for the Bailey Women’s Prize.  I’m still jet-lagged, so I won’t be there.  But someone will be thrilled.

Usually attending readings makes me want to read more of the writers’ books.  It is very unusual for it to put me off.  If you don’t have to deal personally with the writers, it’s always a breeze.

But how do you feel about writers?  Do you like writers?  Do you want to meet them?  I’m sure some of you go to readings, and some do not.    Let us know your impressions!  What’s the best event you ever attended?

Wouldn’t you like to meet Dickens?