Wednesday, October 05, 2011

In search of Salinger; and other books

Back in the summer I bought 'Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters' by JD Salinger. Cathy found it in a RNLI fundraising bookshed near the ferry crossing to Iona. Bit of an odd place to find it, but there you go.

This cover image is for illustration purposes only, as my copy has a blue cover. (I couldn't find it to scan it. I think I might have loaned it to somone in my book group.) It's two novellas, featuring the same characters. The first one was very funny.

Anyway I now want to read the two other books in print by him, 'Franny and Zooey' and 'For Esme, with Love and Squalour'. However, being a bit cheap I don't want to buy the recently re-packaged, fairly expensive Penguin paperbacks. But tracking them down second-hand is proving problematic.

Despite three trips to the town of books, Hay-on-Wye, and a tour of all the second-hand bookshops in Cardiff city centre, I can't find good reading copies anywhere. In fact, the only version of either title I have found was an early Penguin of 'Franny and Zooey'. It had the classic orange cover, and the classic Penguin affliction of hardened binding gum meaning the book would soon self-destruct if you started reading it. And, being on a 'classic Penguin' shelf in a bookshiop in Hay-on-Wye it was priced at a ludicrous £6.95 anyway.

eBay isn't much help either. I think generally the bargains have dried up on there, compared to when it first started out back in the day. Most of the books on there are being sold by professional dealers, for the kind of money that makes you think 'Well, I'll just buy it brand new, at that price.' I've been outbid on a couple of auctions with a reasonable starting price, but I will get one eventually, I'm sure.

Books by JD Salinger may be hard to come by, but I did find two reasonable books about him on eBay that looked worth a punt. They should be arriving through the post any day now.

It's not all doom and gloom. In Hay I found the most recent Culture novel by Iain M Banks, 'Surface Detail' for less than half cover price in hardback.

I've felt Banks has drifted off form for the last couple of Culure novels. 'Matter' wasn't very good at all. But even so this was a 'must purchase' and I'm very pleased to say I thought it was very good, with a 'twist' in the epilogue that I had been hoping for and wondering about since halfway through the book. You probably do have to be a fanboy or girl for the twist to mean anything to you. But if you are a fanboy or girl, then I think you'll like it.

The story is essentially about 'saved souls' in a virtual afterlife and a war in reality to liberate those who have died from hell. It sounds crazy, but the future is going to be a far weirder place than any of us can imagine. And if the future has a Culture (and I dearly hope it does), than that plot premise is not going to be too far-fetched. My favourite character was an Abominator-class starship. That really tells you all you need to know about what kind of book it was (and possibly a bit too much about me!)

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