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February 25, 2010


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The title of the book in the painting is a bit of a mystery. It could be 'Animal Farm', except tht the second word of the title is longer than the first. The only other contender in orange is Peter Wildeblood's
which could fit. Or else David Kirk is messing with our minds!

I thought of going through catalogues of old Penguins to work out what it could be, but thought that might look obsessive and weird. Youve restored my faith.

I did wonder if the T was deceptive, and it was Angel Pavement; but going by Baines, that would have had an illustration on the front.

I share your enthusiasm in solving the mystery. At Amazon you can zoom in on the front cover, which appears to read "avye trotpt." Perhaps it's an anagram, perhaps a Voynichian jumble...only time will tell.

I read it as "Anime Thritsty". Tke likeliest answer is that it is a mere Penguin-like daub, with something vaguely reminiscent of lettering on the front. But I'd like to be proved wrong

It's Aldous Huxley's 'Antic Hay' - but deliberately disrupted and obscured, and therefore generally representative. David Kirk is an interesting and accomplished young artist (look at his website).

As for the sf - well, what can I say - sf is always slightly weird. That's the point. It's suffered a good deal of neglect and condescending snobbery in the past, so at least this redresses the balance a little. I had an excellent, hugely enthusiastic and learned sf Associate Editor in Andy Sawyer. Omissions - yes, inevitably, human nature and the human mind being what they are. I'll try and put in some extra entries in the next printing, if I can.

But I hope you found some things to like! It's good to know that you have a copy, and have been thinking about it. Thank you.

Dinah Birch

Thanks so much for taking the trouble to comment, Dinah, and for solving the paperback mystery. Antic Hay - doh! Huxley covers of the Fifties are interesting, because he was given his own typeface, Corvinus - the first time Penguin had used any face but Gill for fiction.

As for the SF: I sort of assumed that Andy Sawyers enthusiasm must explain a lot, but didnt say that in the original post in case it could be construed as some kind of attack on him. And what I wrote wasnt meant, either, to come across as a carp about the stuff youd missed out - thats a cheap way of scoring points off any reference book. As you may have gathered, Ive got one foot in the SF camp myself, so Im not unsympathetic, and I take your point about redressing the balance.

I think what I was groping towards was this thought: in certain contexts, and editing a major reference work like the OCEL is one, different kinds of literature become in effect competing interest groups; and the specialist associate editors are acting not only as arbiters, but as advocates for their particular genres, forms whatever. So one of the duties of an editor is to balance the claims of various lobbies. I hadnt realised this before.

Anyway, things to like - well, I like big chunky reference books about books, so youre quids in. And I like the entry on deconstruction, with its reference to Derridas alarmingly simplified account of the history of Western philosophy. I found the definition of postmodernism useful, too. Im sure Ill come across lots of others; but it is a strange process, having owned a Drabble since I was a student, and now weaning myself off it.

Yes, balancings of many kinds - not always straightforward, as you can imagine. One of the reasons for my being particularly open to Andy's blandishments, apart from the fact that he is a hero of our time, is that for years and years I have been irritated beyond measure by the tendency of the academic literary establishment to be stupidly patronising about sf. I am an sf reader myself, though not an especially knowledgeable one.

Speaking personally, one of the many things I like about my edition is its much improved treatment of travel writers. Check it out.

What Im now going to have to do is dig out the Drabble and comb through the two editions to see whats changed. I can see my productive capacity shrinking quite violently.

By the way, I've only just realised that when I post a reply to a comment via e-mail, all the apostrophes are wiped out. Annoying.

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