Page 7, 30th November 1979

30th November 1979
Page 7
Page 7, 30th November 1979 — Christmas "selections"

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Christmas "selections"

The Habit of Being Letters of Flannery O'Connor (Faber £8.25) The Lyttleton Hart Davis Letters Volume Two (John Murray £8.95) John Betjeman's Collected Poems (John Murray 14,95) Taking Sides Bernard Levin: A First Selection of his Journalism (Jonathan Cape £6.50).

The Sherlock Holmes Second Omnibus (John Murray / Jonathan Cape £7.50).

THE pre-Christmas period in the book world offers a wide choice of "selections", such as collected poems, letters.; stories, articles or similar compendia. The following is a selection of such "selections".

During the short but quietly heroic life of the crippled American genius, Flannery. O'Connor, Sally Fitzgerald came to be one of her closest friends. She has faithfully and expertly edited and introduced a large batch of Flannery's letters.

They reveal the various stages of a succesSful fight not against disease but against despair. They are matter of fact in their treatment of subjects others rarely speak of. They are chatty. often beautiful, Full of self-discerning, almost shockingly realistic faith.

If Flannery O'Connor was an American phenomenon of her kind, George Lyttleton and Rupert Hart-Davis can be counted among her counterparts in England, even if their field Was different. Less mystical, more academic, often more mischievous, in the most sophisticated sense, they treat of the everyday affairs of the inspired schoolteacher on the one hand and the highly original publisher on the other.

Such affairs are no longer "everyday" when seen through their eyes, since every day was somehow special. As a dialogue made up of the choicest literary scholastic tit-hits of the years 1956 and 1957. this series of letters is something of a collector's item. It is edited with a brisk introduction by Rupert Hart-Davis.

John Bctjeman fans need, mean s+ bile. look no further for a handily sized hardback collection of his poems than a new edition of the compilation made by Lord Birkenhead. Some say that Betjeman is today's Belloc in the realm of light verse. But Belloc did not always like what he mocked. Betjeman invariably loves as he laughs and each reader must make his own final estimate of lines so elusively subtle and often slyls sentimental.

While / imes took its enforced sabbatical Bernard Levin was not idle. Among other tasks he completed was to select live dozen or so of his own articles from that paper, along with one or t¼() from lhe Oh.verver and elsewhere. llow could a man who compulskcl) writes — usually ‘vith brilliance — on so immense a variety or subjects ever have made such a selection?

The answer is that he worked as hard at that particular task as he does at every other. In general he has offered his readers the most representative examples of his probings into what most mortals dismiss as either inexplicable or the inevitable quirks of modern life. Levin does not let such events off so lightly.

He is out to show that the apparently inexplicable is not necessarily fully explainable but is. at least, important enough to worry away at with inexorable logic. His pen is as a hammer to such objects in the raw but becomes a delicate chisel when the subject itself is reduced to words.

Last hut not least tempting is the sequel to an earlier selection of Sherlock Holmes stories, once again presented in extremely attractive form. Most of the famous Conan Doyle tales that originally appeared in the Strand Magazine were illustrated by Sidney Paget who died in 1908.

Stories appearing thereafter were illustrated by not one but a number of artists, and it is the stories with their drawings that are here presented in exact facsimile form. Nostalgia drips from every double-columned page.

This "omnibus" includes His Last Bow, The Volley r).1 Fear and The Case-Book of Sherlock Hohnes.

E. W. Eyre

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