Monday, October 8, 2007

As if I didn't already love Jonathan Coe enough. . .

. . . he writes this great article about his love affair with Virago Modern classics (which I collect, especially out of print Viragos). His new novel, The Rain Before It Falls (out in the spring in North America), pays tribute to one particular Virago author, Rosamond Lehmann, but I have also discovered numerous amazing writers brought back into print by this publisher. To his list of Lehmann, Dorothy Richardson, FM Mayor and May Sinclair, I'd add Rebecca West, Vera Brittain (her novels as well as her groundbreaking autobiography, A Testament of Youth), Rose Macaulay, Storm Jameson, and especially Elizabeth Taylor. Being a bit of a Bronte buff, Virago was responsible for my reading May Sinclair's The Three Sisters (which transports the Bronte story to the 1910s and has quite a few riffs on Bronte lore - the hero's name is Rowcliffe for example) and Rachel Ferguson's The Brontes Went to Woolworths, a wonderful comic novel about three fatherless sisters who create a imaginative fantasy world in which to cope. Though these last two are out of print again, you can still find copies in libraries and used bookstores. Virago also publishes new books by women writers; I recently read Michele Roberts' terrific memoir Paper Houses about her life as a feminist and a writer while moving from flat to flat in 1970s London. Incidentally, Virago also published her novel, The Mistressclass which pays tribute to Charlotte Bronte's Villette.
This is quite possibly the first time a male (famous writer or not) has ever admitted to being an avid reader of Viragos. Maybe it's the start of a new trend. In the new movie, The Jane Austen Bookclub (quite enjoyable in its way), based on Karen Jay Fowler's novel, three male characters actually end up reading Persuasion.

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