Oh what a delightful week this has been! And thank you all for joining in and sharing your love for the green spines and bitten apples. I’m including the photo to show that my small Virago collection has grown this week — I found a copy of Miss Mole by E.H. Young in the only used bookstore in the nearest prairie farming town earlier this week, just after posting about wishing I’d read it when I had access to a bigger library! And today, at the largest shopping mall in North America (that would be West Edmonton Mall)… I found my first Virago Modern Classic in a bookstore!!! (Books in other editions don’t count.) I looked for Pym, Comyns, Lehmann, just hoping for something. And then Taylor… and there was another Elizabeth, waiting to leap into my arms. I’m wondering if the popularity of Cornflower’s book group pick back in November of A Game of Hide & Seek was what got it onto the shelves? (It was the only one of her books there.) Could it be that bloggers can get these books back on the shelves??
I have to say, I love the new cover and was looking at it all the rest of the day with deep satisfaction, what a great way to end Virago Reading Week!
First, one prize for Best Review. I had my eye on two early on, the very first day Claire of The Captive Reader wrote movingly about Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark, which has convinced me that I must try this author so many of you rave about and I must start with this book, “about desire and about devotion to one’s art.” But on Wednesday, Danielle of A Work in Progress wrote beautifully about the experience of reading The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim, saying that she only wanted to read it in “peaceful, quiet corners” — in a garden. This made me instantly pick up Elizabeth and Her German Garden and now I’m longing for The Solitary Summer too, which is the sequel. So this award goes to Danielle! And thank you to both of you for blogging so enthusiastically throughout the week.
Secondly, the prize for the Photo Contest. I said show us your Virago books and the more creative the better and you took me at my word! There were pets (also here), there was baking (featuring apples of course), there were Viragos all over the bed (in a heart shape, because we heart Virago)!
But the winning photo incorporated pets and baking and gave someone “sweaty damp patches and a border collie now wary of aprons”… you all know which one that is!
Oh Darlene, you had us giggling all week! Congratulations and thank you for laughter with our serious feminist reading. (You must share the award with Deacon! Actually, on second thought… maybe a doggie biscuit will do!)
Danielle and Darlene, thank you so much for joining in this week, you truly light up our little corner of book blogging. Please email Rachel about the prizes. (Edit: there’s still Thomas’s give-away to be announced for whoever can guess the paintings from the four book covers on our button!)
Thank you all who shared photos of your collections as well (I particularly envy Simon and Hayley’s Virago loot), any chance to look at and long for other people’s books! Which obviously showcase better selections than that found in most bookstores, I was despairing a little, seeing the piles of fluffy escapist books all over the bookstore I was in today, until the Virago authors began smiling from the shelves — Zora Neale Hurston, Daphne du Maurier, Angela Carter, Margaret Laurence, Muriel Spark and Elizabeth Taylor. I just wish there were more of them, back in print and available in bookstores where I live. I am going to do my best to read and promote more Virago books, to get them into more people’s hands.
If anyone would like to join me in the occasional group read of a Virago Modern Classic (or books we think ought to be on the VMC list), I’d be thrilled! Let me know in the comments if you’re interested and let’s do something about keeping smart books for women (and men) on the shelves.
And so, if founding Virago was my first light bulb, dreaming up the Classics was the second. How could I publish Frost in May? The answer came quite easily: here was the celebration and fun I was looking for, here was a way of illuminating women’s history in a way that would reach out to a much wider audience of both women and men. I would publish a multitude of novels, I would publish them in a series, I would market them as a brand, just like Penguin. If one novel could tell the story of my life, there were hundreds more, and thousands of readers who would feel as I did.
We are those readers today, over 30 years after Virago began, those women and men who choose something different than the conventional choices. We are a wide range of ages, we are single and married, in and out of university and a variety of careers, with or without children, we are gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, whatever. We live all over the world, we speak different languages. These are our stories, not about princesses and heroes, but about flawed, ambitious, aching people like us. And we can influence what’s published, what’s available in bookstores, what’s sold and read and thought about and discussed and taken to heart, what changes lives. Book bloggers can make a difference.