[Student accommodation in the 1970s]
Sometimes Utility bookcases were provided. We asked for them to be removed. We kept our books in modern style, on shelves of planks raised on stacks of bricks . They were easily dismantled and taken from one unheated, mildew-ridden slum to another. The walls were decorated with posters attached by blobs of Blu-Tack, an adhesive substance that came in sheets of blue goo. The important fittings were the coffee mugs and the ashtrays, but books were the true furnishings. They were the soul of a room. They defined the identity of the person who lived there in a series of announcements: Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. Charles Reich’s The Greening of America. Richard Neville’s Playpower. Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. Carlos Castañeda’s The Teachings of Don Juan. All of these were required titles on the bookshelves of the counterculture, as defining as the shoulder-length hair, the tie-dyed t-shirt smelling of incense ash, and the bell-bottom jeans stained with drops of rank brown patchouli oil.
observations: This is Linda Grant’s Kindle Single – it’s short, costs 99p and can be read very quickly. Anyone who has too many books, of any kind, should read and enjoy it. This is non-fiction: Grant is moving house and so works out what to do about her surplus books, while thinking about her past as a reader.
As I say, any book reader/buyer/hoarder will love this piece, but it particularly resonated with me because I grew up, apparently, not far from Linda Grant, and around the same time. She went to the same bookshops as I did. A magical place for me as a child was the children’s book department at WH Smiths in Allerton Rd – that sounds so uninspiring, so limited: no Foyles, no Daunt, no Harrods books for us. So it was quite remarkably encouraging to find someone else who loved it. The department store Lewis’s in Liverpool city centre had a Penguin Bookshop tucked away in a corner – again, Grant and I haunted it. It took me from Noel Streatfeild to Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, and I once won a competition there and was given a bundle of books.
As well as all this, she does terrific clothes in her books – it’s surprising she hasn’t been on the blog before. She has a new novel out in July, Upstairs at the Party, again featuring our shared background, which will most certainly be providing an entry.