Reproduced from the North Devon Journal published a week after his death. (Source: Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)
Monthly Archives: July 2014
The Nielsen Book Survey has identified a worrying fall in the number of books that are being bought as gifts. In 2013, the number of books bought as gifts fell by approximately 9 million. This is part of an overall 4% decline in book sales during the period.
Jo Henry, who led the research, expressed concern at “the apparent decrease in the value that consumers are placing on books as gifts”.
There are a number of possible explanations – the growth of the use of e-readers being one that at least indicates a continuing desire to read – but it is nevertheless a worrying trend.
As a believer in the power of the written word, whether it be non-fiction or fiction, to reach people and move them, and thereby perhaps change their world view, I think that it is down to us – the readers – to go out and buy books (preferably Trollopes!) as gifts for our friends, to share our joy in reading and, hopefully, reverse this trend.
Trollope’s answer, of course, would have been “Oui.” Indeed, when his family’s dire financial circumstances led to their temporary exile in Belgium, his command of the language was considered sufficient to contemplate taking up a job there. Fortunately for us, an alternative plan for Anthony to return to London and take up a position in the Post Office was preferred. The rest, as they say, “C’est l’histoire.”
However, a recent study by the bank Natixis suggests that command of French may be about to become “de rigeur”. The study found that by 2050, there will be more French speakers than any other language, leapfrogging current leader Mandarin Chinese and second placed English.
The reason for this, according to the study, is that the population growth in the 32 countries where French is the official language is growing at a faster rate than in the rest of the world.
More detailed analysis though indicates that there may be some question about the conclusions drawn. In many of the countries which are officially Francophone, there are, in fact, other languages used as their primary language by many of the population. In Senegal, for example, although the official language is French, the majority of the population speak Wolof as their mother tongue. Yet the study counts the entire population as French speaking.
Couple this with the effect of the US-centric, Anglophone hegemony of the internet and it seems that predictions of the demise of English as the world’s global language may have been greatly exaggerated.
We note with sadness the death of novelist Thomas Berger at the age of 89. He wrote twenty novels, the most famous of which was his 1964 novel, Little Big Man, turned into a film in 1970 starring Dustin Hoffman. He was nominated for the Pullitzer Prize in 1984 for his novel The Feud.
His writing tended to focus on aspects of American life and covered a wide range of genres with a versatility which perhaps led to him being overlooked in a way that might not have occured had he focussed on one style or genre.
The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2014 has been announced. The shortlist is:
Joshua Ferris – To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Siri Hustvedt – The Blazing World
Howard Jacobson – J
Paul Kingsnorth – The Wake
David Mitchell – The Bone Clocks
Neel Mukherjee – The Lives of Others
David Nicholls – Us
Joseph O’Neill – The Dog
Richard Powers – Orfeo
Ali Smith – How to be Both
Niall Williams – History of the Rain
A quick reminder that the Cambridge group of the Trollope Society is meeting to discuss one of Trollope’s lesser known early novels, La Vendee, on 27th July 2014 at 2:30pm at 19 Sedley Taylor Road, Cambridge. For further information contact Michael Williamson (email: firstname.lastname@example.org ).
I am grateful to Naomi Laeuchli of Tucson, Arizona who spotted an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame in Entertainment Weekly in which she commented:
“What I’d read if I were restricted to one genre for the rest of my life: Action-adventure gardening guidebooks. But if those are too difficult to come by, just feed me a steady diet of 19th century British novels. If you want to get really specific about it, just stuff me full of all the Trollope I can eat.”
I assume that The Trollope Society membership application form is in the post to Elizabeth as we speak…