Posts Tagged ‘william sansom’

Illustrator Abigail Larson's brilliant imagining of Mary Shelley side-by-side with her legendary creation, Frankenstein's Monster

Now available for order in Finds are:
The Stories of William Sansom
A Solitary War, Lucifer Before Sunrise, and The Gale of the World by Henry Williamson
All Hallows’ Eve by Charles Williams
Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour
One Man and His Plot by Michael Leapman
Gerard Manley Hopkins by Robert Bernard Martin
Old Men Forget by Duff Cooper
Diana Cooper by Philip Ziegler
Founder by Amos Elon
Writing at the Kitchen Table by Artemis Cooper
Sir Robert Peel by Norman Gash


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‘Welcome strangers! Come into my parlour, as a well-known spider said…’
(William Sansom, The Body, 1949)
I suspect you will know what I mean when I try to speak of a little literary subgenre we might usefully call ‘the nasty story.’ The type will surely seem clear to you if you have read, just for instance, ‘A Nasty Story’ by Dostoyevsky. Stories of this sort tend to centre upon a character – ideally but not necessarily painted for the reader in the first-person – who labours most painfully under a misunderstanding about life’s workings and the people around him, who doesn’t quite see the true extent of his own folly or pretentiousness or snobbery, or whatever. Someone who, in short, is cruising for a comeuppance, or worse, an outright calamity.
Very often nasty stories are portraits of a marriage, wherein the partners are simply incompatible, but sometimes it’s a case where a fellow ought really to appreciate more of what he has and love his wife a little better. Quite regularly nasty stories are comedies of acute social embarrassment – cf. Dostoyevsky. There may also be a hard twist in the tail: my generation grew up watching a great many nasty stories on television every Saturday night, courtesy of Roald Dahl’s ITV series Tales of the Unexpected. Vladimir Nabokov, self-appointed scourge of Dostoyevsky yet covertly kindred in certain ways, excelled at nastiness and in Laughter in the Dark gave us a nasty story the very title of which indicated the type of reaction liable to be drawn from sophisticated readers…
But I digress, and must get to the point, which is William Sansom. Sansom was a gloriously gifted writer who could turn his hand to many forms and subjects, the nasty story merely one such. Finds has been delighted to reissue his novels A Bed of Roses and The Face of Innocence alongside his eyewitness/non-fictional The Blitz, but here I just draw your attention to our reissue of Sansom’s novel The Body. This tale concerns one Henry Bishop, a lightly-employed hairdresser by trade who considers himself ‘probably rather a dull man’, ‘left over from the home-hobby age.’ His wife Madge he tends to regard ‘most dispassionately’, with a sort of freezing irony (‘Together’, Henry remarks, ‘we passed what I think is one of the greatest tests of love — we felt a real sensation of toleration and pleasure when one of us did something against the other’s principles.’) But all this changes for Henry when a new neighbour, a car salesman, Charles Diver by name, appears to become most impertinently interested in Madge.
Sansom was a master of the short story, and his short-form work has generally garnered more praise than his novels. He is utterly brilliant on detail, has a miniaturist’s eye and the ability to prolong a moment on the page, twisting and turning it across the sentences. (The Body, for instance, begins with Henry’s insane account of bringing down death upon a garden greenfly: ‘To hold the syringe gently, firmly but delicately – not to squirt, but to prod the sleeper into wakefulness with the nozzle, taking care to start no abrupt flight of fear…’) But I would take Sansom any which way – he’s that good. On that note let me say 1) that Anthony Burgess included The Body in his selection of the 99 best post-WWII novels in English, and that 2) we have the pleasure of publishing Sansom’s stories this coming June too! And I recommend him to you with great enthusiasm and confidence…

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The young Elizabeth David, whose last work is reissued in Finds this month (see left)

Precisely what, you may ask, is Finds making available to readers this month? Answer, as ever: a grand assortment of outstanding fiction and non-fiction titles that deserve renewed attention, and these are they:
Margaret Kennedy, The Midas Touch
Siegfried Lenz, The Heritage
T.F. Powys, God’s Eyes A-Twinkle
William Sansom, Bed of Roses
Sylvia Townsend Warner, Winter in the Air and Other Stories
Henry Williamson, Love and the Loveless
J.D. Bernal, Science in History vol.3: The Natural Sciences in Our Time
Elizabeth David, Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices
F.W. Deakin, The Brutal Friendship: Mussolini, Hitler, and the Fall of Italian Fascism
Amos Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors
John Grigg, Lloyd George: The People’s Champion, 1902-1911
Timothy Mowl, Stylistic Cold Wars: Betjeman Versus Pevsner
John Cowper Powys, In Defence of Sensuality
Notes and perspectives on a few of these will follow.

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