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Friday, August 31, 2012

Visiting Collected Works Bookshop

Collected Works, in the Melbourne CBD, is my very favourite bookshop. I don't go there as often as I did because family commitments mostly keep me away when it's open and, to be honest, I know I'm going to overspend. It calls itself a "poetry and ideas" bookshop. Well, you can get poetry there, and philosophy books. You can also get history, mythology, classics, biographies ( I have so many bios of Tolkien and C.S Lewis that I really have to wrench myself away from the most recent.) You can find classic horror fiction by H.P. Lovecraft and by others you wouldn't have thought would write the stuff. Did you know that Rudyard Kipling wrote ghost stories? Well, I didn't, till I found them there. And children's writer Edith Nesbit, the author of Five Children And It wrote some pretty scary horror fiction. Robert E.Howard's works lurk there. Classic SF also is there, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells - and one day I found Russell Blackford's early novel Haunting Of The Witch King, published by Paul Collins back in the days when he and his then-partner Rowena Corey were running Corey And Collins and a secondhand bookshop called Autumn Leaves. Kris, the jovial bookshop owner, had no idea how it had got there, but let me have it for free. They also stock Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

Yesterday I got away from work earlier than I usually do and decided that as it had been months I would go there just for a few minutes. One of our students is interested in reading Oscar Wilde's novella "The Canterville Ghost". I hoped Kris might have it standalone or maybe in a small collection. He only had a thick works of Wilde, but it was so inexpensive for what it was, I bought it anyway. And then we wandered past my favourite shelves, and he had halved the price of a book I have had my eye on for some time,  The Vikings And The Victorians: inventing the old north in Victorian Britain, about how the Victorians got all mushy and dewy-eyed about the Vikings and actually invented the word. I also spotted Lord Raglan's The Hero, which was a part of my research while I was writing my Honours thesis back at uni. This guy was writing in the 1930s. He says that if it isn't backed up by writing it probably isn't history and spends the first couple of chapters  arguing his case, with examples of faked genealogies that couldn't possibly be genuine for reasons such as the way Normans did their naming which don't mesh with people's beliefs about, say, ancestors who came over with the Conqueror. He feels about local traditions the way Indiana Jones does in the scene where he tells his students that local folklore has ruined a lot of archaeological sites. And folklore, he believes, is based on ritual.

What a spoilsport, but fun so far. I am just starting the chapter about Robin Hood.

More of this later. If you happen to be in Melbourne and want to visit this wonderful shop, it's on the first floor of the Nicholas Building which gets the occasional write up in the papers for being so bohemian with a colony of writers there. It's on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane, opposite St Paul's Cathedral.

And again I have overspent!

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