Sunday, April 4, 2010

Paperback reader

I am trying to remember the way I felt about paperbacks
when I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Though not exactly a new thing then, they were still new
enough to have about them a nimbus of specialness that
set them apart from hardbacks; to their thin pages and
flimsy covers, to their very slightness in the hand, clung
a quality of concentrated power. That so much could be
packed into so little! Or maybe my excited pleasure in
them simply reflected the fact that they were among my
first points of entry into the world of books. But I see
and feel them now, smell them now, the Pans and
Penguins and Picadors, or even those American Dells
that seemed to come from another planet compared
with the British titles that dominated the paperback
market. I still have some on my shelves, notably
(strictly for sentimental reasons) three of the yellow
Hodder & Stoughton Saint books written by Leslie
Charteris in what now seems an alarmingly florid style
and two versions of one of the Second World War true-
life tales I loved so much, indeed, took in like milk from
my mother’s breast—Enemy Coast Ahead by Guy Gibson
and The Dam Busters by Paul Brickhill. Plus a mottled,
yellowing Pan edition of A G Macdonell’s England, Their
, with its immortal description of a village-green
cricket match. When I seek to recall others no longer in
my possession, into my mind for some reason comes
Knock on Any Door by Willard Motley; or is it Windom’s
by James Ramsey Ullman? No, no, it’s neither of
these, it’s Campbell’s Kingdom by Hammond Innes.
Little books, so light to hold, so easily bent and crushed,
and yet as durable as stone! I treasure you.


Mary McCallum said...

The puffins... Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliffe,,, still have some...

Anonymous said...

Got it - the heading that is. Wonder how many who used to move to that beat know about the good writing that appears on the interweb.