Sandspout Bookstore

Ion D. Sîrbu & the Small Bearded Priest

JUNE 2019 was the centenary of the birth of the Romanian dramatist and novelist Ion D. Sîrbu. His is a name not known to the English speaking world, in part … Continue reading

19th August 2020 · Leave a comment

A Straight Line to Joy: Reading Jazz

THEE ARE ONLY A FEW writers who are able to write well and with authority on all aspects of jazz. Philip Larkin pleaded for a “belle-lettriste of jazz, a Newman … Continue reading

13th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Ungaretti’s Typewriter

AN ADDITION TO THE shop landscape: Ungaretti’s Typewriter. Customers (all two of them) are invited to type upon it any random thought, flow of consciousness dribble, abstract or recited prose … Continue reading

13th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Chic Cadence & Latticed Lampshades

TO READ A SENTENCE of David Foster Wallace, the most fulfilling writer of the last twenty years, is to discover a man on the precipice, for his writing ganders chaotically … Continue reading

13th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Anna Kavan: Addicted & Addictive

ANNA KAVAN was born Helen Emily Woods in 1901 in Cannes, France, and was raised and educated in Europe and California. Her wealthy English parents were cold and displayed scant … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

The Discordant Who? Atzmon & Debate

A FEW YEARS AGO Gilad Atzmon’s book The Wandering Who? was taken off the virtual shelves of the Guardian book website. My first reaction was to be amused that the … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Harry Worth Meets Little & Little

I was asked recently what were the funniest books, recently published, that I’ve read. I don’t read much modern fiction and suppose I am too old to find too many … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Harriet Backer’s Chez Moi

I saw this painting in a lovely art gallery in Tromsø: Chez Moi by Harriet Backer, painted in 1887. Throughout her life, Backer (1845-1932) painted pianists at play. Harriet Backer … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Bobby Fischer: Opportunistic Nutter

The great chess players of the past are fascinating characters. Even if long dead and with an afterlife only of algebraic notation, they can impose themselves upon our imagination still. … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Lennon & McCartney, She’s Leaving Home

SHE’S LEAVING HOME, a sublime yet sorrowful song, is one of the more unusual in the Beatles’ catalogue. Like Eleanor Rigby from the earlier Revolver LP it did not include any band instrumental … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Matchbox Stories from Book Ex Machina

IN STOCK is the tiniest literary magazine in the world: Matchbox Stories from Book Ex Machina, an original publishing initiative from a writer and photographer in Cyprus. Each issue is a … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Onanism Fleshed Out: Evie & Guy

I SO OFTEN go on and on about Dan Holloway’s onanistic novel Evie and Guy, and am pleased to have heard that Dan has prepared a second edition. It is … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

The Bodleian Library and ZZ Top

THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY was refurnished by 1613, and the Old Schools Quadrangle extension was already under serious planning – to be measured in cubits rather than feet and inches, and based … Continue reading

11th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Christopher Wren in Oxford

 MOST ARCHITECTURAL ROADS led to Sir Christopher Wren in the late seventeenth century; he hovers everywhere as a sombre cloud, if not actually raining then casting a shadow. In Oxford his influence pops … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Oxford-thoughts, From Abroad

A HUGE PART OF OXFORD has entered the twenty-first century if not grudgingly, then with mock enthusiasm. That part is the University, for everything about the University’s observance rests on … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Malcolm Saville’s Yard Broom

MALCOLM SAVILLE was born in Hastings in 1901 and educated there. His first job was as a clerk with the Oxford University Press, and the rest of his working life … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Hans Fallada at Brookfield Farm

HANS FALLADA was published by Melville House only in 2009, Penguin thereafter (translated by Michael Hofmann). He is a recent invention in the English-speaking world, and a surprising commercial success. … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Heathcote Williams, The Local Polemic

PAINTED FLUORESCENT OVER TWO WALLS of the loo of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore, Oxford, was Heathcote Williams’ poem ‘Books’. This poem was written perhaps ten years ago or more. Heathcote … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Agatha Christie’s Tax Return

THE ORIENT EXPRESS stops during the night, blocked by snowdrifts; next morning the mysterious Mr. Ratchett is found stabbed in his berth and untrodden snow shows that the killer is … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Gerald Kersch’s Flaccid Over-ripeness

ONE OF THE GREAT chroniclers of London’s metropolitan life was the versatile GERALD KERSH (1911-1968), although he came to settle in Barbados (where his house burnt down), then Canada, and … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Edmund Crispin at the Bar of the Randolph

EDMUND CRISPIN’s The Moving Toyshop is one of the classic Oxford novels. Crispin was the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery, a composer of vocal and choral music which included An Oxford … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Dornford Yates: A Snob with Violence

IT IS WONDERFUL to judge a book by its cover, to date a book by its cover also. Here is a nostalgic-looking second-hand edition of Blind Corner by Dornford Yates, an … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Barbara Pym and the Church Pew

YOU HAVE TO BE bonkers not to love Barbara Pym’s novels. Her acme was a 1950s suburban or neo-rural setting where The Archers doesn’t quite meet James Bond, because you don’t get … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Arthur Machen’s Quest for Ecstasy

ARTHUR MACHEN’S LITERARY REPUTATION in his lifetime was considerable. As recognition of this he was awarded a Civil List Pension for the last fifteen years of his life, and in … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Nathaniel West’s Disease

MISS LONELYHEARTS is Nathanael West’s second novel, published in 1933. Many critics consider it to be his best; West’s close friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald, considered it to be “quite extraordinary.” … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Girl With Dove: Sally Bayley

I HAVE READ RECENTLY Girl With Dove: A Life Built By Books by Sally Bayley, a childhood autobiography. Waterstone’s marketing tag for the book is that it is a “very eccentric … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

A One-Night Stand with Erroll Garner

MY EYES ARE THROWN to the heavens with wonderment at the playing of Erroll Garner. When I hear him play it is as though the myriad threads of jazz history, … Continue reading

10th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Best Opening Lines for a Novel

ALWAYS INTERESTED IN the opening lines of novels, I posted some time ago the first two listed below – Anthony Burgess’ Earthly Powers and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle – … Continue reading

9th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Michelangeli: Angel’s Slippers

A FOND KEEPSAKE OF MINE is a cutting from the front page of the Times in 1977. A small report of a comeback concert by Arturo Benedetti Michelangelo at the … Continue reading

9th August 2020 · Leave a comment

Siciliano, Spirituality and Saccharin

AN EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY VOGUE for transcribing Bach chorales or instrumentals for the piano was that meeting point of nostalgia and aspiration. Perhaps their inspiration was a reaction to the … Continue reading

9th August 2020 · Leave a comment

A Love Affair with Libraries

MY FIRST MEMORY OF BOOKS involves libraries. I am sure of it. I may have been given books to throw out of my cot and I may have had books … Continue reading

1st March 2020 · Leave a comment

Birthday Card: Gig Review

BIRTHDAY CARD, the ‘melancholy pop’ band from Aylesbury, launched their first single, Shy Away, with new label NHAC just before Christmas. The gig was at the label’s home, the iconic Notting … Continue reading

31st December 2019 · Leave a comment