Philobiblon: Another couple of presents ...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Another couple of presents ...

If you are still desperately trying to find a perfect present, check out Persephone Books, which publishes out-of-print titles by women writers. "Titles include novels, short stories, diaries and cookery books. They are all carefully designed with a clear typeface, a 'fabric' endpaper and bookmark, and a preface by writers such as PD James, Jacqueline Wilson and Jilly Cooper."

These are lovely books, that rescue women writers who had almost been forgotten. I went into their office for the first time on Saturday. It is in a simple, old-fashioned shopfront, with the books piled high and enthusiastic purchasers sharing their view on the volumes before them.

The universal recommendation was for Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. There's an article on the website about it, as there is for each volume ...

"Miss Pettigrew was a sparkling and slightly risque contemporary tale set among the young and beautiful.

It unfolds over twenty-four hours and tells what happens when Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, a spinster who has led a sheltered life, is sent to the wrong address by an employment agency.

Instead of finding a fraught mother with a fractious brood, she encounters glamorous night-club singer Miss LaFosse who “had as many male admirers as Miss Pettigrew had had children to watch over in her long years as governess."

A fish out of water, Miss Pettigrew proves equal to the task of sorting out this flighty young thing’s life, deftly disposing of the cocaine (shocking then as now) which she finds in her bathroom.

Critics went wild for this “tonic book”. One called it “jolly, deliciously naughty and frolicsome”; another “the type of book that will bring joy to every woman’s heart."

P.S. I'm not on commission, just enthusiastic.

Alternatively, if Christmas madness is getting to you, go for the really insane option of The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre display at the Oxo gallery - creations that will make anyone laugh. I liked the mad butler figure powering an ultralight with flapping wings via a bicycle, complete with socks drying from the front propeller and a pig in a garbage can on the wing. (No I don't know why either.)There's also a complete circus in one ring, including a lady standing on a horse's back who jumps through a hoop on each revolution.

In the slightly sick, not really for the children, category I also liked "Poisoned milk", a cat that laps a dozen times at the spilt milk before the second cog finally tips over and it collapses in a boneless heap, and "Drifting apart", a couple sitting at each end of a bath-tub that jaggedly splits down the middle, water and all.

For anyone who can't make it to London there's a "virtual" exhibition here. (Flash required)

I thought about buying one of the kits for my god son, but maybe another time - not really a Christmas Day sort of present, with incredibly intricate assembly required.


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