a word in your ear

It seems the OED is having a bit of a party this year. Finally a book I initially read about on the OUP blog, Reading the OED by Ammon Shea, is about to be released locally. I nearly picked this up when I spotted it in Canada in August but thought I’d wait til I returned home. Given how many books I bought on that trip, that proved to be wise restraint. Though the Gleebooks site is saying it’s not yet published, when I was in there earlier I did spy a whole pile of them, already priced and awaiting shelf space. Plus I’ve just noticed via the OUP blog that David Crystal, who has written many books on the english language, also blogs, though I’ve not had time to do more than glance at it as yet.


I like the feel of a book in my hand; especially so if it’s hardcover. Having grown up reading mainly paperbacks, and lots of secondhand paperbacks at that, I didn’t put great stock in the touchy-feely arguments of reading. While hardcovers were nice and looked nice, mostly I’ve read paperbacks. In recent times, no longer being either a teenager nor an impoverished student, I have been buying more hardcovers. Of late, I have been removing the dustjackets altogether and reading the book naked, so to speak. I’m tempted to throw away the dustjackets altogether as I like the look of the books on the shelf sans dustjackets. There is something to be said for a finely crafted book, with good binding, nice paper, not to mention a slipcase. I do have some very nice editions of Tolkien in leather slipcases and printed on rice paper. Other hardcovers such as the Codex Seraphinianus are of a nice size and well printed.

Which brings us to The Folio Society. My dad joined several years ago and I inherited quite a few of his editions including the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Essays of Francis Bacon and several others. While in the UK recently I bought a few more including Burchfield’s The English Language and Frugoni’s Inventions of the Middle Ages. Many secondhand bookstores had them, seemingly new, for around 10-15 quid each. At the time the Oz $ was getting close to 50p so they were good bargains, whereas it’s around 39p now so they’re still good but of course I’d have to throw in postage as well. It is somewhat unsurprising that there is a group on LibraryThing devoted to them. Admittedly I am toying with the idea of joining the Society one of these days myself. I suspect when the right joining offer appears I’ll be in like flint. Already eyeing off Gribbons History of Western Science and Brooke’s The Rise and Fall of the Medieval Monastery.

words on a page

With the Booker freshly sorted, the long list has just been announced for the Australia-Asia Literary Award. It looks like an interesting mix of stuff. One of the nominees is Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year which is just out in paperback. Probably about time I got round to getting it though my “in progress” pile is becoming ever larger. Admittedly I hope to at least have Pratchett’s Nation out of the way in the next few days, perhaps followed by Carr. After that I dunno, though I need to get back to the People of the Book and Arabesques.

Also in the news is a proposal to return grammar [PDF, 162k] to the schools once more; a step I applaud. I was never taught grammar when I went through school and what grasp I have is the result of reading lots and lots of books ie being reliant on other folk getting the grammar right. I usually have a reasonable sense of whether a sentence is rightish (though I have a propensity to leave out words which does not assist with comprehension) but am often unable to say why a bit is right or wrong. There’s been many, many occasions throughout my working life when a grasp of grammar would have been invaluable.

I wish I’d learnt latin too.


what I did on my holidays
what I did on my holidays

Been back from holidays about a month now but haven’t really hit my groove. I have at least done lots of reading and am a fair way through Bob Carr’s book roundup which continues to be a pleasurable read to dip into. Amusingly I’ve been interested in reading the memoirs of Peter Costello but wasn’t keen on paying the full $55 for it. In Kmart the other day I found it discounted to $30, which means someone’s losing money on it somewhere. Suits me fine :-) Also well engrossed in the new Dessaix and have made a start on Battles’ “Library: An Unquiet History“.

Have been meaning to post a summary of what I did on my holidays, and the best way to describe it is that I visited a few countries and bought lots of books. I’ve been to the self proclaimed “World’s Biggest Bookstore” in Toronto, Canada (amongst others), not to mention completing something of a pilgrimmage by visiting Hay-on-Wye. Wasn’t there for anywhere nearly long enough but did manage to make it to several bookshops and made too many purchases…actually managed to talk myself out of some books too. With the weather against us, we hightailed it to London (flooding in Wales the day after we left) where we bought even more books. Purchases include (but not limited to):

…and there’s a few other titles that I need to list as well. These include a few tracts (I s’pose you’d call them) from the Society for Pure English, a series of which some can be found online. Some of the tracts were authored by the early editors of the OED. If I get round to it, I’ll post separately on such and see if I can provide a little background. I found 4 of them (out of a total of 60 odd I believe) and at 2 quid a pop were a nice little bargain.

of words and such

I’ve noticed mentions here and there, that Oxford have made freely available, the Australian National Dictionary. As far as I can tell it’s the fulltext of the 1988 edition. I think I have a copy of the print somewhere…it’s hard to say exactly where as almost all of my books are in boxes. One day they will be free again. In the meantime, I seem to be accumulating new additions to my library at a rapid rate. Perhaps having books around me provides a certain degree of comfort; interestingly, and happily, I continue to read at a decent rate.

Albeit a quick read, I just raced through Paul Auster’s Travels in the Scriptorium, which I found a little ho hum and reminiscent of some Golden Age science fiction. Though at the same time I enjoyed his writing and would be interested in his other offerings. This particular one may have been less annoying as a short story rather than a 140 odd page novella. I had been anticipating the new Dessaix, and an interview with Dessaix on the weekend only served to increase my desire. I bought it the following day and the initial pages read well. Just wanted to polish off the Auster before I got stuck into Arabesques properly. I will eventually get round to blogging about the books I bought on my recent trip; I bought a few too many and came perilously close to my luggage limits. In other news of words, the government has been urged to assist in the preservation of indigenous languages.

cheap dictionary

Hmmm…catching up my blog reading and noticed that Abbey’s, courtesy of Oxford, is offering the full OED for AUD$1,300. That’s actually a pretty good price at the moment, as the OED via Amazon is back up to US$895. Alas I never got round to buying it when when it was around the US$660 mark, kicking myself forever more. Now the US price has gone up and the AUD is worth 80 US cents instead of 90 odd. Swings and roundabouts.


Was reading the SMH on the weekend and noticed that the Biography of Ida Leeson, first female Mitchell Librarian, by Sylvia Martin, has picked up the Magarey Prize for Biography. Needless to say, despite buying it a couple of months ago, I haven’t quite got round to reading it. Regardless, this sort of recognition suggests that it was a good buy and most importantly I really should get round to reading it one of these days. Looking back at why I bought it serves as a reminder that I was going to put together a paper on some point on Library 2.0. Stalled but not forgotten; or perhaps stewing at least.