Years ago I was entranced by The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford [Reviewed by Robert McCrum]. It starts, as 6 yo Francis started, reading the Hobbit as his first book. The blizzard of glyphs gradually sorted themselves into signal and by the end of the book he had become a read-all, read-any person. Nobody taught the kidder to read, he learned the skill because he was motivated to find out what happened next. The apple falleth not tooo far from the tree? There were plenty of books in the Spufford house because both the parents were Professors: Margaret was a rural development historian and Peter was an economic historian.
He parlayed his journalism into long form and wrote a number books about soccer and punk which were two externals about which he developed some passion. After his grandad died and Mark was ploughing his own furrow, he found that people who spoke with a familiar voice [northern, white, working class] were like warts on the Literature Elephant: small, insignificant, faintly annoying. A one point he has an extended swipe at Robert McCrum [cited at top], official gate-keeper of what gets published by Faber & Faber and The Observer for a few decades. McCrum, like Spufford, had a Prof for a Pa and of course went to Cambridge. So it's easy for him to read and review Spufford's memoir which gets more eyes on those pages and more sales and the Patriarchy tightens its grip of public discourse.
With awesome courage and determination, Mark Hodkinson assaulted the Ivory Tower by creating Pomona as an independent publisher. Unfortunate timing! like his foray into print journalism, independent publishers were all in the process of being bought out or squeezed out by Harper Collins Printrun Penguin and Behemoth. These monster megacorps would hardly entertain a prospect unless 30,000 copies could expect to be sold. That was about 10x the longest print run Pomona ever got out to the bookshops. Nevertheless, for several years, Pomona took risks on publishing different voices to provide much needed variety and choice for readers; most of whom have never been to Cambridge even on a tour-bus. If you have a "library" at home, even a fish-box filled with Penguins, I think this book will speak to you.
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