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Thackeray famine

June 22, 2018

For a long time, I have been meaning to read more Thackeray. I read Vanity Fair many years ago, and enjoyed it a lot; I’ve also read Thackeray’s children’s story, The Rose and the Ring; and I’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s film of Barry Lyndon, though I haven’t read the novel: and that’s it. So whenever I am in a bookshop (this has been a habit of mine, on and off, for the last twenty years or so) I always have a look to see if they have any Thackeray novels there besides Vanity Fair. But they never, ever do. Vanity Fair, yes, is unfailingly present. Everything else by Thackeray is unfailingly absent. Thackeray was very far from being a writer of one book. But publishers and booksellers and even libraries seem determined to present him as a writer of one book.

Anyway last week I got fed up of being constantly disappointed by this Thackeray famine and I ordered his novel Pendennis on Amazon. I awaited its delivery with keen anticipation. At last, I thought, I’m going to read another novel by Thackeray!

Then it arrived.

The edition they sent me was a print-on-demand text in the most ridiculous format: a soft-backed A4 sized book with teeny-tiny print.

What can I do? I’ll never read it now. It’s just too big and awkward to handle. You couldn’t read it comfortably in bed, or in the bath. And I can’t possibly read it in public. If I sat on the bus or tube reading a Beano-annual-sized book with “William Makepeace Thackeray” in giant letters on the cover, people would think I was an ostentatious twat.

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2 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Print on Demand novels are often disappointing; some look as though they’ve been printed with a John Bull printing set on the kitchen table. It’s a shame because the technology is there to make hard to find books easily available. Having said that nothing can match the thrill of finding a long sought after book in a second hand shop. Amazon is fine but lacks the Eureka factor.

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    An ostentatious twat ? Perish the thought. Seriously, though, I wish I could match your enthusiasm for Thackeray. Lord knows, I tried. I struggled through Vanity Fair but it did not really do a great deal for me. But if I have that experience with a book or a writer, I always make a mental note to try it again a few years later, and often I find that a second reading unlocks the book for me. (This happened to me recently with Wilkie Collins’s ‘Woman in White’ which I got stuck on the first time, but which I re – read a few weeks ago with the greatest pleasure).

    So it is on my list as well, but I have slightly been put off by John Carey’s remark that it is the one English novel that can be compared to ‘War and Peace’. What Carey means, I think, is that it can be compared in its social and dramatic range (although could not the same be said much more truthfully about, say, ‘Bleak House’ ?). For me, War and Peace is such a sacred text that if anyone dared to compare anything else to it, it would instantly put me off, and so, I am afraid, my re – reading of Vanity Fair was just pushed one step further back.

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