The Child That Books Built

Registered by BookGroupMan of Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on 9/29/2003
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, September 29, 2003
A bit of a curate’s egg this, probably further evidence of a whole new emerging genre (has anyone read the recent biog/bird-watching/travelogue The Snow Geese?); part memoir, part vanity project, part serious work of non-fiction, not enough plot or real emotion for me (I’m being a bit critical I know). I would have liked a bit more about the author’s life as a self-confessed “book addict”, a bit less dense academia on why & how we read – although some of this was excellent. Spufford talks about early readers looking for structure, typical storylines and predictable character types in books; ironically this book has none of these ‘hooks’ and so one feels a bit lost, and it feels a much bigger book and harder read than it needed to be, and didn’t really live up to the book title. Let me redress the critical balance with some great extracts.

The young Francis ‘stealing’ books by reading them in the bookshops: “…when I was full I carried the slopping vessel of my attention carefully out of the shop.”

One of the perils of being a book addict:“When I’m tired and therefore indecisive, last thing at night, it can take half an hour to choose the book I’m going to have with me while I brush my teeth.”

Another one – after leaning over to read bookshelves in a library and losing sense of time,
“(I)…come to rest in random postures…My head tilted over on one side, and all the saliva in my mouth flowed onto my cheek.” – I think we’ve all done that, er, haven’t we?

A borrowed quote from Sword in the Stone, Arthur’s guardian questioning Merlyns credentials as a wizard.“Tree, said Merlyn. At once there was an enormous mulberry growing in the middle of the courtyard…”
“They do it with mirrors” said Sir Ector

And, last but not least, some pathos from the schoolboy Francis “ I abolished loneliness, I abolished school, by thinking myself into the towns I had read about. There was nothing in the playground that was half as comprehensible as the way people treated each other in the towns I read about…I hate playgrounds.”

Journal Entry 2 by BookGroupMan at on Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Released on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 at Starbucks in Borders book shop in Cambridge, England United Kingdom.

Passed to ChrisP93 at our first (very select!) unofficial Cambridge meet-up. The start of something big & beautiful?

Journal Entry 3 by Gooner from March, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Many thanks to BookGroupMan who generously handed this book over to me when we met at Borders today. It was an unofficial meeting of bookcrossers. Hopefully, there will soon be an official BookCrossing MeetUp in Cambridge on the second Tuesday of each month.

Journal Entry 4 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Wednesday, October 15, 2003
There's some interest from UK BookCrossers so i'm setting this up as a Book Ring - perfect for discussion amongst us sadly afflicted book addicts! Happy to add to this list...

Owner: BookGroupMan


(small, select, bookring finished, thanks all :)

Journal Entry 5 by Gooner from March, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom on Monday, November 17, 2003
Because I can’t really add much to BookGroupMan’s journal entry, I decided to take a completely different tack.

As he says, this is partly personal memoire: to me it’s also yet another example of a relatively new genre – “books about reading”. Is this something that’s cropped up as a result of the communication changes? Is it influenced by the freedom with which anyone can self-publish on the internet? I wonder.

It’s a complex book, setting out ideas from the world of linguistics, psycho-analysis, lit-crit and many other specialised academic areas. I especially liked the paras dealing with whether or not we think in words.

But – and this is a big BUT for me – there are no footnotes. Acknowledgements are included on the last page of text, but no bibliography. For something with as much meat in it as this, I would have liked to do some follow-up reading on his sources.

OK, that’s the academic gripe. My other problem was that the author is obviously a lot younger than me: I stress that THIS IS NOT HIS FAULT! It’s my fault for being born too soon ;-)

Consequently, most of the childhood books to which he refers were not around in my childhood, and in most cases pre-dated the reading of my children. The Narnia books are an exception to this, of course. It’s quite hard to give other examples, as I did not make notes whilst reading, and there’s no index, either! That would have made it easy to reflect on the many books he refers to from his childhood.

However, I did appreciate the opportunity to read it and hopefully will re-read it when I’ve allowed it to sink in. I found it a difficult read but worth the effort – maybe eventually I’ll come to understand and appreciate a lot more of it than I do at present. If I manage to read some of the books to which he refers, then it will have been an invaluable experience.

I note that Francis Spufford has a new book out, which was reviewed in the Observer yesterday, 16/11/03: "Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin", but only available in hardback at the moment.

Thanks, BookGroupMan, for making TCTBB available to me, and for subsequently organising it as a bookring. It’s now off to Robbietsmum, who I hope will enjoy it.

Journal Entry 6 by Robbiesmum from Thirsk, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Thursday, November 20, 2003
Thanks ChrisP93 for organising our select BookRing! This is a book I've kept meaning to read because it is about children's books which have always interested me. After reading the previous readers' comments, I think it is an ideal book to discuss - I think this is part of a new genre of adapting the memoir to your hobby. India Knight's new book is a memoir of shopping.

I am just reading The Virgin Suicides, then my Ruth Rendell from another select UK BookRing. Then this. I'll add my comments a.s.a.p.

Journal Entry 7 by Robbiesmum from Thirsk, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Thursday, December 04, 2003
This was a satisfying read - it took me two weeks to fully digest the book. I found it quite hard to follow at times when I didn't know the books (I was a girl, you see, and had quite different tastes at times!) I felt a bit bogged down in the psycho-analysis in the fairy tales, but then felt he really came to life in discussing Narnia, towns and then Science Fiction.

The excitement and perfection of the Narnia books brought my pleasure of reading them back to me. For me, they were a perfect follow up to the Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton - who was barely mentioned if ever. She was my real introduction to reading novels and grasping characters on my own. I also was a huge fan of The Famous Five (in the club as well!) and reread those books till my paperbacks were falling apart.

I felt I only completely appreciated the chapter on towns having read similar books and I knew exactly what the author was saying - about school books and Laura Ingalls Wilder. School in books was what I wanted school to be but never was in real life - a community with jokes and tricks, and special life long friendships.

My favourite bit in the whole book was the recount of "Wally" who ate his schoolmates then his parents. I felt that fear that young Francis felt at a similar age for the story of a man with a glass eye who was teased by kids. He said,"When I die, I'll keep my eye on you." And everywhere they went, there was this glass eye in mid air, all the night and day. My mum had to move my dolls I was so frightened! I've only ever been truly frightened by a book once since reading Dennis Wheatley. Being scared from books was a pleasure as well as fear at 12/13.

I agree with the gripe of no BookList or Footnotes. Especially the books I didn't know (I'm 10 years younger) and not being in that exact generation makes a big difference to your personal history of reading. e.g. Enid Blyton was out of fashion at Spufford's time. I watched The Famous Five on t.v. at seven.

Now on to Chelseagirl

Journal Entry 8 by chelseagirl from Faringdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Book arrived safely this morning, thanks robbiesmum ... am I the end of the line, is there no-one waiting behind me? I'm currently reading Sue Townsend's No. Ten and another book called The Dry Season (I think - can't remember the author and the book is in the car!) and then have some very dry reads ahead - three books on the deregulation of the British media and two on punk rock. Woohoo. That should take me up to Xmas. Then, eventually, I'll get down to this one! Hope that's okay with everyone - if anyone else wants to grab it in the meantime, let me know!

Journal Entry 9 by chelseagirl from Faringdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Wednesday, January 21, 2004
I started this book whilst waiting for a train but haven't got very far with it yet - enjoyed what I've read so far, though. I just found a nearly mint copy of it in the charity shop for 25p so will continue reading that and send the original back to BookGroupMan. Will update the journal when I'm finished!

Journal Entry 10 by BookGroupMan at on Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Released 15 yrs ago (9/1/2004 UTC) at



Obviously back from ChelseaGirl - thanks - now off on its travels again to my brother in Denver. He continues to resist the lure of BookCrossing, but hopefully he will enjoy this and write a journal entry/review :)

ps. (wadathink of the picture on the back - our haircuts from the seventies!)

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