Golden Hill was just great—a book that truly lived up to its reviews—so when I was in the bookstore the other day and saw this book of Spufford’s collected nonfiction, I snapped it up.
I was reading the chapter on Red Plenty (a book that I’ve not yet read), I was struck by how similar Spufford’s writing style was to that of Dan Simpson. Uncanny, really. I can’t quite pin down what it is, but the resemblance is striking. I didn’t see it in Golden Hill, though, just in this essay.
The other thing I noticed was that Spufford knows about the Australia paradox! OK, he doesn’t call it by that name, but it’s recognizably the same thing. I’d not before realized how applicable the Australia paradox is to storytelling. The real Australia really does exist, but places in stories are stage sets. Obvious, really, but I’d never thought of it that way before.
One other thing: Spufford says in his book that he’s written lots of book reviews (“a couple hundred thousand words of literary journalism”) but is only including a few of these because he “was never very good at declaring sufficient independence from the book at hand, and producing something that I wanted to say, in a form worth keeping.” I don’t care, I want to read them all, or at least a lot of them. Remember Orwell’s 4-volume collected essays, letters, and journalism? Of course you do. I’d love to see a big fat book with small type, crammed with just about every review that Spufford’s ever written. And it’s not like I’m the world’s biggest Spufford fan. I just like to read book reviews. Too bad that the market for books is declining (competition with free stuff online such as this blog!) so we’re not going to see such a collection. I remember running into Alfred Kazin’s son once and asking if they could put together a collection of his dad’s unpublished book reviews, but he didn’t seem at all interested in the idea.