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Harpole and Foxberrow, General Publishers (1980)

by J. L. Carr

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WItty,quirky,difficult to define.Short,light,good read ( )
  babybelle | Jul 2, 2013 |
Two old friends, George Harpole and Emma Foxberrow decide to take over a failing printing works. Harpole is a mild and easily-led ex-headmaster who is rather dominated by the stronger character of Miss Foxberrow. Their list of titles upon taking over the firm is to say the least,unexciting. they include 'Jordans bank Church Organ' ; 'The Bag Sinderby Church Choir's fatal Noctambulation together with Thos. Leaf's miraculous salvation' ; Barset Spectres & Apparations'; and 'Pleasure Domes of Barset'. (among others of the same ilk) They set about getting a stronger list ! and contact an past acquaintance one Shutlanger,who supplies them with an evangelical text - 'The Story for the English'. This is an unexpected and run-away success,with attendant and unfortunate side-effects. They also get hold of a series of 'bodice-ripper' novels,written by a past fellow-teacher of Harpole,Grace Pintle.
Things go well until the office of the Procurator-General for Printed Works' contact the firm and begin to demand free copies of all publications to be sent to the various copyright libraries. Miss Foxberrow refuses and this eventually leads to the closure of the firm.Before this Harpole is put on trial before the terrifying Mr Fangfoss.
This is a book full of in-jokes,both for anyone at all interested in books and/or publishing. It is also of relevance to local readers,who will recognize in the names Harpole and Shutlanger (plus others), the names of villages of Northamptonshire.
As with all of J.L.Carr's book which are printed by his own 'Quince Tree Press',this is a beautiful production. The woodcuts and other illustrations as well as the general lay-out could not have been bettered. ( )
1 vote devenish | Aug 10, 2011 |
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Epigraph
What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
Matthew, Chapter 11, v. 7.
What though my wealth be trash,/ The heart is true,/The heart is true.
John Dowland, Song.
People think because a novel's invented, it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Because a novel's invented, it is true.
X. Trapnel, novelist, in Anthony Powell's Hearing Secret Harmonies
Business, you know, may bring money but friendship hardly ever does.
Jane Austen, Emma.
Dedication
For Heulwen who checked the proofs and for Mrs Widmerpool's sister who asked 'What are books? Where do they come from?' and for that Mr Williams who was 'ridiculously ill-equipped for the book-trade, having read most of the books he was trying to sell and ever ready to discuss literature even with those using his premises for a free read'. And, uncharitably, for burners of books they won't or can't read.
First words
It may seem to you, as it does to me, that as many hapless enterprises succeed as those scrupulously planned.
Quotations
'The barefaced cheek! Blow [from whom they bought the business]'s notepaper must have been headed "Geo. Blow, Philanthropist". If academic spongers want books let them cut off the wine tap to their High Tables and pay for them. Law! Whose Law? I bet that 1908 cabinet had nine Oxon and eight Cantab men, to the last man bumsucking for honorary D. Litts at no charge to themselves. NO!'
`These days, it's editing makes or breaks a novel. Bacon did it for Shakespeare. And never forget the Bible was written by a committee. She'll write it; I'll edit it. They do it all the time in New York. They push a lame-duck in at one end and it comes out a gold-egg-laying goose at the other'.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The characters from J L Carr's previous novel, The Harpole Report, members of a school staff, meet again in this novel in which the two chief characters take to publishing
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