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Posts Tagged ‘Persephone Books’

Cecil Woolf pauses in front of Persephone Books, Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, in June 2016.

Tucked away on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, Persephone Books has been my favorite London bookstore since I first visited it — twice — during my 2016 trip.

That’s not just because it is located on the same street where Jacob Flanders of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room had his very own room. It is also because the shop reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-20th century (mostly) women writers. It is, in short, a treasure.

A stack of gray dust covers

Every time I visit, I cannot resist purchasing as many as I can carry of Persephone’s 135 books. From Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music to Barbara Euphan Todd’s Miss Ranskill Comes Home, each is unique. And none has disappointed.

A stack of Persephone Books, each with its gray dust cover and colorful endpaper with matching bookmark, is eternally in my TBR pile, including the three I bought this year: They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple; Tory Heaven or Thunder on the Right, another by Laski; and Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith.

This year, though, I decided to spare myself. Having enough to carry, I had Persephone ship my books to my home in the U.S. They arrived within a week of my return, accompanied by a gracious hand-written note of thanks.

Still urgent today

And now Persephone, founded by Nicola Beauman, has printed a new edition of Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own (1929). It is wrapped in Persephone’s classic soft gray dust cover, with the 1930 Vanessa Bell textile design “Stripe” as its endpaper and matching bookmark.

A Room of One’s Own, with its central premise that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction, is a volume whose message has urgency and currency today, says Clara Jones, who wrote the preface.

The poetry and pragmatism of Woolf’s central claim about the room and the money have taken on renewed urgency today. The ubiquity of debt for a generation of young people who pay large university tuition fees, are charged prohibitive rents and paid low wages, combined with the fact that all but the luckiest (or best connected) with literary ambitions will begin their apprenticeship by working for free, make Woolf’s trinity of space, privacy and financial security as worth striving for as ever. – Clara Jones, Preface to Persephone edition of A Room of One’s Own

It is 90 years since Woolf wrote her iconic piece. You can read more about the Persephone edition (cost £13) on the Persephone website and in the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald.

About the founder and her store

Beauman herself is a legend in the world of book publishing — and in the world of Woolf. Along with Clara Farmer of the Hogarth and Chatto and Windus, she appeared on a panel at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in Reading, England. Aptly enough, the conference theme was Woolf and the World of Books, with Beauman and Farmer’s panel titled “Publishers, Publishing & Bookselling.”

Beauman began Persephone 20 years ago as a mail-order publishing business with a list of 12 books. She now has 30,000 subscribers to her free magazine The Persephone Biannually. And when the shop celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year, a crowd of fans stopped in throughout the day and evening.

Here’s what Beauman had to say about the books she publishes in an April 14 New York Times story acknowledging her store’s 20 years in business:

The connection between them is that they were forgotten and they’re very well-written. I’m very keen on story and on page-turners. When I get to the end of a book I like to put it down and feel absolutely wrenched by what I’ve read, to be in a different world.
I can attest to the power of the books Persephone publishes. Upon finishing each of my Persephone Books, I find it difficult to make my way back into my own everyday world. I am that affected by what I have read.

Get a close look at Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as the inside and outside of Persephone, with this YouTube video, the 2018 pilot episode of “Fran’s Book Shop.”

Inside Persephone Books with founder Nicola Beauman at work at her desk, July 2017.

A table full of “Fifty Books We Wish We Had Published” at Persephone Books in July 2017

A wall full of books in the traditional gray dust covers at Persephone Books in 2017

Persephone Books isn’t shy about making political statements. This banner hung in the shop in 2018.

A Woolf sighting at Persephone Books in June 2018

The window display at Persephone Books changes. This was the view in July.

 

 

 

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So far, here are the #DallowayDay events for this year:

  • On June 12th ‘a Wednesday in mid June’ Persephone Books, 59 Lamb’s Conduit St., London, will hold its annual Mrs. Dalloway Walk. It begins at 11 a.m. in Westminster. Lunch will be at the shop afterwards.
  • Join Waterstones and the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain for the third annual celebration of Dalloway Day on Saturday, June 15, this year with the theme of “Queering.” Read more.
  • Italian Virginia Woolf Society Dalloway Day at Biblioteca Salaborsa, Bologna on June 15. Read more.
  • Royal Society of Literature events on Wednesday, June 19, include:
    • Walking with Mrs. Dalloway, 1:30-2:30 p.m. in the National Portrait Gallery
    • For There She Was: Love and Presence in Mrs Dalloway, 4 – 5 p.m., British Library Piazza Pavilion with renowned Woolf scholar Professor Dame Gillian Beer
    • RSL Members’ Book Group: A Room of My Own, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., British Library Knowledge Centre
    • After Woolf,  7– 8:30 p.m., British Library Knowledge Centre. Monica Ali, Olivia Laing and Elif Shafak discuss Woolf’s influence and the challenges of interpolating one of the 20th Century’s most significant writers in works inflected by their own lives.
Cecil at Persephone

Cecil Woolf pauses in front of Persephone Books, Lamb’s Conduit Street, London.

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cheeful weather for the weddingJust out in a Persephone Books paperback is Julia Strachey’s 1932 novella, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding.

The light comedy of manners was originally published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press.

A Cleveland Plain Dealer mini-review says it “mimics Mrs. Dalloway in its method of unveiling lives through a single afternoon, in this case during an English wedding.” An NPR review extolls its “comic high anxiety and unexpected imagery.” You can read more enchanting prose about the little volume and Persephone Books itself at Fernham.

The book is also available as a Persephone Classic and on cassette tape.

If you don’t live in London, where Persephone Books is located, don’t despair. You can find ordering information here

While you are on the Persephone site, take time to look around. You  may not want to leave.

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