Slightly Foxed: No. 18: The Sensation of Crossing the Street by Gail Pirkis and Hazel Wood (Editors) ★★★★⅓
Edition: Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly (2008), Paperback, 96 pages
Original publication date: 2008
I discovered this wonderful little quarterly last year when I became a member of the Folio Society. One of the perks of membership is the Folio magazine, a small and lavishly illustrated biannual publication covering a variety of topics loosely connected the world of Folio, with articles by various authors and contributors. In the first such magazine I received there was an advertisement for Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly which so effectively grabbed me that I decided then and there that I needed to order a trial issue. Published in the UK since 2004, the publication itself is really lovely. Just 6 x 8″ and printed on good cream-coloured paper with cover illustrations by different artists, and charming b&w spot illustrations throughout, it’s got everything going for it as far as aesthetics go. But the contents are what keeps you coming back for more. Written by passionate book lovers, most of whom are published authors, it contains articles about old favourites, from well-known classics to rather obscure, now out of print gems. You might ask why an LTer (shorthand for ‘Library Thing member’) such as myself, exposed to a daily dose of reviews by friends and acquaintances, would willingly pay for an overseas publication to read yet more book reviews, but the quality of the articles—which in themselves make for very pleasant reading—and the range of books covered (many of which I would probably never have heard of otherwise) is reason enough. The kind of little publication that had me brave the claustrophobic feeling induced by my closet-sized bathroom and encouraged me to start taking baths again after over 12 years of quick showers, just so I could enjoy the pleasure of a reading session in my (minuscule) tub.
Issue No. 18 had a lot to keep me gratified, with several articles about favourite books and authors, the first of which is “The Sensation of Crossing the Street” where author Sue Gee writes about her first experience reading Mrs Dalloway in 1968; another article by ex-foreign correspondent Chris Bird, is about Ryszard Kapuściński’s work, a recently discovered and now beloved author (which I should mention I first came across via the Folio Society’s gorgeous edition of Travels with Herodotus) which had me swearing I would eventually read his entire bibliography, or at the very least those books mentioned; The Emperor Shah of Shahs, Another Day of Life, The Soccer War, Imperium and The Shadow of the Sun. But then part of the fun of Slightly Foxed is reading fascinating articles about works I knew little to nothing about and may or may not read someday, with, among others in this issue, Memoirs of a Buccaneer: Dampier’s New Voyage Round the World, 1697, Ernle Bradford’s Ulysses Found, Ludwig Bemelmans’s Hotel Splendide and a article about Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, most famous in the UK, which gave me a long-time fan’s insider perspective.
I could list what the contents of my first trial issue was, but then I might as well just supply a link to the recently released Index to Slightly Foxed, published this year to mark their 10th anniversary. I’d barely finished reading that first trial issue that I became a subscriber and then set about collecting all the back issues I could get my hands on. These are, wonderfully enough, kept in print by Slightly Foxed, and also found on the secondary market for the most part, other than the earliest issues which are best obtained directly from SF as otherwise sold at impossibly inflated prices. One of the dangers once one gets addicted to these lovelies though, is that SF also publishes limited editions of otherwise out of print memoirs that are imminently collectible, printed on the same creamy paper, in a small pocket-size cloth-bound format, and once those are sold out, available as equally appealing paperback issues. I now have a growing collection of their memoirs, and own quite a few of the quarterlies, an almost complete set starting from issue 16 to the newly released issue No. 41. I alternate between reading the latest releases and catching up on the back issues, so these are now a permanent fixture in my bathroom. But wherever you end up keeping them, once you start reading this treasure-trove of a publication, odds are you’ll want to keep reaching out for more again and again.
Back issues of can be ordered here as sets or individually.