Slightly Foxed is a literary quarterly magazine from London. It’s about “lost and lesser-known books” and its tagline is that “it’s more like a well-read friend than a literary magazine”. What I proudly own is the winter 2018 issue (in the cover photo of this post) which I bought as a back issue in May, because it’s the 60th issue and I really like the wood engraving fox on the front cover.
I have been eyeing this magazine for a long time but magazines nowadays are really expensive. In addition to the price, I’m a bit ashamed of my appalling track record of collecting beautiful independent magazines without actually reading them. So I waited…
So what is this issue of Slightly Foxed about? Each article introduces either a book or several books from an author. And yes it does feel more like listening to a well-read friend than reading a book review from The Guardian for example. And I feel like I can make better friends with some of them than others. Naturally that means I’m attracted to some books mentioned more than others too.
To tell the truth, I couldn’t finish page one of the first article before searching and dragging books into my online shopping basket. Now I have finished the magazine, I’m the proud owner of an even longer wishlist. But I thought what better way is there to show you the impact and inspiration from this little magazine? So here’s what I’ve got (in my basket):
Number one on my wishlist is a book called The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It’s about how, in this parallel universe, the Queen gets into this hobby of “reading for pleasure” and how things change as a result, from her conversations with foreign ambassdors, to the content of her Christmas broadcasts. One telling sentence in the article says “The Queen is no longer a figurehead, she’s become a person”. If I can read only one book from this issue of Slightly Foxed, this is it.
The second tier of choice includes several books. The medieval English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, especially added to the fact that one of the versions is translated by Simon Armitage. Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson which is one of his “fast-moving adventure stories set in exotic places”. Elizabeth Goudge’s children stories. I always enjoy reading good children stories. They suit my language level snuggly. These are really ‘off the beaten track’; I couldn’t find them on Amazon, will have to keep my eyes peeled in secondhand bookshops.
This tier I will not read for at least another few years. There is the lesser known Charles Dickens’ historical novel, Barnaby Rudge, which even Adam hasn’t heard of (a friend who knows everything). It’s about the riot in 1780, in which “as much damage was done in London over five days as was inflicted on Paris during the whole of the French Revolution”. It really sounds interesting but I worry I won’t understand much because of the language barrier. There are autobiographies of E.H.Shepard, who is famous for bringing Winnie and his friends alive with lines and colours. Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain has been on my wishlist for a while actually, since it suddenly came under the spotlight a few years ago with such high praises. It’s about the landscape and the people in the Scottish mountains. But it feels a bit too ‘zen’ for me. I need to have a flick through in store. Works by Michael Morpurgo. I didn’t know anything about him and only realised he wrote War Horse now, which is a film and also a play. Works of Svetlana Alexievich sound truly fascinating. She won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2015 with something that she didn’t write at all. She recorded years of work and hundreds of interviews in books, of people talking about their lives during the Second World War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Chernobyl disaster and the collapse of the Soviet Union. I don’t think I’m ready for them. Novels of Elizabeth Jenkins. Detective novels of Sue Grafton. And here’s my issue with reading ‘lesser-known’ authors. Should I venture into Sue Grafton when I haven’t made a start in Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie? (I know I know, shocking!)
There are two titles in the table of contents next to which I put a ‘no’: The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf and Play in a Day by Bert Weedon which is a guitar learning material.
There two more in the magazine which I haven’t mentioned. I put ‘what?’ next to them.
The magazine finishes with an article of deep gratitude and affection from an author to his teachers and schoolmasters who introduced and read books to him and other boys when he was young and who had a profound impact by doing so on his life. How I wish I had those people in my life too!
Now I have eagerly and patiently finished reading the whole magazine from cover to cover, and even finished writing this blog post, I feel completely justified to go buy the next copy of the Slightly Foxed magazine.