A Request, A Gloat and An Observation

IMG_0001Not so much a full post this morning as a number of mini posts which don’t warrant the full deal but which I need to get out there.

First of all, a request. A friend is researching into stories and legends from any period and any culture that deal with foxes metamorphing into humans and vice versa.  I think this was sparked originally by Helen Oyeyemi’s novel Mr Fox as that particular author is another of my friend’s research interests.  Anyway, I said I would ask around for any suggestions that fellow readers might have and I know that she would be very grateful for any examples that you could come up with.

D55B171E-EA02-4A80-914A-45D4D3596A5ESecondly, a gloat.  I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Just look what I was given as a present last week.  The Oxford Companion to the Book was published in 2010 and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the editors, Henry Woudhuysen, just days before its publication.  It is a collection of essays that explores the history of the book throughout the world and from ancient to modern times. The subjects it covers range through bibliography, palaeography, the history of printing, editorial theory and practice, textual criticism, book collecting, and libraries but it also addresses more modern issues such as e-publishing.  Perhaps most importantly, as far as I’m concerned, it addresses the question of how a society is shaped by its books and how books are shaped by the society out of which they grow.  That inter-connectedness absolutely fascinates me.  When this first came out I was desperate for a copy. I would have salivated over it, if it hadn’t been for the fact that in doing so I would have damaged something that was externally almost as beautiful as it was internally magnificent. But, it was way way beyond my means and I just had to hope that my university library would buy it.  They never did!  Then, just before Christmas, the brother of a friend died after a long illness.  Michael was a collector, especially of books and CDs, and when my friend came back after the funeral she brought this with her and said that the family would like me to have it. That they knew it was something that I would love, would read and would cherish, not only for what it is but also in his memory.  I cannot begin to tell you how moved I was and I will always treasure it not only because of its subject matter but because of the kindness of such loving people.

And, finally, a brief observation.  Have you ever noticed how your reaction to the number of pages left in a book, or if you’re e-reading the percentage you’ve already read, differs according to the book you’re reading?  I have two books on the go at the moment.  One is really hard going and the pages just never seem to diminish, while the other one is giving me immense pleasure and the percentage left is declining far too rapidly.  Shakespeare almost had something to say about this when he observed that time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I simply cannot believe that I am getting through these two volumes at a similar pace.

 

 

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27 thoughts on “A Request, A Gloat and An Observation

  1. Well there is short story am aware written by Kafka called Jackals and Arabs.
    Sense of time can be relative thing which is dependant on the person observing it, and just like you said when you are enjoying the book you worry the book ending earlier and when you are not enjoying it you pray for the end to come and save you

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  2. I’ve had Lady into Fox recommended as well; it’s available as a free download from Project Gutenberg. As to more recent fodder, fox legends come into Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss.

    What a touching gift of the Oxford volumes. I’m sure you’ll treasure them.

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  3. You might try Paula Cocozza’s Being Human which I’ve reviewed on my blog. It’s about a woman who becomes convinced that a fox is communicating with her. Doesn’t quite fit the bill but it might interest your friend.

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  4. Fox spirits are often main evil characters in traditional Chinese and Japanese tales. Your friend might find many fox stories in Pu Songling’s Strange Tales of a Chinese Studio (Liaozhai), which is a classic from the 18C, but available in different English translations / selections.

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  5. I don’t know of any specifically, but I’m pretty sure there are stories about foxes as shape-shifters in some Canadian Indigenous and/or Native American stories.
    What a lovely gift that you’ll enjoy for years to come!

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  6. No foxy suggestions from me, sadly – can’t think of a single one. The books are beautiful and I think that’s a lovely way to remember someone. My sister was a great collector of Folio Society books and when she died we (her three siblings) passed some of them to her various friends and of course each took several volumes for ourselves. Like you, I love the books for what they are but also for what they mean. Ha! And yes – I’ve definitely found that some books make time pass very slowly… 😉

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  7. Cant help with the foxy question sorry – I don’t “do” animals in fiction …..
    What a wonderful gift you received and how thoughtful of your friend’s brother to pass it on to you. It would have been so easy for them to give it to a charity shop rather than to someone who they must have known would truely appreciate it

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  8. What a beautiful present! I’m wondering if it is any way similar to ‘A Companion to the History of the Book’ edited by Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose, published by Blackwell? My son gave me a copy for my birthday a few years ago – he knew that as a former librarian it would interest me.

    As for noting how long it seems to take reading some books I know that once I start checking how many pages I have left I’ve lost interest.

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  9. Woman into Fox is a good suggestion. From the same year is Lawrence’s novella The Fox (not quite a transformation story, but close, and a brilliant book). More recent is Sarah Hall’s excellent story “Mrs. Fox.”

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  10. Wow, who would have thought there would be so many ‘morphing foxes’ references – fascinating! And what a beautiful and moving set that Oxford pair is, for all the reasons you say. What a marvellous treasure to dip into again and again.

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  11. Ooh, I think there are lots of fox metamorphoses in Japanese folklore (kitsune?). Two novels (by Western writers) which explore it are The Fox Wife by Kij Johnson and Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones. The first is I suppose magical realism, about a man who marries a woman with a secret – it’s very slow but lovely. The second a very delicate exploration of a couple coming to terms with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, which makes it sound utterly grim but I assure you it is excellent and beautiful and fox metamorphosis comes into it very much.

    I am very impressed that you have met Henry Woudhuysen, and I wish you joy of your splendid new book. 🙂

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