Penguins at Work

I enjoy looking for books in thrift shops, where my eye is often drawn to the orange spine of a Penguin.


Notable finds have included The West Pier by Patrick Hamilton,  Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, and most recently The PARIS REVIEW Interviews: Writers at Work (3rd Series) …


I was pleased to discover that there are plenty more in the Writers at Work Series to be found …


4th Series — Nabokov and Burgess!


Having just finished reading Herzog (on my Kindle) I began by reading the (May 1965) interview with Saul Bellow

“[…] I do think that a book like Herzog, which ought to have been an obscure book with a total sale of eight thousand, has such a reception because it appeals to the unconscious sympathies of many people. I know from the mail I’ve received that the book described a common predicament. Herzog appealed to Jewish readers, to those who have been divorced, to those who talk to themselves, to college graduates, readers of paperbacks, autodidacts, to those who yet hope to live awhile, etc.”

I tick several of those boxes.

Bellow made it clear, prior to interview, what kind of “stupid questions” he was not prepared to answer …

“Mr Bellow was not interested in responding to criticisms of his work which he found trivial or stupid. He quoted the Jewish proverb that  a fool can throw a stone into the water which ten wise men cannot recover. Nor did he wish to discuss what he considered his personal habits, whether he used a pen or typewriter, how hard he pressed on the page.  For the artist to give such loving attention to his own shoelaces was dangerous, even immoral.”

Fortunately, Bellow’s office at the University of Chicago (and to some extent his shoelaces) are described in detail …

“[…] A table, a couple of typing stands, and various decrepit and mismatched chairs are scattered in haphazard fashion throughout the room.

[…] When one comes to the door, Bellow is frequently at his typing stand, rapidly pounding out on a portable machine responses to  some of the many letters he gets daily. Occasionally a secretary enters and proceeds to type away on some project at the far end of the room.”

Another plus about the Writers at Work Series are the photos and illustrations that introduce each interview, and which often take the form of a typewritten manuscript …


Edward Albee


Norman Mailer


Harold Pinter

That’s a lot of bang for my ($2) book! The search is on for more …


6 thoughts on “Penguins at Work

  1. I’m always attracted to the yellow Gollancz science fiction classics even if many of them are a bit obscure. Something about the bright and boring cover…


  2. I love the idea of a good home library, but (aside from my typewriter collection) I’ve been striving for minimalism. Glad others are having such a beautiful gathering of books.


  3. Ever since I bought my Kindle I seldom go to used book stores. When I do it is for things I’ve not found in Kindle format. I also have much less shelf space than I had when I lived in Virginia so I reserve space for radio books.


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