Treasure Trove

Peter Batten celebrates a treasure trove for the book lover…

When I moved to Hove 15 years ago I was active as a dealer in books. Soon I discovered the Oxfam bookshop in Blatchington Road.

This was a real delight. At that time it was like a typical second-hand bookshop, untidy, badly organised, shabby. But there was one important difference: the prices. For anyone buying and selling books it was a wonderful resource. Although I never came across any books of high value, it was easy to buy books for 50p which could be sold elsewhere for £10 or even £20. For a short time I had a stall in ‘Snooper’s Paradise’ in the North Laines, and I could always top up my stock of paperbacks with purchases from Oxfam. Nobody at the Oxfam shop seemed to know much about book prices and they did not bother to seek advice.

Several years ago everything changed. The shop was refitted. It became much smarter and better organised. At first I was horrified. I had enjoyed the ‘Shabby Second-Hand Bookshop’ atmosphere and, of course, the lack of concern about values. However, over the years, the shop has settled down. I now find it a valuable resource for my private reading and book collecting.

Let me explain. First, the shop is now well organised and, apart from a few mistakes, it is easy to find the type of book you are looking for. With so much information available on the internet, the prices are now more sensible. An early tendency to over-estimate the value of a few books because an inflated price had been found on the internet seems to have been curbed. Second, whatever your interest you are likely to find a book to add to your reading list.

There is one very good reason for this. It is Hove itself (Hove actually, if you prefer). There are many avid readers in Hove. From time-to-time they thin out their library or, sadly, they die. Because these readers have travelled the world and had very interesting lives, their books cover a fascinating range of subjects. In their thousands they are donated to the Oxfam Bookshop.

Let me give you an example. I have spent many years studying poetry and helping students to understand it. Therefore I have a large collection of poetry books. When in the Oxfam Bookshop I make a point of checking the poetry shelf because an amazingly varied selection of poetry turns up there. It ranges from unusual and obscure poets to excellent collections of the most important. And it is always changing. For the same variety and for providing some essential volumes I would recommend Psychology or Philosophy.

One final tip. If, like me, you enjoy reading a varied selection of novels, but also have favourite authors whose works you wish to collect, you can often find novels that have eluded you for years. You can then put them aside for reading when you feel the time is right. Most important point: the prices are very reasonable!

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A Poet’s Musings

I would live all my life

in nonchalance and insouciance

Were it not for making a living,

which is

rather a nousiance

Ogden Nash

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Word Power

Some time ago The Whistler used to feature the power of words under the title ‘Clitch, after Clitch, after Clitch’, a phrase attributed to the politician Ernest Bevin (1881-1951). We asked our readers to send a cliché to illustrate a story or vice versa. The word itself is from the French ‘clicher’ meaning stereotype, a printing error or a pattern that can be used over and over again to fill up space, or break up a page.

When all is said and done clichés are grist to the mill. We hope you will not say, ‘This is all Greek to me’. We hope you will not accept Sam Goldwyn’s advice to avoid clichés like the plague. We hope you will not treat this snippet like a flash in the pan. We hope you will send us your favourite or most hated clichés which we will publish. The prize will be our undying devotion


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