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The Trouble with Beverley Nichols: Publishing, Value and Popular Writing in 1922

4 November 2022

Benjamin Bruce, University of Reading

In 1922 Chatto and Windus publishers offered Beverley Nichols’ new novel, Self, for sale.[1] Nichols, a recent graduate and a gregarious homosexual, wrote his new book as he put it, “‘purely as an experiment, and with the idea of being “popular’”.[2] This emphasis on appealing to a mass audience was problematic for his publishers whose output was meant to be of a certain quality. The publisher saw itself as representing a higher literary standard than some of its rivals’.[3] Continue reading “The Trouble with Beverley Nichols: Publishing, Value and Popular Writing in 1922”

The Modernist Review #32: Book History & Networks

2 August 2021

Have you experienced the joy of returning to your favourite bookshop yet? Flicking through pages to decide what to choose, asking a bookseller for a recommendation, with the smell of paper and possibly the clink of teaspoons and the whir of a coffee machine from the cafe at the back. Maybe you listened to ‘coffee shop sound effects’ on YouTube while you read during lockdown – a lot of that reading was probably on a screen, as librarians (our unsung heroes) rushed to provide eBooks, and publishers limited review copies to digital rather than print. It’s been a strange year for books, and it’s made us here at the Modernist Review leaf back through the pages of book history to a century ago, and think deeply about the networks in which we read and exchange books.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #32: Book History & Networks”

Organising Data: What Open Data Can Do

2 August 2021

James Benstead, Edinburgh Napier University

In this article I’m going to write about organising the data from the project on the Scottish War Books Boom, and how working with Open Data principles can identify new connections among the material and open up new avenues for scholarship.  The overall findings to date are discussed in a parallel article in this month’s TMR.  

Continue reading “Organising Data: What Open Data Can Do”

Bestsellers and a Modernist’s Library: Hits and Misses

2 August 2021

Emily Bell, University of Antwerp

Despite the broadening of approaches to push boundaries in modernist studies – linguistic, cultural, national, critical, formal – single-author studies are alive and well. Author-centricity has been a methodology in its own right: the life of an individual justifies critical study whether it is biographically-oriented or not. This longstanding tradition of author-centred modernism has been subject to critique since structuralist interventions (and ensuing subfields) widened the scope of literary studies to explore the cultural matrices and circumstances of textual production. But how do we continue to justify scholarship that spotlights individuals already centralised in our narratives of modernist culture?

Continue reading “Bestsellers and a Modernist’s Library: Hits and Misses”

Book Review: London and the Modernist Bookshop

2 August 2021

Nick Hubble, Brunel University London

Matthew Chambers, London and the Modernist Bookshop (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

In British Writers of the Thirties (1988), Valentine Cunningham describes Parton Street, off Red Lion Square, as the epicentre of England’s literary and cultural life: 

And at No. 4, the centre – if such a metaphor is possible – of this epicentre, was the bookshop run by Old Wellingtonian David Archer, the home of the Parton Press (which issued Dylan Thomas’s 18 Poems, George Barker’s Thirty Preliminary Poems, David Gascoyne’s Man’s Life is this Meat), briefly the address for New Verse, from May 1935 the headquarters of Artists International, the mecca in fact of the radical artistic and poetic young. (109)

However, for all this (epi)centrality, there has been no systematic history of Archer’s bookshop – despite mentions in memoirs and interviews from Barker, Gascoyne, Esmond Romilly and Philip Toynbee among others – until Matthew Chambers’s decision to write about it as a case study in his London and the Modernist Bookshop. This is an instalment in the Cambridge University Press series, ‘Elements in Publishing and Book Culture’, which, like all Cambridge Elements, collects short (20-30,000 word) peer-reviewed books into thematically-linked ‘gatherings’ such as, in this case, ‘Bookshops and Bookselling’. The idea is that these publications provide an initial port of call for easily accessible, quality research-based texts on topics such as, in this case, the role of bookshops in establishing and maintaining literary networks. Hence, the focus here is on the history of a particular bookshop and the literary scene which developed around it in central London. As Chambers argues, even if ‘Archer’s’ is only ‘one example of what Huw Osbourne has termed the “modernist bookshop,” the shop’s relationship to Lawrence & Wishart publishers next door and Meg’s Cafe [later The Arts Cafe] across the way presents an opportunity to consider how modernist bookshops existed as part of the world of literary publishing and socializing’ (1).  Continue reading “Book Review: London and the Modernist Bookshop”

Book Review: The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture

2 August 2021

Yen-Chi Wu, Academia Sinica

Elke D’hoker and Chris Mourant, eds. The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture, 1880-1950. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021)

In their seminal essay that charts out the agenda of the New Modernist Studies, Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz highlight the idea of expansion. To conceive of a new understanding of modernism, they contend, we need to expand the conventional narratives surrounding modernism in three dimensions: temporal, spatial, and cultural latitude. Expanding the cultural latitude of modernism invites us to revisit ‘the battle of the brows’, which sparked lively debates on literary tastes, artistic styles, and social class in the early twentieth century. During this period, little magazines that championed avant-garde arts vied for attention with middlebrow and illustrated popular magazines. To that end, periodical studies proves to be a vibrant field in which to examine the complex and dynamic exchange between modernist writing, commercial interest, and popular literature. A growing scholarship has emerged in this field; Elke D’hoker and Chris Mourant’s edited collection, The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture, 1880-1950, is the latest addition. The collection’s unique contribution lies in its focus on the short story form in the periodical context. The book teases out the complex ways in which editorial philosophies, evolving gender politics, the two world wars, and debates on literary tastes influenced the thematic concerns and artistic expressions of the short story form.  Continue reading “Book Review: The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture”

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