A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Vulpes Libris is one year old today!
Time flies! The first post appeared on Vulpes Libris on the 18th October 2007 and was by Leena, our esteemed and sorely missed leader. So, in honour of our birthday we thought we’d each pick a few of our favourite pieces from the past year to share and give you a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at the last 365 days.
We’ve chosen a few of our favourite Leena Posts…
|Decency & Disorder by Ben Wilson.To represent what must be Leena’s great love of all things 18th century we have chosen this big meaty review of Decency and Disorder by Ben Wilson: “one of the most exciting and engaging works of history…(Leena has)…ever read”. How did the bawdy and rambunctious Georgians turn into decidedly un-bawdy and decorous Victorians? Read Leena’s review to find out.|| Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle by Janet Todd.Leena: “Without a doubt one of the best books I’ve read this year”
We had to choose this one: Leena’s review of Death and The Maidens by Janet Todd, about Mary Wollstonecraft’s illegitimate daughter, Fanny.
| Interview with Polly Shulman.
To represent Leena’s other great love: Young Adult Fiction, we have picked out her thoughtful interview with YA writer, Polly Shulman, author of Enthusiasm.
|A Season of Leaves by Catherine Law was my favourite historical novel of 2008. Set in 1940s Cornwall and Prague, the novel sensitively considers the realities of love in a war zone.|| Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster topped my literary fiction list. Feather Man is an unflinching look at the life of a young woman who gravitates towards those who will hurt her.
*Spread the Word has listed Feather Man in its World Book Day Top 50*
|A Dangerous Man by Anne Brooke I nominate for best thriller. One of the most gripping books I have ever read, A Dangerous Man is the story of Michael, a struggling young artist and part-time rent boy who strives for success at any price.|
|The Paris Review Interviews, vol. II, Philip Gourevitch (ed.) A fascinating insight into the writing process, with interviews from some of the twentieth century’s leading authors. The unobtrusive technique means that each piece reads like a direct transcript. Compulsive reading.|| The Frozen Thames, by Helen Humphreys
A beautiful little book, made up of vignettes just short enough for excellent bedside reading. Spare but elegant writing tells the tales of those who were there when the Thames froze.
| The Sorrow of Belgium, by Hugo Claus
A semi-autobiographical account of one boy’s experiences in Flanders leading up to the Second World War, from one of Belgium’s most treasured writers. We mourned Claus’ passing earlier this year: he will be missed.
| Over the past 12 months Vulpes Libris has published 340 posts. There have been 3,730 comments, from fellow bloggers, from authors, from readers, from critics and from passing Black Boxers. (This does not include the thousands of viagra sales people, the hundreds of men with size issues and plethora of naked women desperate to share their experience with us.) We’ve been linked to by Neil Gaiman (!), Darren Shan, Anthony Horowitz, The Guardian Blog, CNN, … and numerous incredible people in the blog world. And if you Google “Vulpes Libris” you get 17,900 results!
Last month saw us pass the 100,000 visitor mark at which point we all opened the champagne and had a party. The ensuing hangover however, saw many of us dumb-struck, intimidated and too petrified to post.
|The Letters of Ted Hughes, selected and edited by Christopher Reid. Coincidentally, my very first review on Vulpes … and still one of my favourite books. It cast almost as much new light on Hughes as did his own “Birthday Letters”. An intriguing glimpse into the life and mind of a very private man.||The Long Delirious Burning Blue by Sharon Blackie.
The first modern fiction book I’d read in years … and what a way to start – a piece of good, old-fashioned story-telling with terrific characterizations, an overwhelming sense of place and a big heart. A incredibly good debut novel.
|The Forgotten Dead by Ken Small and Mark Rogerson.
Other people’s obsessions are always fascinating. This account of Ken Small’s single-minded tenacity in uncovering the details of exactly what happened at Slapton Sands in the Spring of 1944 is no exception.
|The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe gives a background to those beautiful paintings; not only the artists’ lives, but also the times they lived in are painted in vivid strokes.||The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin is historical fiction at its best. The symbols, layers and events of this dual story; one modern, one Napoleonic, lingers long after the book is finished.||Rat:How the World’s Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its way to the Top by Jerry Langton is a fascinating look at one of the most misunderstood animals on earth.|
|I greatly enjoyed revisiting Alexandra Kollontai’s Red Love, an unusual – and insightful – novel by one of the most controversial women in modern history.||Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poetry for children is utterly charming and utterly difficult… especially for the potential translator. Going back to these poems is always a delight and I was very pleased to be able to write about them for Vulpes.||And finally, this may be cheating, but the article I most enjoyed writing for Vulpes was about a number of stories in several media. Getting to grips with the Joker.|
|The past year has seen a fair bit of whooping in the den over the various name checks, links and achievements. We’ve also had some late nights, some fights and an enormous amount of laughs. Some high points include: CNN linking to Jackie’s review of The Ghost With Trembling Wings, Robert McCrum calling us “highly responsible” in The Observer (fortunately, that was before one of our guest reviewers came up with the world’s most tasteless pun … and no, we’re not telling you where it is), Lisa’s Fox in the City going postal around the Blogosphere, the night Kirsty and Eve stayed up late to post the Darren Shan piece. There has been much excitement when Moira has somehow managed to rustle up a celebrity: Harry Enfield, Jay Benedict and Edward Petherbridge (we suspect she leads a double life). Rosy and Eve had a cup of coffee in Julia Donaldson’s kitchen, which was fantastic.
Richard III week caused huge fights, poor Kirsty’s had more than her fair share of arguments and spam and the Classical Comics piece didn’t escape unharmed. Rosy and Lisa’s interview with Scott Pack was hilarious, as was their video fight over Jude The Obscure. We loved Kirsty’s April Fools piece (who didn’t get it?), we’re proud to have paved the way in three-way-interviewing and we are always delighted to see so many authors (particularly the lovely teen ones!) popping by to comment. There are just far too many high points to note them all, but there is always a ton of high-fiving in the den at every one.
|Borderliners by Peter Høeg. This is a cheat as it was already one of my all-time favourite books before I reviewed it for Vulpes. About three damaged children on the borderline of society, it is simply one of the most moving books I’ve ever read.||Gents by Warwick Collins. A tiny book of big themes, Gents deals with three immigrant toilet attendants and their attitudes and tolerance (or not) towards the cottagers who use the public convenience for other purposes. A book about tolerance with a realistic edge, this is a clever, controlled and strangely charming book full of humour and humanity.||Hearts and Minds by Rosy Thornton. Sometimes a book comes along at just the right time. This book came along at just the right time for me – a time where I felt quite stressed and down. A warm comforting duvet of a book that puts the kettle on and gives you a backrub at the same time, but not sickly sweet or sentimental – looking clearly at the issue of politics in the college and the domestic sphere with irony and realism. I did have a few quibbles, but it is still one of the reading experiences I most enjoyed this year.|
| Becoming Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty.
Funny, thoughtful, clever YA fiction that made me remember being fifteen like it was yesterday – which is no mean feat.
| My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
Plenty of melodrama and extravagant prose, but so fitting, in this tale of a brave and stubborn young girl living in the Australian outback. First published in 1901.
| A Vengeful Longing by Roger Morris
I didn’t even realise that Historical Crime Fiction was my cup of tea until I discovered this series, which was inspired by a character in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. An elegant page-turner.
Eve’s best bits…
|Crash by J.A. Henderson. This was just one of those books that grabbed you and pulled you through. It was an irresistible read that has stuck in my mind long after I’d put it down. My ultimate sticky book!||Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray. I loved the interaction between the boys in this book. It was such a wonderfully crafted tale of friendship. It was not only a physical journey but an emotional one. I found it heart-warming, exhilarating and unputdownable.||Interview with Katherine Naish of Barrington Stoke. This is the interview I’m most proud of doing. Barrington Stoke is an amazing publisher with such an important function in the literary world. I hope everyone is still out there with their loudhailers.|
|To finish off we thought it would be amusing if we shared some of the search terms used by people who landed on Vulpes Libris. A number of them have caused us a lot of distress… for instance the time someone was trying to discover how long a rat could hold its breath under water – we were very close to calling the RSPCA. And we’re all very concerned about the 42 women out there searching for : How to kill your husband… don’t do it, it’s not worth it! We also had a heart-rending search by some poor child: Should children be made to keep still? We were all shouting no! no! no! from the den (except Moira, who seemed to think the idea had some merit …). Other classics include : Gigantic Manga Breasts, Mushroom Costume, Bunnies Typing Essays and our all time favourite, Pictures of Susan Hill Naked. Our top two search terms are a total bewilderment, since it would be difficult to find two more diverse subjects… (disregarding Vulpes Libris) at number one is Victoria Plum which only beats the number two spot Trotsky by a smidgen.|
The foxes would like to say a huge thank you to every single one of you out there; every reader, every commenter, every linker, every fellow blogger. Without you, our stats wouldn’t be worth the constant monitoring, the comment boxes would remain empty and devoid of emotive discussion, the den would be stressless and whoopless. Without the support, encouragement and general cheering on of everyone in the blogging community (and out with it!) this past year would have been far less eventful, gratifying and way less fun. To you all we raise a glass and say “CHEERS!”… here’s to the next 365 days!