Saturday, 19 December 2009

A Boy at the Hogarth Press and A Parcel of Time by Richard Kennedy

This is an utterly charming little book, published by Slightly Foxed, who, alongside their Quarterly, offer a small range of little hardbacks in numbered limited editions. The first half of the book contains Richard Kennedy's recollections of joining the Hogarth Press as a school-leaver whose education had left him with no discernable talents or abilities. Based on diaries and letters as well as memoir, the book tells of Kennedy's successes and failures at the Press in naive and humorous tones, and includes highly entertaining depictions of Leonard and Virginia Woolf as well as any number of minor Bloomsbury characters.

The second half is Kennedy's childhood memoir, tracing his early years until he is sent to Marlborough School. Kennedy's father was killed in the First World War, and his widowed mother and paternal grandmother struggled over Kennedy 's upbringing as they did over money and various possessions that his grandmother sought to repatriate to the family home. The memoir is funny and poignant, and the descriptions of his epiphanies in drawing and finally learning to read from a book called When the Somme Ran Red are particularly touching. Richard Kennedy made his career as an illustrator, and the book is full of his own drawings. My favourite is on page 31, in which Virginia Woolf peers through a small window at the Press employees packing parcels.

Like Persephone, Slightly Foxed seem to have the knack of producing books that are delightful to read and to look at, and I am sorely tempted by others on their list.

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