In a world that seems to be growing ruder, stupider, and more contentious every day, what a pleasure it is to come home to find a parcel from Slightly Foxed in the post. Publishers of what is surely one of the most civilized periodicals on earth, their eponymous journal subtitled “The Real Reader’s Quarterly,” they exist to unite readers in a joyous celebration of the pleasures of the written word. As I enter upon the creamy pages of the summer issue, I can breathe a sigh of relief and slip into a world where humility, thoughtfulness, and good humor are actually honored qualities.
This issue begins with a taste of a delicious-sounding cookbook-slash-travelogue, Around the World in Eighty Dishes, and ends with a description of a delightfully eccentric British institution, the Royal Society of Literature. In between there’s a reassessment of Gulliver’s Travels, a moving personal essay about the impact E. Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain had upon a troubled friendship, a vivid appreciation of The Siege of Krishnapur, and much more. With each piece I get a glimpse not just of the books under discussion, but at the very individual tastes and personalities of the writers, as they share where, when, and how they met these books that they love, and why they matter so much to them. Books that had just been names to me spring to life, titles I had never heard of become must-find-now objects of desire.
This latest issue is number 50, and it’s no small achievement to have reached that “middle-aged” milestone. In celebration, Slightly Foxed is offering US subscribers the same rate as other overseas customers, and all subscribers receive online access to the digital edition, including the archive of 50 back issues. It’s a characteristically generous gesture, a way to spread the love. Though economic necessity obviously must be acknowledged, books and periodicals printed and paid for, there’s never a doubt that sharing our mutual enthusiasm (not to say obsession) is at the core of the Slightly Foxed mission.
Along with SF50, my parcel included the latest classic reprint in the series of Slightly Foxed Editions: Brensham Village by John Moore. It’s a sequel (to Portrait of Elmbury) but I didn’t find that not having read the first volume hampered my enjoyment of this memoir about life in an English village between the wars. I haven’t finished it yet, but already I’ve been introduced to a wonderful array of characters, including a “mad lord” whose madness seems mainly to consist of not minding being poor, a schoolmaster who inspires his boys with an equal passion for Latin and butterfly hunting, and a nature-loving vicar who blithely ignores complaints about nesting boxes in the church porch and live bait in the font. It’s a lovely place to inhabit, though bittersweet, for one knows — as did the author — that this world has vanished, never to return. At least through Moore’s finely crafted prose we can revisit it for a time.
So thank you, Slightly Foxed, for helping to remind me of what really matters: Interest in other people and their ways of life. Striving for discernment and clarity in our judgments and attitudes. An undiminished capacity for wonder. Here’s to another fifty issues, and to all the further reading — and learning and laughter and thinking — they will inspire.
For more about Slightly Foxed Quarterly and Slightly Foxed Editions, visit the website.
A copy was received for review consideration from the publisher. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.