Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Collecting Noel Streatfeild



It can be stressful to love one's books as much as I do, especially when it involves painful decisions! For example, I live in an apartment with limited space for my books. I take pride in my nearly complete collection of Noel Streatfeild but here is my dilemma: I own three copies of Theater Shoes. It may not be one of my top three favorites but it is probably a top five. It is a great story about three children who go to live with their grandmother during WWII and realize not only that they are part of a family involved in the theater but have theatrical talent themselves. My favorite part is when Sorrel, the elder sister, gets to play in a production of The Tempest. The cover with Sorrel standing in front of the red curtain is from a hardcover I found a couple years ago at the Bryn Mawr Bookstore. It is in very good shape, a nice solid hardcover, so you'd think it would be the one I should keep.

Yet the shabby blue one, a tired ex-library rebound copy, is the very book I read repeatedly growing up, having been discarded by my childhood library (what were they thinking? the book is in perfectly good shape). How can I give it up when I know how many times my sisters and I read it? And finally, you see what appears to be a modest copy of Curtain Up, which is the British title, was sent to me by the generous Nicky Smith years ago. I assumed that she knew I'd enjoy having the British edition and was appreciative. Amazingly, I didn't even notice at first that she had sent me (doubtless at great expense) a book that had been autographed by Noel Streatfeild herself! How exciting is that! There is no way I'm letting this book go. So, as you can see, there is no solution - I need all three editions in my library. I just need more space for my books. Don't these three cry out to be displayed together?
I yearn constantly for my grandfather's library - not his enormous collection of books which I believe he sold to the University of British Columbia before his death - but the fabulous room he used as a library in what was once Horace Greeley's barn. Supposedly, Greeley's daughter used this room as a ballroom. My grandfather had bookcases on all four walls, an enormous desk made out of a barn door, and a grand piano. There he wrote Music in Western Civilization and Handel and other books, wrote opera reviews, music articles, advised students, colleagues and friends. It was sad when they decided to downsize and move to Connecticut to a smaller house once my aunt and uncles were grown up. There is a remote connection between my grandfather and Noel Streatfeild - as you can see, the spelling of her name is unusual, but when my mother was helping him with one of his books she came across a British musicologist named Richard Alexander Streatfeild (perhaps a relative of Noel's?). My grandfather was impressed that my mother knew how to spell that surname: not sure she told him it was because of Ballet Shoes . . .























4 comments:

skirmishofwit said...

What a lovely post! I am in awe of your NS collection, and to have a copy of Theater Shoes signed by her is so special. You certainly must keep them all, although I sympathize on the lack of space issue.

Chandra said...

Wow! That IS a conundrum! If it were me I'd keep all three as well! But if you're ever looking for a loving home for one of them let me know ;-)

Laurie said...

They are all three lovely, and I can see why you want to keep them all (though of course you cannot afford to retain three copies of each of your favorite books). It's interesting to see how the library edition cover is duplicated from the hardcover. Noel Streatfeild's autograph is instantly recognizable because it was duplicated at the end of the introduction to Ballet Shoes, in the edition I read as a child, at least.

Your grandfather's library reminds me of Grandfather's stable, in the Austins books. I should remember that stable the next time the question about "favorite places in literature" comes up.

wmmahaney said...

I loved your post. I think you should keep all three. Each holds such a special significance to you that there is just no way to part with one.