Friday, February 12, 2021

The Scribbler - A Retrospective Literary Review

I've been aware of 'The Scribbler' for a while but have only just got around to ordering a copy of the most recent number (issue 16). This was specifically because it had a literary trail of Orkney and Shetland in it. I was interested to see what books would be mentioned and what the format of the article would be like, and now I've read it I'm half planning my own literary trail for Shetland and wondering which books I'd include.

The Scribbler is a retrospective literary review with a strong bias towards old children's books and their authors - as you'd expect from Greyladies, it's also the first journal/review that I've sat down and read cover to cover in a couple of sittings for a long time. This is partly because it's shorter than the majority of the Journals I've subscribed to over the years, but mainly down to the way it's laid out with one review naturally leading to another, a short story that's thematically tied to one of the review topics, and a look at old Girls and Women's magazines that tied to another review strand. The literary trail at the end (which I obviously read first) was thoroughly enjoyable too, with a selection of books I'd mostly not come across before.

Altogether it was a treat that lasted me through perhaps 4 mugs of coffee and which I'm quite likely to pick up and read again. I can't currently justify spending money on a full subscription (it's not particularly expensive - £20 for 3 issues is very reasonable, money is just very tight around here at the moment), but the next issue has a short story by E. M. Delafield in it which is making it all but irresistible to me. 

I really like the tone of 'The Scribbler' too, it feels like a fairly tightly knit group of contributors and there's a chattiness about it that reminds me of my favourite podcasts (specifically Backlisted) and made me feel like I was being drawn into the conversation. I appreciate a review which can make a few jokes without dumbing down. 

The books being assessed here are interesting too. They're not automatically books I'd be drawn to, or seek out even now. Some of them sound like they might pose problems for the modern reader, and nobody reviewing seems shy of pointing out plot issues, but they all sound interesting and make a sound case for the value, as well as the enjoyment, to be found in genres outside of literary fiction.

The chosen short story - an E. Nesbit version of Cinderella in this edition - is the perfect example of this. It's perhaps not Nesbit's finest work, there's fairly awful dialect at play and the characters of the children seem a little unlikely, even if their actions do not. On the other hand it's genuinely humorous, twists the tale nicely, and takes a complex, but not uncommon situation, and presents it ina  way that very young children can understand - so there's really a lot going for it. 

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