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Spectator books of the year: Christopher Howse was sickened by Charles Saatchi’s collection of thoughts

23 November 2014

3:00 PM

23 November 2014

3:00 PM

Wonderful year for Pevsner, or rather for us who use the guides as we potter about. Four new vols: Bedfordshire, Somerset, Cornwall, Cambridgeshire, too big for the pocket, but a reasonable £28 a kick, thanks to Yale. A triumph of perseverance.

Raymond Edwards’s biography Tolkien (Robert Hale, £25) is the best one could hope for while the letters and papers remain locked in the Bodleian. Tolkien embraced the northern theory of courage: ‘Defeat is no refutation.’ That was just as well, surrounded as he was by death, delay and failure. It was amazing that he wrote even The Lord of the Rings.

Charles Saatchi’s collection of thoughts on photographs, Known Unknowns (Booth-Clibborn, £16), seemed a crime against the reader, even if the perpetrator couldn’t help it. Tawdry, violent, vulgar and shallow, it made me feel sick.


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