Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pelicans to fly back

I find it exciting that Penguin are to bring back their non-fiction imprint, Pelican. How can they have gone, cheap books to feed the intellectual hunger of the masses? What does it mean that they did? And what does it mean that, as reported by Paul Laity in the Guardian, some of the early Pelicans sold 250 million copies in total, print runs of 50,000 being standard, whereas 'these days a publisher would be delighted if such a book made it up to 2,000 copies'? That by the end of the eighties, when Pelicans disappeared, we had become a culture hooked on entertainment rather than intellectual inquiry, or that, with more people going to university and a proliferation of media, we had other ways of getting our intellectual fulfilment? Penguin believes there's still that hunger and still a need to fulfil it with cheap books. I can vouch for that last. I had been to university, and I had even studied philosophy, but I'll never forget the night I was babysitting and learned for the first time about Hegelian dialectic (and was absolutely hooked), from a Pelican which has long gone now - I suspect one of the kids has gone off with it.

Those above are the Pelicans we have left. Notice we have two copies of the Uses of Literacy; we usually give away books we've doubled up on, but neither of us will part with our copy. That copy of mine with the Lowry on the front is forever linked in my mind with the view from the desk where I wrote my Education Diploma dissertation - luminous green leaves coming out in the very high trees, and two wood pigeons trying to make a nest which kept dropping to bits on the ground - and with the feeling the book had left me with: that my whole sense of the world had been adjusted and confirmed, and that everything at last made sense.

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