Our second item of realia is something far easier to identify. Or is she?
You don’t normally see her this size though. And she can be found not in our archive rooms but Sloane Square.
Go back in time to 26th October 1953
A gathering of distinguished people listening to Sir Gerald Kelly inaugurating the Venus Fountain with a speech not everyone heard – the loudspeaker broke down and the noise of traffic drowned out his words for some listeners. The Venus Fountain was designed by Gilbert Ledward, who was born in Chelsea and who is also represented by a statue in Ropers’ Garden on the Embankment called Awakening.
We are more concerned with its small version.
Including the figures around the base. Who else but Charles II and Nell Gwynne?
Depicted as classical figures, in a sylvan scene with hunting dogs.
The model, or maquette, has lived at the library for many years. Normally it sits under a glass cloche, which I moved to one side for photographic purposes. One of the Monkeys of Christmas sneaked in to try it out. as you would.
My second obscure book is another one from the 1980s, Straight Cut, by Madison Smartt Bell. I wrote about him once before on the blog about his London novel, Doctor Sleep.
Straight Cut (1986) is a straight thriller. A tale of smuggling and double crossing set in New York, Italy and Belgium in the shady world of film editing. I described it as existential thriller in the previous post, because of a certain dour atmosphere it had. Ripe for filming by a continental art house director, I would have said. French or German directors often bring a certain gravitas to American or British thrillers. (The American Friend for example?) The morally ambiguous protagonist uses dubious means to turn the tables and get his revenge. I haven’t read it for years (and with this one I won’t delay the post by going back to it) but at one time I very much liked it and saw it as a kind of secular science fiction. I should add that Bell has written several novels since I stopped reading him, none of which particularly appealed to me. But what do I know?
This is the cover of my copy of Straight Cut.
A pretty dour design. But while looking it up again I found it had received a more sensational retro makeover in recent years, which I can only admire.