I sometimes think I should abandon my inveterate habit of browsing in secondhand and charity bookshops – it takes up a good deal of time and money, after all. On the other hand, it leads to many good and serendipitous discoveries. So today I have returned home, after dispensing a modest 75 pence, with a nice clean paperback copy of Zadie Smith’s 2012 London novel, NW. It caught my eye on the shelf because it has this epigraph from Morris’s A Dream of John Ball: ‘When Adam delved and Eve span/Who was then the gentleman?’
‘Will no-one tell me what she sings … ?’ William Wordsworth asks in his ‘The Solitary Reaper’. Will no-one tell me, in turn, why Zadie Smith uses the famous Morris quote as the apt tag to her novel, since I won’t have time in the midst of a very busy academic term to start reading my delightful new acquisition? Thanks in advance to any reader of this blog who can help out with this, and hooray for those local bookshops that let fall such good discoveries into our eager hands.