I was writing this post, already had the title up and was half way through, when my good friend the Doctor Hart came into the shop on crutches. Lest you should get confused, this is a different Doctor to the two I have previously mentioned, this one being more a nurse of the mind. He browsed the shelves for a while and then returned to the counter. ' There seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment for covers showing women dressed only in their horrible knickers,' he said. ' And what's more they all appear to buy their underwear in the same shop.'
'Funny you should say that,' I replied. 'I was just writing about the very same thing.'
The good Doctor's gaze passed along the counter until he came upon some copies of the new Penguin Modern Classics edition of The Book of Daniel by E L Doctorow that I had been prompted to order thanks to the entry for it in 1001 Books. I had put one aside to take home and re-read. 'That's a fantastic book,' he said.
I agreed with him. It is a fantastic book. A serious, entertaining novel that makes a lasting impression on those that read it. Dealing with an America in the early Cold War years of the 1950's, Doctorow tells a fictionalised version of the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, New York communists who were charged with passing the secrets of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union, and who then became the first Americans to be executed for spying. Daniel is their son, and the book makes much of the contrast between his parents politics and his own 1970's radicalism, and as such, in the words of Jonathan Freedland in the introduction, it seeks to tell a novelist's history of a wider phenomenon: the changing face of dissent in the United States.
An hour or so later, and I was still trying to write the post with the title above, when a lady came in to the shop and she too spied a copy of The Book of Daniel. 'You know,' she said, ' this is a great book.'
'It is, isn't it,' I replied, and decided to write about it.