After writing about 'Nice work', I thought that I would check when I bought the book (or at least, first read it). I looked through some letters from around the right time period (the years following 1989), and found that the first reference to the book was in August 1991.
I had to look through 'hard copies' of letters; even though I was using computers to write letters from 1986 or thereabouts, I never saved them as computer files, preferring to save the printed versions instead. As a result, some of the letters are virtually unreadable as they were printed via ribbons whose final days had come. Considering that in those days, the letters would have been simple text files with negligible overheads, storage space must have been at an extreme premium, so much so not to store even a measly 1K. I remember that it was considered a huge win when I found a program which would add an extra sector to a floppy disc, increasing its storage size from 360KB to 410KB. Eventually, I would move to writing letters by email (and those are stored), but in order to do that, I needed that my correspondent also to have email, and that took some time.
Anyway, back to the books. One has to remember that 1991 was still pre-Internet and that one had to rely on book reviews or book clubs in order to learn about new books. It comes back to me that in those days I used to obtain a copy of 'Penguins in Print', a directory which listed all the books that excellent paperback house Penguin had in print and so were theoretically available. I used to go through that directory diligently and compile a list of ISBNs (ie book identity numbers) which would then be ordered when my parents or I went to Britain.
The books used to be so heavy and voluminous that we wouldn't bring them back in our suitcases. Instead, I would have to make parcels and sent them by post. One year, I sent two such parcels but only one of them arrived. For obvious reasons, I don't recall what was in the missing parcel, but I seem to remember that nothing precious was lost. In those days, of course, many books were bought 'on spec', so losing them did not necessarily mean that any book that I really wanted disappeared.
Today I received an email from Amazon, suggesting books that I might like to read. I clicked on an autobiographical book by musician Rick Wakeman and on a neuroscience book, and should I wish, those books will be with me in another week. The only reason that I didn't order is because I'm having problems activating a new credit card and I don't want payment problems with Amazon. How things have changed over the past twenty years.
Similarly with the emails - or anything computerised - if I want to find some text, I use a 'search' function and thousands of files are searched in a few seconds. No more leafing through old letters and having to read them all in order to find a nugget.
I came across a letter from early 1990 in which I was writing about my daughter: she had just turned two. I read the passage to her now, and it was very nostalgic for a moment.