The Bibliothecary
August 1 - 26, 2005
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The Bibliothecary

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Don't worry.  The Bibliothecary blog is only on temporary hiatus.  Your humble blogger decided that his life wasn't busy enough, so he
has returned to school full-time to pursue his graduate work in literature.  He mistakenly thought there would be enough time to
continue his bibliothecarian blogging, but alas, course work, teaching and still finding enough time to help take care of his brood (not to
mention smoking and drinking) has proven more time-consuming than he thought.  The Bibliothecary will return in a few weeks.


Friday, August 26, 2005
Another review of the new Thomas Malory biography (see my entry for Aug 17 for two others), this one a rave, strangely but
thrillingly written with pupating gallic cocoons of chivalry.

Ever wonder what happenned to Napoleon's penis?

It is said that the diminutive conqueror's appendage was removed following his 1921 death and passed along with many other possessions to
the home of a priest who attended the autopsy. Many years and sales later, the collection found its way into the hands of an American rare
book collector, who put it on display at New York's Museum of French Art. A report at the time said the appendage resembled "a maltreated
strip of buckskin shoelace or shriveled eel." Syracuse University urologist John K. Lattimer, a collector of the eccentric, purchased the item
for $3,000 in the 1970s, the last known transaction involving the relic.

From world conqueror to maltreated shoelace.

Lots of readers' comments for today.  And sorry I've been so haphazard this week in posting.  School is underway for me.  I am a
teaching fellow in a Masters program and orientation took up much of my time this week.  Look for more regular posts next week.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I linked a review of Stuart Kelly's The Book of Lost Books last Monday (Aug 15).  Here's a bit from Kelly's book in The

It is intrinsic to the nature of literature that it is written: even work initially preserved in the oral tradition only truly becomes literature when it
is written down. All literature thus exists in a medium, be it wax, stone, clay, papyrus, paper or even - as in the case of the Peruvian knot-
language, khipu - rope. Since it has a material dimension, literature partakes of the vulnerability of its substance. Every element conspires
against it: flame and flood, the desiccating air that corrupts, the loamy earth that decays. Paper is particularly defenceless: it can be shredded
and ripped, stained and scrubbed away. Countless living things, from parasites and fungi to insects and rodents, can eat it: it even eats itself,
burning in its own acids.

There are also excerpts from some of the more famous lost manuscripts.  I especially like the story of Gogol consigning to flames two
separate manuscripts of part two of
Dead Souls:

When it was done, he crossed himself, kissed the boy, and collapsed in tears.
He then stopped eating. When he was asked by the attending priest, "What prayer do you want me to read?" he answered, "They're all good,"
and then, after nine days of self-enforced starvation, died.

Now that's dying for art.

Dan chimes in on the Guantanamo readers of Hary Potter:
Ed, I would like to take a moment to offer up my sincerest apologies to all of the people I might have put down or insulted outright
regarding Harry Potter. Now that I know it is the choice of the terrorist generation, I have come to rethink my stance on it. Maybe
these books are just what the world needs. Forget the kids.  Let's require Potter to everybody over the age of 18 and test them when
the go to register to vote. If the pass the test, they can become a citizen, with all the rights and privleges that entails.
As for me, I'm not getting near one of those books.  You couldn't pay me to review one (I'm not even married to Rushdie, but I know
I am biased). BTW...I hear they are giving Potter to newly lobotomized patients. I hear it's a favorite there too.

Dan, Remember,  the Guantanamo detainees are still "alleged" terrorists.  Perhaps their love of Potter proves them innocent?

Sean Scotwell didn't seem to like my snide response to Eudora K on reading Rowling:
Could you please clarify your theory that what's good for children is bad for adults.  Does this rule apply to Harry Potter books only,
or are there other applications?  For instance, do I have to eat vegetables?  Is the logical corollary of this rule also true, what is bad for
children is good for adults?  Is it okay for me now, as a grown adult, to touch the stove?  I'm in my late thirties, and I've always
wanted to run with scissors.  Do you think I'm old enough, or should I wait a few years?

Sean (and Eudora), What is good for kids is often not good for adults and vice versa.  A martini or two is very good for me, but I
won't be stirring one for any of my kids.  Harry Potter books are very good for children to read, but a waste of time for adults.  I grant
that reading Rowling isn't bad for you, but each Potter book read is one more well-written book you won't read.  I encourage children
to read Harry Potter, to eat their vegetables and to wear their seatbelts.  I encourage adults to read better things, to eat whatever they
want and to protest mandatory seatbelt laws.  And by all means, Sean, please run with scissors.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, August 22, 2005
Bibliothecary readers comment on some of last week's posts:

MPH continues to comment on the Irving brouhaha (see my response to his last comment on Tues Aug 16):
Ed, Yes, read my books. (Buy them first though or borrow them from the library. Don't go all Abbie Hoffman on my ass, now.)  I
know you don’t care too much for modern literature. My 2nd book may make you choke on your Cheerios, but I need readers and
Cheerios are cheap. (Did you read my first book?)
I should have 2 new books out next year, the huge, massive, doorstopping novel (
Saving Magdalene) that I finished in 2004, and a
new collection of short stories (
Mondauk Common) that I’ve been working on when I’m supposed to be working on my next novel.
No further progress on the Irving than last week. Got caught up in reading
A Christmas Carol after bringing up Charles in our
discussion.  (But being the geek I am, I bought a new edition with an introduction by John Irving.)
Yes, Irving is garnering his fair share of negative reviews (as usual), but his last few books have been tepid at best, so he’s earned
them. As a fan, I believe he may have very well peaked with
A Prayer for Owen Meany, but only The Fourth Hand out and out
blew great big donkey dong. Still think Wiggins’ review nibbled on pack mule balls though.
Finally, the rumors of my breakup with Mr. Rushdie are greatly exaggerated. The beard tickled but the fatwa kind of turned me on.
(You go, Cat Stevens! That’s what I call riding the Peace Train, babe.)

Michael, I never did read your first book,
Deep Autumn.  At first, I was waiting for a copy of the soundtrack you designed to
accompany it, but I never got that and the book just gravitated to the bottom of a pile.  I have just fished it out and placed it next to my
reading chair.  Hopefully, this week I'll start it again.  
Dickens' Christmas Carol is in my top ten all-time books list.  I read it every year.  I should read an MPH book every year instead.
The Brits seem to be enjoying the new Irving more than the Americans. Here's a
review from The Telegraph and one from The
, which begins, "Jack Burns is nine when he ejaculates between Penny Hamilton's eyes."  It's no "great big donkey dong" nor
"pack mule balls," but there's a first sentence to catch one's attention (or repel it). Also, note the noticebly racier dust jacket for the
British version.  The Puritanical Americans would never stock an item that looked like this on their bookshelves.  Brits know how to
peddle smut.

Sean Scotwell responds to the Osama piece from
yesterday's blog:
Nice Chaucer adaptation.  I've heard Osama's style
called archaic, but I don't think these people realize
that Middle English is all but another language and
un-understandable to Modern English speakers.  
The killer line in the article: He's almost like Ed Muskie.

Sean, I wanted to make a funny comment about the
Muskie line, but thought it would be better for the                        American                               British
readers to discover it themselves.  I'm sure it's the                        
only time a religious terrorist has been compared to
Ed Muskie.  That's classic.
And a quibble with your Middle English classification.  
I don't find ME to be "another language."  With a
few glosses, it's pretty close to Modern English.  Old English is "another language,"
but ME takes very little effort to read.  Of course, most people find Shakespeare too archaic to read.  But that's a rant for another

Eudora K. comments on yesterday's link to the Guantanamo readers of Harry Potter:
Edward, This is more curious than it seems.  The last book suggests that the "Death Eaters" in Harry's world are terrorists.  Who do
you suppose the inmates root for?

Eudora, As an adult, I have not read the latest Rowling book.  I'm too busy
reading books written for adults.  I let my kids read the
Potter books and tell me what they're about.  I'll ask my ten year old daughter what she thinks about your question.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments (even though I may snidely reply).

Sunday, August 21, 2005
Harry Potter popular with terror suspects:

Harry Potter's worldwide popularity is so broad-based that it has become favorite reading for Islamic terror suspects at the U.S. prison at
Guantanamo Bay.
Lori, who for two years has overseen the detention center's library, said J.K. Rowling's tales about the boy wizard are on top of the request
list for the camp's 520 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, followed by Agatha Christie whodunits.
"We've got a few who are kind of hooked on it. A couple have asked if they can see the movie," said Lori, a civilian contractor who asked
that her last name not be publicized.

Do you think any of the interrogators have flushed Harry down the toilet?

And who would have thought, Osama's a good writer: "His language is like Chaucer's in its archaic expression.”

I'd like to read the al Qaeda version of
The Canterbury Tales (The Mecca Tales?):
Whan that America with his shoures soote
The droghte of Allah hath perced to the roote,
And opened every veyne in swich licour
Of which vice engendred is the flour.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, August 19, 2005
A very odd piece in The Guardian asking whether we should change a word in a Keats' poem because he used the the wrong one.  
Keats' "
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" (a good poem by a poet who wrote many better) concludes:

Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes   
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men   
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—   
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

But the historical event to which Keats refers was about Balboa, not Cortez.  David McKie in The Guardian:

Keats thought it was Hernando Cortez (1485-1547), or as he specifically calls him, "stout Cortez". In fact it was Vasco Nuñez de Balboa
(1475-1517). Generations, having read Keats, have gone through their lives nursing one major delusion and possibly one minor one. I had
always, until corrected, dutifully assumed that the man on the peak was Cortez; I had also seen him, in my mind's eye, as fat. In fact, Keats
was using "stout" to mean resolute and reliable rather than merely obese. And quite possibly only employing it to keep up the scansion.
It seems such a shame that no one pointed out the error at the time. "Come on, Keats," you might have expected his publisher to chide him,
"you've got the wrong conquistador on the top of your hill. What's more, if you make it Balboa, you won't have to pad out the line. "Or like
Balboa, when with eagle eyes/ He stared at the Pacific, etc ...' There! That sounds better already."

So what?  That's why we have footnotes.  It's not that Keats was wrong; to him, it was Cortez.  And stout Cortez, to boot.  What
kind of idiot thinks he's reading history in a poem about  reading a poem about largely fictional events (Homer's
Iliad and Odyssey)?  
McKie must be confusing a sonnet with an AP  news item.  "Good God, all those poor children  who read this poem (all ten of them)
will think it was Cortez, and not Balboa (because the print of footnotes is too small to read, I guess).  And why does it matter which
Murderer/Genocidal Maniac . . . I mean, Conquistador, gets the credit?  How does it change the poem?   And does McKie really
think Keats only used
stout to fit the meter:  "quite possibly only employing it to keep up the scansion."  That's not only ridiculous, it's
stupid.  Perhaps I'm just over-reacting because McKie is only being semi-serious.  But then, why does he raise the issue?  His
conclusion about Holst's Planets doesn't quite fit.

And from the Royal Military College of Science, Successful Stabbing:

"The bottom line," Horsfall says, "is that stabbing performance is almost wholly dependent on the person holding the knife, and is not a
function of the knife handle." He emphasises also that "this paper does not in any way illustrate how to stab people".

Stabbing performance?


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, August 18, 2005
Scott Bradfield's hilarious piece at Moby Lives on how unfunny poetry is:

For example, when was the last time you laughed so hard at a poetry reading that you coughed punch through your nose? Never? But now
think back to the first time you saw Jim Carey speak through his bottom in
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I'm pretty sure the first time I saw
that immortally–comic scene in a movie theater, I blew Sprite all over a group of kids in the front row. Now Jim Carey speaking through his
bottom — that's funny. Not that you'll ever see one of these holier–than–thou, egghead–types writing their dissertation on the subject. Oh no.
It's all look–down–your–nose–time when it comes to Jim Carey.

I remember back to my college days of yore when we discovered Byron in our Romantic Lit class and were astounded that a great
poet could also be funny (Shelley was never funny and Wordsworth definitely needed to lighten up).  But the only gut-bustingly funny
poems I've ever read are
clerihews (which are funnier when drunkenly composed about people you know-- Stand Back!  I'm going to

And this just in: Porn magazines will outlast literature.
Especially those Penguin Classics, printed on that paper that begins to decay while still in the bookstore.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005
A new biography of Sir Thomas Malory, author of Le Morte Darthur, merits two reviews (one and two) in the London Times.  
Here's a bit of the Peter Ackroyd review (whom I would wish to write the bio of Malory), commenting on the author's apologia of
Malory's documented crimes ("rape, ambush, intent to kill, theft, extortion and gang violence"):

Hardyment supposes that such a record might be incompatible with the wonderful achievement of Le Morte Darthur — which is why she
goes to some length in order to exonerate him — but there is no necessary disjunction. Chaucer was also accused of rape (in the convoluted
procedures of medieval law, “rape” did not necessarily mean rape in the modern sense), and Ben Jonson was a murderer. There is no
connection between a vital prose and a virtuous life.

And here's a bit on Malory's texts.

I just realized that in Monday's post I forgot to give the link to the Marina Warner piece on the tactile function of books.  Here it is.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Buried in yesterday's post was a reaction from Jack Schafer in Slate to the Wash Post mea culpa over their John Irving review.  
Buried at the end of the
Slate piece was a link from Schafer to his favorite British newspaper obituary, which begins:

GRAHAM MASON, the journalist who has died aged 59, was in the 1980s the drunkest man in the Coach and Horses, the pub in Soho where,
in the half century after the Second World War, a tragicomedy was played out nightly by its regulars.

I'd become a drunk just to have that obituary written about me.  The rest of the obit is even better, including these lines about Mason's
birth (or conception):

Graham Edward Mason was born on July 19 1942 in Cape Town, South Africa. He had been conceived on a sand dune, and to this, as a
devotee of Laurence Sterne's
Tristram Shandy, he sometimes attributed his abrasive character.

That is so good.  You can bet I'll be hoisting a drink to Mason's memory next April 9.

MPH continues to comment on the Irving slam (see the last two Monday posts):
Wow! I had no idea that Wiggins & Irving had had a relationship! I never connected her to Rushdie at all! VERY funny.
I liked the
Slate piece. I personally didn't think Wiggins' review was fair or unfair - that never even crossed my mind. But I have to
disagree with
Slate. I didn't think her review was "well written" by any means. It wasn't poorly written either. It just wasn't very
interesting as a piece of writing.
(It's always tough going toe to toe on an issue like this when you're a fan of the artist being reviewed, as I am of Irving. Of course, if it
was another writer besides Irving, I probably wouldn’t have jumped in. Odd. Guilty!)
Slate article brings up a good point about HOW to approach a review, but I think it misses an important facet of reviews.
Sometimes, in the case of, say,
Entertainment Weekly or Newsweek or Premiere, a capsule review is all we’re gonna get. Other
periodicals like
Rolling Stone or the New York Times or Atlantic can give the space for a longer piece. Regardless of the size, it has
to be good writing, and by good writing, I mean interesting – what’s your point? (What makes the
Slate article fun is that in presenting
its argument, it gets to quote from a British bash of Irving, thus having its cake and smearing it too – good writing!)
Capsule reviews are fine on many levels. For a music geek like myself who subscribes to umpteen music magazines, I’m scanning for
key words (rock criticism has a sometimes unfortunately limited vocabulary much like the vocabulary of film reviewers) that’ll give me
a glimpse into the “product.” “Glistening waves of infectious, rhythmic slabs” lets me
either Madonna has a new record or Tommy Lee and Pam finally got around to that album of duets.
(There is a secret contest among music writers when it comes to capsule reviews. Points are awarded each time the words
“ephemeral” or “bone shattering” are used, and front row seats to the obscure artist of your choice are handed out if BOTH are used
in reference to the same album. Exciting!)
Longer reviews are subject to the same criteria as any written piece OTHER than a capsule review (which is more like an ingredients
list). The clichés we accept in capsule reviews are forbidden in longer pieces. Opinions are required – and they can’t include the
phrase, “…it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” Anything other than a capsule review or the stuff on the back of a cereal box
– what the fuck is riboflavin anyway? – needs to aim as high as Dickens (exclamation points or not) even if it’s lowbrow.
Wiggins was just out to trash the book, which is fine, but she could have found more creative ways to do it – read some of the
Amazon customer thrashings of Irving’s terrible
The Fourth Hand – funny as all hell.
I received a bad review for my 2nd book,
I See No Angels, recently. And I received mine VERBALLY. Fun. Well, actually, it WAS
kinda fun. This person really didn’t like the plots or characters for very specific reasons, but liked the writing. I sat there and drank my
tea and listened – and was absolutely surprised at my reaction. Sure, it was cool to hear compliments about my writing (way cool),
and it was horrible to hear that using sleep apnea as a plot device in a murder was unappealing or that all the main characters were
beyond sympathetic – but someone took the time to not only read my books, but to formulate an opinion AND invite me to tea to
hear them – and that was just about the greatest way to spend an afternoon.

Michael, I liked the Wiggins review because it was funny and it told me what I needed to know.  And Wiggins wasn't alone.  The
book has received some rotten reviews.  What's interesting is that it has received some raves as well.  A book must have something
going for it if the reviews are all over the map (Check out the
sampling at the Complete Review).  Sure Wiggins was out to trash the
book.  But I want a reviewer to trash a book if she thinks it's trash.  My favorite was Joe Queenan's
savage attack on that simpleton
who read the
Encyclopedia Britannica (although, I also enjoyed the simpleton's response).  
I'm sorry I haven't yet read your second book (nor purchased it), but rest assured, I will.  However, I will never trash it, even though
you were once married to my good friend, Salman Rushdie.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, August 15, 2005
From the London Times, an intriguing review of Stuart Kelly's The Book of Lost Books, (the title sounds like a Jasper Fforde
mystery), about the lost, forgotten and never written books of literary history:

this is the territory of the great fabulists, of Borges and Eco, where books can be lost, forgotten, rediscovered and then lost again, like the
subversive second book of Aristotle’s
Poetics (“the book everyone believed lost or never written”) that proves to be at the heart of the
mystery in Eco’s
The Name of the Rose.

From The Observer, Marina Warner on books and how their physical presence enhances the reading experience (actually holding a
book instead of reading, for instance, text on a computer screen).  She relates her experience with Seamus Heaney's translation of
Robert Henryson's
Testament of Cresseid:

it so happens that Heaney has only published this poem in a limited edition from the Enitharmon Press, and the library at Essex University
generously agreed to buy it for the collection - at £175 - and lent it to me for the class. Often we work from photocopies, but we passed this
book around and read aloud in turn from the pages, very carefully, and the book's material presence changed our relationship to the poem and
imprinted it more richly in memory. The students were able to fall into the book and let their consciousness fill with the pictures and the
passions that Heaney's Henryson was working up, and it helped tune their ear to that hum of the language. As it is a creative writing class, it is
crucial that they do this, for without the footfalls of writers who have gone before it is not possible to find your step in the present. I believe
their ethical and aesthetic imagination was touched, almost literally, by contact with the work, and fashioned by that touch.

I don't think she makes her case here.  I think the communal reading of the text (not to mention its rare status, which I'm sure was
drummed into them) probably had a greater impact than its actual tactile presence.  She goes on:

But reading in cyberspace seems to me to make different use of cognitive faculties, unfleshing the word, and correspondingly disembodying

I'd like to think this was true.  After all, I love my books, but not my computer.  However, I read so much online these days, I'm not
sure I read any differently with page or screen.  
The Mysteries of London, a Victiorian gothic thriller by G.W.M. Reynolds, is
currently being
serialized weekly online (they're only up to chapter two, if you want to start reading) and I don't think reading it online
is any less affecting than if I had the book in hand (although the serial aspect is probably most attractive).

MPH responds to last Monday's post on the Irving review:
I'm guessing the reviewer isn't a fan of Charles Dickens, a fan of both the exclamation point and the semi-colon: not to mention the
colon in odd places.  I'm going to go as far as to say she hasn't read Robertson Davies either, another exclamation point aficionado.  
(I bring this up because both Dickens & Davies are massive, obvious influences on Irving - which neither excuses Irving nor annoints
him, but Dickens used exclamation points like most people use ketchup.)
I've read a few good & a few bad reviews of the new Irving, but this woman's was terrible after re-reading it (while still plowing
through the Irving).  I'm not convinced she actually read the entire novel.  
Not sure where I stand on the book yet (more on why later), but the writing is top-notch. I hope the ink equals the pen.
The new Umberto Eco and the new Ian McEwan are on deck when the Irving is done.  Both of their latest books didn't fair too well
with the critics either. Hope they're good.

Michael, I'll take you're word for it on the Irving.  As you know, I don't read much contemporary fiction and was never able to get
very far with
Owen Meaney.  There is an overview of Irving in The Guardian Review which mentions the Dickens influence and there
piece in Slate on the Wash Post mea culpa.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, August 12, 2005
It's been a very busy week here at the Bibliothecary homestead, thus the lack of posts this week.  Here's a few fun things for your
weekend enjoyment:

I'd definitely pay to see
Marilyn Monroe as Ophelia in Hamlet.

Moby Dick teaching aids for the pre-school set.  You can use one of their Jesus puppets for an Ahab (just lop off a leg).

Here's a
video link that has nothing at all to do with books or literature, but, man, is it cool.  Did Jabberjaw ever tangle with an

And someone wrote up
Cliffs Notes for the new R Kelly mini-opera "Trapped in the Closet."  If you haven't seen the videos, I highly
recommend them.  Sheer fiasco.  I laughed so hard I cried:

She says you're the perfect lover
I said I cant go no futher
Then I flip back the cover
Oh my God, a rubber...

"Futher/rubber" is a magnificent rhyme.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, August 8, 2005
Marianne Wiggins trashed, and I mean TRASHED, John Irving's new novel, Until I Find You, in a Washington Post review earlier
last month:

"the new John Irving novel, goes for over 800 pages and leaves one with an even greater appreciation for the Viagra label's warning of penile
erectile states that might last up to four or five hours. Make it stop!"

"Three exclamation points! Count 'em, folks! That's classy writing!"

"this mass of lazy, unrefined writing"

"I hope I'm wrong to read this as the cry for help that it appears to be. It does go on and on, and someone, somewhere in the production line
at Garp Enterprises, Ltd., should have advised John Irving not to rush to print until he'd crafted pain into art, as he's done so masterfully

I like that she adds a little compliment to end the review.

The Wash Post has now apologized for the review (scroll down to see the editor's note at the bottom of this

And here's an Irving


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, August 5, 2005
A New Yorker piece by Adam Kirsch on Theodore Roethke and James Wright begins with the two poets watching a boxing match:

Neither Roethke, the son of a greenhouse owner from Saginaw, Michigan, nor Wright, the son of a factory worker from Martins Ferry, Ohio,
regarded a prizefight as an incongruous setting for poets. On the contrary, they imported the vocabulary of boxing—its swagger and its
feuds—into their discussions of the poetry world. “Allen Tate,” Wright assured Roethke, “certainly seems to think you’re the Heavyweight
Champion of contemporary American poetry.” This must have delighted the older poet, who approached his rivals in a fighting crouch:
“Those limp-pricks,” he bragged, “I can write rings around any of them.” And, in a letter to James Dickey, Wright insisted that without “the
high joy which is all that matters . . . poetry is considerably less interesting than boxing.”

Memento Mori for today:
The great Welsh actor Richard Burton
died on this day in 1984, shortly before his final film, "1984," was to open.  Burton is such a
favorite of mine, although my favorite performances of his are vocal.  His
recordings of Donne's poetry and of Hardy's, his Coriolanus
for Caedmon are spectacularly moving.  And another favorite actor of mine, Alec Guinness
died on this day in 2000.    


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, August 4, 2005
I thought this was an amusing portrait of poet August Kleinzahler (a poet's name if ever there was one).  I'm not thrilled with his poetry
(not bad, just not my kind of thing), but I think I like Kleinzahler himself:

"I don't like to call myself a poet," Mr. Kleinzahler said with characteristic bluntness. "Most poets are shiftless, no-account fools."

And of course, anyone who calls a hot dog a "beautiful thing," is alright in my book.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Here's a piece on the phrase changed the world, increasingly ubiquitous in non-fiction subtitles, such as Cod: A Biography of the
Fish That Changed the World
, The Girls of Summer: The US Women's Soccer Team and How it Changed the World, and my
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World:

''It's been going on for a while now, probably for about 10 years," says Adam Begley, books editor of The New York Observer. ''It's now
established that if you have something nobody has ever noticed before, you're bound to get a book contract if you say it changed the world."   

I'm still waiting for Scooby Doo and Jabberjaw: A Social History
of How Animated Animal Detectives Changed the World
Now that would be more believable than

More fun.  The 2005 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction
Contest.  Bulwer-Lytton, for those who don't know, was
the very prolific Victorian writer who, unfortunately, began
one of his novels with the now classic line, "It was a dark
and stormy night . . ."  I especially like this winner in the
"Vile Puns" category:

Falcon was her name and she was quite the bird of prey, sashaying past her adolescent admirers from one anchor store to another, past the
kiosks where earrings longed to lie upon her lobes and sunglasses hoped to nestle on her nose, seemingly the beginning of a beautiful
friendship with whomsoever caught the eye of the mall tease, Falcon.

and this winner of the "Dark and Stormy Night" category:

It was a dark and stormy night, although technically it wasn't black or anything -- more of a gravy color like the spine of the 1969 Scribner's
Sons edition of "A Farewell to Arms," and, truth be told, the storm didn't sound any more fierce than the opening to Leon Russell's 1975
classic, "Back to the Island."


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Tuesday, August 2, 2005
David Yezzi, whose piece on formalist poetry (a redundancy) I liked, writes about Anthony Hecht and his use of landscape.  He
quotes Hecht:

"You are perfectly right to see arid and defeated landscapes cropping up in a good number of my poems, as is the case with certain
winter scenes of Breughel. They were for me a means to express a desolation of the soul. There are such scenes in Hardy.”

Here's the TLS review of the new Harry Potter book, but check out the NB item at the end of it about an early 20th century Scots
poet named Harry Potter.  

Memento Mori for today:
On Aug 2, 1876, J.B. "Wild Bill" Hickok was shot in the back of the head by town drunk Jack McCall while playing poker.  Hickok
was supposedly holding black Aces and black Eights at the time, forever after known as the Dead Man's Hand.  Hickok was not, of
course, a writer, but his last letter to his wife, written the day before he was shot is not only prophetic, but surprisingly poetic for a

Agnes Darling
If such should be we never meet again, while
firing my last shot, I will gently breathe the name
of my wife-Agnes-and with wishes even for my
enemies I will make the plunge and try to swim to
the other shore.  

I note this date because I just finished reading
Pete Dexter's
Deadwood, a novel that begins
with the arrival of Wild Bill and friend, Colorado
Charley Utter.  It's a beautiful book about pain
and grim fatality and how to survive when one
realizes there can be no redemption for all the
bad things you've done or even just seen except
to find someone else, another "mending heart," to
keep you company.

Hickok, "Texas Jack" Omohundro, Buffalo Bill Cody

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Monday, August 1, 2005
A piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Bro. Daniel Burke and the La Salle University Art Museum.  I am a La Salle alum and have
fond memories of not only Bro Dan, but also the art collection.  I fell in love in that museum, though the girl was a painting, Louisa,
Countess of Sandwich, painted as a representation of
Hope by Thomas Lawrence.  I spent long hours gazing into her eyes.

An interesting review from Alberto Manguel on Kensington Gardens, a new novel that channels the spirit of J.M. Barrie:

Fortunately, Fresán has not set out merely to chronicle, under the cloak of fiction, Barrie's intriguing life. Instead, Barrie is the mirror, the
doppelgänger of Fresán's protagonist, a successful children's author (obviously called Peter Hook), creator of the boy time-traveller Jim Yang.
"I'm Barrie's remote but exemplary revenge," says Hook. "Barrie, who suffered so much for us, who died for our sins, and whose only and
unpardonable crime was having written an infectious creature carrying an incurable disease." And he adds: "I was infected; and, terminally ill,
I consecrated myself to the virus - literature -whose mission, hardly secret at all, is to kill reality and annihilate childhood, supplanting and
improving both as much as possible until they've become immortal stories that will never grow old."


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