The Bibliothecary
February 12 - 28, 2006
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The Bibliothecary

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
I missed this piece by Ian Jack in the Guardian a couple weeks ago, on JM Barrie's smoking novel, My Lady Nicotine.  This
is a wonderful little novel.  Well, perhaps only for those who love smoking.  You can find
Chapter 13 here and various
chapters here in an unfinished project publishing the entire book online.

Jack followed up this past weekend with
another smoker's remembrance, his own.  But he also mentions a little known
book, Italo Svevo's
Confessions of Zeno, as the only other work (besides Barrie's Lady Nicotine) to take up smoking as
its central theme.  I have not yet come across any others.  But there are few contenders for novels in which smoking is a
central to the action.  F. Marion Crawford's
A Cigarette Maker's Romance has as its first line, "The inner room of a
tobacconist's shop is not perhaps the spot which a writer of fiction would naturally choose as the theatre of his play."  And
many book lovers already adore Christopher Morley's
The Haunted Bookshop, but pipe lovers hold the novel in even
higher esteem as being one of the smokingest novels ever written.  One day I'm going to write an essay on smoking in the
novels of Henry Fielding.  In Fielding's world if you smoke a pipe you are wise and benevolent.   And Jerome K Jerome
always has his characters puffing away at pipes, but his greatest tribute to pipe smokers is his
dedication in Idle Thoughts of
an Idle Fellow
(I'm certain this book was written for me).

Of course there is the master smoker of them all, Sherlock Holmes, and to this day I can not even fathom reading a Holmes
story without a pipe in my teeth (then again, I'm not sure I read anything without a pipe).  And it's worth noting that Holmes
didn't just
smoke pipes.  There are 55 references to
pipes in the canon.  He smokes a pipe in 35
of the 60 tales.  But he also smokes cigars in
9 stories and cigarettes in 10 stories.  Holmes
is indeed a man after my own heart (or would
that be, lung).

I've been collecting poetry about smoking for
some time and I'll make another post about it
soon.  And remember, The Bibliothecary blog
is best enjoyed while smoking.

And some reading links for you non-smokers
out there:

Remembering Samuel Beckett at the Guardian:

After the show he came to the dressing room. And there was this very frightening man; his appearance was extraordinary. It gave
me a frisson: the recession of the eyes, and the lightness of them, a piercing blue. And I thought of him as a giant bird, a giant
crow. Then suddenly his face changed totally. There was a beautiful smile and he just said, 'Bloody marvellous!' And he held me.
But he disliked the production.

And in the midst of all the hoopla concerning what Shakespeare may have really looked like, it's comforting to know that
New Criticism is still alive and well: "what matters is the text - the song not the singer."

Novelist Frederick Busch has died.  I loved his portrait of a lonely, half-mad Herman Melville in The Night Inspector.

And The Night Stalker has
bitten the dust as well.  

But most sad of all, Don Knotts
won't be pulling any more faces.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, February 27, 2006
The Philip K. Dick android goes missing.  Yes, there is a PKD android.  I heard about this robot in a radio piece
(unfortunately no longer available for listening) on Dick a few weeks ago which noted how some people would become so
absorbed in conversation with it that they seemed to forget it wasn't real.  Or was it real?  What is reality?  Reality is when
someone steals your android.

Thomas Lynch writes a compelling review of Death's Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve by Sandra M.

"Sex and the dead," William Butler Yeats wrote to Olivia Shakespear nearly 80 years ago, are the only two topics that "can be of the
least interest to a serious and studious mind."

I love books about explorations of mythical lands.  There's a new one by Joanna Kavenna called The Ice Museum: In
Search of the Lost Land of Thule
reviewed in the NY Times:

Thule, real or not, is ripe and beguiling material for a literary and geographic adventurer, and Kavenna is formidable on both fronts.
She was fascinated by Arctic exploration and enticed by artistic allusions to Thule from an early age. Virgil had called the northern
country ultima Thule, and it became a metaphor for extremity. Charlotte Brontë conjured Thule as one of those "forlorn regions of
dreary space." Edgar Allan Poe called it "a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime / out of space . . . out of time!" Christopher
Columbus claimed to have reached it before sailing to America; the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, long obsessed with the idea
of Thule, tried to drift his ship, Fram, across the North Pole and failed in 1893.

And James Fenton writes about pirates two weeks in a row.  Woo-hoo!  First, on A General History of the Robberies
and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates
by Captain Charles Johnson.  It's curious that Fenton makes no mention of
Daniel Defoe who was long thought to be the author of this book, but I think the attribution question has returned to an actual
Captain Johnson.  How can one resist pirate facts like this:

One expects pirate literature to be full of fantasy. Instead it turns out to be rich in curious facts. Exquemelin tells us that the sweet
and delicious green fat of the green turtle is so penetrating that "when you have eaten nothing but turtle flesh for three or four
weeks, your shirt becomes so greasy from sweat you can squeeze the oil out and your limbs are weighed down with it".

And second, on The Memoirs of a Buccaneer by Louis le Golif, in which we learn,

He tells us that "this Kulescher was the hairiest man that I have ever been near in my life, a filthy person who stank worse than a
dung-soiled ass. And when I say near him, I do not speak figuratively, since I had to submit to the habits and customs of these
men, who have no women at all within their reach." In other words, Le Golif was Kulescher's sex slave.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, February 26, 2006
I read Shakespeare's Coriolanus last week and was impressed by how much I still like the play.  I also listened to the old
Caedmon recording with Richard Burton in the title role.  
Burton spits out his curses on the plebeians with such fervor and
conviction, I want to take his side.  Imagine the rich Burton resonance as he intones:

What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,   
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,   
Make yourselves scabs?

And his is a seductive position to take: the iron military leader, who refuses to placate convention by kissing the proverbial
ass of the public.  Politics hasn't really changed.  Politicians still aren't really allowed to speak the truth.  And it seems to be
getting worse as I get older.  Just one half-warmed cliché after another (and that is from political leaders that I like).  I almost
wish for a Coriolanus to shake things up (and no, John McCain is no Coriolanus).  I'm not sure anyone can really give
inspirational speeches anymore.  Too much risk.  Too much media attention.  But I also notice how in the play Coriolanus
uses invective to inspire arrogance and condescension.  While other characters refer to a kind of "body politic," the people as
some part of the political makeup of the state, the prideful general consistently refers to them as only voices, disparate and
monstrous.  He never posits the people as part of any system of power.  And in this play, the plebeians aren't very
trustworthy anyway.  That also hasn't changed very much.

My movie watching is still falling behind.  Now I'm eleven movies short for the year.  It will be tough to catch up.  The best of
the week were the Shakespeare series and "
The Abominable Dr. Phibes."

Readers' Comments
MPH weighs in on my disparagement of Stephen King's prosaic prowess:
Stephen King = dreck? I must protest. While he's written his share of junk, I like ol' Steve. I find him refreshing after plowing
through more difficult writers like José Saramago or Virginia ("My God, This Sentence Does Go On Forever, Doesn't It
Love, But I Bought Flowers Today, And They Smelled Good, Like My Mother's Perfume On The Morning She Wed, That
Wet, Dripping Morning When The Horses Ran Out Of Hay, Yes!, And Father Forgot His Raincoat") Woolf (both of whom
I love).
King is a workhorse writer who knows his limitations (artistically) and so focuses on STORY. When he gets it right, I'm up
all night. (Hey, I rhymed.)
Genre writers often get a bad name - although I wish I was a genre writer. Dennis Lehane is pretty good too (mystery
genre), and Clive Barker's books can be quite scary. How those fantasy writers churn out massive chunks of novels every
year, I'll never know. Yeah, yeah: quantity versus quality, but hell, Joyce Carol Oates drops a volume a year at least. (She
could be a considered a genre writer too - gothic, perhaps - but she's too adored by the self-appointed bastions of literary
good taste to give King a run for the real dough.)

Michael, I love genre fiction.  I've been plowing through the crime fiction of Ken Bruen lately.  But he's a
great writer.  I'd
match his prose with the high-brow crowd anytime.  I also like Robert E. Howard whose writing isn't great, sometimes it's
just plain bad, but I still like him.  I don't feel the need to apologize (or defend) bad writing.  If it's not good, but enjoyable,
then just admit it.  I've never read any King that wasn't bad.  But his storytelling also hasn't drawn me in.  His style is so
wooden.  Michener writes more exciting prose than King.  Your argument for him being refreshing sounds like he's easy,
unchallenging.  Is that the only attraction he can muster?  Yes,


Saturday, February 25, 2006
At Seven Roads, Thomas Carlyle's list of must reads.  Chaucer makes it onto the back page along with some advice:

Chaucer (& make the young ones learn to read him) is excellt.

I love that.  My children will thank him.

By the way, I only recently discovered the Seven Roads blog and am having great fun going through the archives.  Especially,
check out the
Gallery of Book Trade Labels.  I love Levinson's, The Book Store.  I have that in one of my old books.  I also
like this
Scandinavian one.

And a little non-literary link for today: a video on one of the great foods of the Philadelphia area, scrapple.  My mouth is
watering just writing that word!

Readers' Comments
The Joyful Alternative responds to Wednesday's post about those peculiar reviews of the common (small c) reader with this
link to Jon Swift's very funny Amazon reviews of books he has not actually read.

Thanks, Joyful. I like these.

Dan responded to the reviews, as well:
Great reviews! How fun. I always read them on Amazon to see what people have said about my favorites. Of course now, I
have no need to read many of the classics because I can go to
book a minute and just read a few lines instead.  

My favorites are:

St. Augustine
I was a bad boy. Damn, was I a bad boy. Not anymore, though.

Dante's Inferno
Some woman puts Dante through Hell.

Bartleby, do what I tell you.
I would prefer not to.
(Humanity is DOOMED.)
The End

The Collected works of Stephen King
It was a nice day...........................AND THEN EVIL CAME!

Dan, thanks.  One line abridgements of Stephen King are always useful.  Saves people a lot of time reading his dreck.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, February 24, 2006
I'm sure this is too good to be true, but what if this really it was?  

Is a death mask found in a ragpicker's shop in 1842 that of William Shakespeare? This coming Saturday's issue of the British
weekly New Scientist says the mask, bearing the date 1616 and the high forehead, prominent nose and beard associated with
Shakespeare, could be.

The scholar (?) behind all this, Prof. Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel (a name surely invented by Dickens for a ridiculous
professorial character)  Prof HHH has also determined that
Shakes had lymph cancer and the lump on the death mask
proves it.  I get the feeling that some scholars could care less about reading Shakespeare's work.  Perhaps they should do
something useful, like decipher erased marginalia in books once owned by 19th century American authors (see Feb 14 post).

And the great grandson of Charles Dickens, Cedric Dickens, has died at the age of eighty-nine.  I own his book, Drinking
with Dickens
, which includes recipes of the potations drunk in the novels of his great grandfather, but is more entertaining as
the memoirs of Cedric's drinking adventures.  Perhaps
I'll pull it out tonight and down a Shandygaff or
Dog's Nose in his honour.  Here's Cedric on
Guinness, civilization's real gift from the Irish:

Porter to me means Guinness and my memories go
back to the time when pubs in Ireland received their
Guinness in barrels.  To pour it out of the wood to
appreciative Irishmen?  Certainly not.  It was so that
the landlord could pour it into bottles and put real
corks into them – what fun to pull them out again!  
This habit has been stopped, the more the luck for
me because I managed to acquire an old corking
machine – an incredible contraption and a genuine
antique . . . I only wish I had it when I imported a
barrel of wine from France.

Cedric then goes on to recount his time at the
Guinness and oyster festival in Galway when the
landlady opened his bedroom door while he was
still "in my altogether."  He adds a disclaimer to the
drink, Black Velvet, half-champagne/half-Guinness:
"To me Guinness should be drunk in Ireland in its
natural state – unadulterated, even by champagne."  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, February 23, 2006
Why Ted Kooser is a waste of time:  he tutors greeting card versifiers.  You know, people who write the crap they put in
Hallmark Cards.  Can't America even have a poet laureate who is not a dolt?

Geoffrey Chaucer, blogger, sticks it to John Gower:

Oh by Seinte Loy if Johannes Gower ys not a bugge in my butte. He ys always up on my aboute my drynkynge. Moral Gowere,
indeede. Y have halfe a minde to telle kynge Richarde all of the nastie thinges that Gowere saith aboute hym in the confessio amantis.

And also provides us with some Middle English text messaging abbreviations (for scribes a little short on parchment):

BATJG: biggere arsehole thanne john gowere

BSL!: by seinte loy!

OTPBRB: Offe to parliamente, be ryghte back

KRBMA: Kynge Richarde II buggynge me againe

AOMSHJDOTBD: anothere of myne servauntes hath just dyede of the blacke death

Tired of rereading Dylan Thomas.  Dai Smith gives a Top 10 Welsh Alternatives.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I just finished watching "Will Shakespeare" with Tim Curry (see Saturday's post about this discovery) and was not
disappointed with the production.  Iin the early going a few of the scenes smacked a little of the Renaissance Faire type
(Huzzah, my dear vagabond companions!), but overall, the writing was quite good and Curry played the Bard well.  I
especially liked how the Shakes' acting company was fleshed out.  An I was delighted to see Will Kempe leave the players in
a huff to go on his Nine Days Wonder Morris dance across the countryside (see my post of Mon Feb 13).

The discovery of the Shakes series also led me to discover this British Film Institute website, but it was the history of British
television that had me salivating with desire (and despair).  If only American television could be as good.  Some shows I'd kill
to see:
Adam Adamant Lives!, Callan, The Guardians.  There are ghost stories, Robert Shaw playing pirate, and 26 half-
hour episodes of
Sir Francis Drake.  I know, I know, the grass is always greener.  American TV has its Homicide and
Sopranos, Simpsons and Honeymooners, Law and Order and Twilight Zone.  But I'd trade the A-Team and the Dukes of
Hazzard in a heartbeat for a little more literary adaptations.  And pirates!

There is also this good BFI site on David Lean.  

And for your reading enjoyment, Matthew Baldwin has collected some peculiar Amazon reviews of some classic books
(thanks to
MPH for this link).  Too many funny ones to list here, but I did love:

The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
Author: John Steinbeck

“While the story did have a great moral to go along with it, it was about dirt! Dirt and migrating. Dirt and migrating and more

Lord of the Flies (1955)
Author: William Golding

“I am obsessed with Survivor, so I thought it would be fun. WRONG!!! It is incredibly boring and disgusting. I was very
much disturbed when I found young children killing each other. I think that anyone with a conscience would agree with me.”

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
Author: Harper Lee

“I don’t see why this book is so fabulous. I would give it a zero. I find no point in writing a book about segregation, there’s
no way of making it into an enjoyable book. And yes I am totally against segregation.”

Ah, the Common Reader!

Readers' Comments
In which Dan does not resist my Sunday link to Ray Davies (and Ian McShane as Marlowe):
Ed, You know I'm not gonna sit this one out. I have Mr. Davies new solo disc on order and to be shipped to my remote
location. I will certainly send our readers the review when I have had a chance to soak it in. But for now I'll give you my
review so far of Mr. Davies and the work he and his brother have done over the last 40 some odd years. The Kinks are the
greatest band and most under-rated band of all time. Ray is the greatest songwriter of the last two generations. 'Nuff said.
Even our friend Lovejoy would have to agree. Man...and how great was Lovejoy!?!?  

Dan, 'Nuff said.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, February 19, 2006
A Bibliothecary musical interlude:
"America is a place that made me want to pick up my guitar."
Ray Davies, who has a rare solo album out on Tuesday, is
profiled in the NY Times.  And how rare is it for a rock star to
diminish his new work:

"This album is a work in progress that was halted by what happened to me," he said. "It will be good to get back because this is an
ongoing project. I'm not finished yet."
Comments (C'mon, Dan, I know you'll have to comment on this.  And I expect a review on your blog when you get the new album.)

A review of  Stephen Wright's new book The Amalgamation Polka, sounds great:

The novel's hero, Liberty Fish, is himself an amalgamation, the son of a Northern father and a mother, Roxana, whose fervent
abolitionism has exiled her from her family's South Carolina plantation. Liberty is raised in upstate New York, where his parents run
a station on the Underground Railroad. He enlists in the Union Army when the war breaks out and eventually makes his way to his
mother's childhood home with the vague intention of confronting the people who have caused her so much pain.

You might guess — especially as Liberty follows the Stono River to the old manse where his demented grandfather attempts to
achieve, by a variety of horrid experiments, "the transformation of black into white" — that "The Amalgamation Polka" is patterned
after Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a better bet. Most of the people Liberty meets (and not
just in the South) are what the Cheshire Cat would call "mad," from a shaggy hermit who lives in a well-appointed hole in the
ground and claims former citizenship in the legendary pirate republic of Libertalia to the Georgia farmer who secedes from the
Confederacy by reclaiming his little plot of land in the name of the Union.

An interesting essay on why there is no great Hockey Literature reveals that Don DeLillo once wrote a hockey novel,
Amazons, under a pseudonym:

Published in 1980, "Amazons" purports to be "An Intimate Memoir of the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey
League," by the New York Rangers center Cleo Birdwell. But of course there has never yet been a woman player in the N.H.L., and
certainly not one named Cleo Birdwell. While DeLillo has never allowed the novel to be reprinted or even formally acknowledged
writing it, his authorship is no secret, nor would it have remained one if he had tried. The book features the sportswriter Murray Jay
Siskind, who resurfaces as a cultural critic in "White Noise," and the writing is unmistakably DeLillo's.

My movie watching was seriously curtailed this week – long trips to the library, taking care of children knocked down by a
stomach virus, celebrating my wedding anniversary at the local rockabilly bar where we were engaged, watching Olympic
hockey (Damn those Slovakians!) – but I did come across a stellar find.  I had long wondered why there were no
dramatizations of Shakespeare's life, especially from the BBC.  So many great historical series – "Elizabeth R", "Six Wives of
Henry VIII" – even Boudica got a movie (although I thought it was dreadful), why no Great Shakes?  I was wrong.  There
was a
six-hour mini-series in 1978, "Will Shakespeare," written by John Mortimer.  And the Bard was played by none other
than Tim Curry.  The series was released on video in 1998.  I found it at my
university library and I've watched the first two hours.  
Curry is very good.  It is easy to forget that the young
Tim Curry was quite good, impassioned and feral, unlike
his campy and ridiculous (though still good) performances
of late.  The series is an imaginative telling of what
have been Shakespeare's life, using one play in each episode as thematic fodder for biographical details.  The first part
focuses on Shakespeare's "apprenticeship" under Kit Marlowe, as the new kid learns the ropes of playmaking.  A bonus:  
Ian McShane of Lovejoy fame plays Kit Marlowe, as a drunk Byronic hero – mad, bad and dangerous to know.  I'm hoping
the rest of the series is as good.  


Saturday, February 18, 2006
Here's a good site featuring graphic adaptations of Beowulf.  The flash intro is pretty cool, too.

More from the Bridwell Library: Western Manuscripts (I love the detail in No 6 with St Jerome ambidextrously working on
his manuscript) and
The Oxyrhynchus papyri.

And I really enjoyed this extract by Adam Phillips for the new Freud Reader (makes me want to go out and buy it),
especially this:

Contributing to a questionnaire on reading in 1907, Freud was asked simply to name, without explanation, 10 good books. As a man
with a passion for riddles, a man for whom living a life was always a matter of reading the signs, this simple enough request
puzzled him. You did not ask, he tells the editors, for "the 10 most magnificent works (of world literature)", in which case he would
have named Homer, the tragedies of Sophocles, Goethe's Faust, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Macbeth "etc"; the etc referring,
presumably, to all the other great books in a certain European canon of the highest literary art. Nor did they ask for the "10 most
significant books". If they had, Freud would have named what he calls the "scientific achievements" of Copernicus, Darwin and the
rather more obscure Johann Weir ("on the belief in witches") among others. Finally, if they had asked him for his "favourite books",
he would certainly have mentioned Milton's Paradise Lost and Heine's Lazarus. For Freud it is the "good" book that he finds the
most difficult to define, as though it is the simple adjective that asks the most of us, the ordinary words that read like riddles.

Good books, Freud suggests, must be like good friends, "to whom one owes a part of one's knowledge of life and view of the
world - books which one has enjoyed oneself and gladly commends to others, but in connection with which the element of timid
reverence, the feeling of one's own smallness in the face of greatness, is not particularly prominent".

I'd have a hard time separating my good books from my favorites.  I tend to be so in love with my favorites that I think they
are all good.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, February 17, 2006
I've often wondered, if I had been born 400 years earlier, and if my soul were to replace someone, and if I were an Anglican
churchman, who would I be?  I'm sure this is a question that has bedeviled you as well.  Fortunately, I know have my
answer.  I dropped by
The Midnight Bell blog the other day and found a link to a quiz that answers the question: Which 17th
Century Anglican Churchman are you?  Like the Midnight Bell, I, too, am Jeremy Talyor.  As the Highlander says, "There
can be only one."  So watch out.

The results say that 39% of those taking the quiz got the the
Jeremy Taylor result.  But how many of them own a book of
Taylor's writings.  Just a few months ago, I found a nice Oxford edition,
The Golden Grove-- selected passages from the
sermons and writings of Jeremy Taylor
(1930), edited by Logan Pearsall Smith (a grand, professorial name).  The dust
jacket is tattered and price clipped, but intact.  Turns out that Taylor is a fine writer and while I don't think I'd agree with him
when he wrote, “Faith is the golden chain to link the penitent sinner unto God,” I am rather fond of anyone who writes,
“Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots.”  And I'll leave this quote to your own interpretation, "He that loves not
his wife and children feeds a lioness at home, and broods a nest of sorrows."  Now I'll have to read my Taylor.  Now which
17th Century Anglican Churchman are you?  Come on.  I know you want to know.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I know I said I wouldn't post today, and I usually don't go in for the "breaking news" kind of lit posts, but I just came across
this item on
Books, Inq and I had to share it.  Seems there is a rumor (or rumour, as it's in Britain) that a new novel by a first-
time author was acutally
written by JD Salinger.  The novel is entitled The Dream of the Decade - The London Novels by
former CNN journalist Afshin Rattansi.  Perhaps this is just a bogus rumor to help sales.  I'll have to do some checking.  
Anyone out there heard about this?

And Valentine's Day was a bust at the Bibliothecary Homestead.  I was knocked out by a stomach virus that has been
circulating among my children.  Nothing like a day of throwing up on your anniversary.  We'll have to make do this weekend.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
As it is St Valentine's Day, today's post will be all about love, the love of books, that is.

There's an
article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed on how new technologies are reshaping Melville studies.  Especially coveted
are the marginalia Melville wrote in books.  One book he read in preparation to writing
Moby-Dick (the greatest novel of all-
time, so says me) was Thomas Beale's
The Natural History of the Sperm Whale.  Unfortunately a future owner of this
book erased all of Melville's notes.  Enter: technology to the rescue.  I'm thinking they probably used some kind of infra-red
light or x-rays to decipher what had been erased.  But here's what happened:  

It was in 1998 that he realized that at least some of Melville's markings were recoverable. To make them out, he first tried a highly
sophisticated technique: squinting. Once he realized he could in fact decipher some of the characters, he used a combination of
techniques to recover what he could. He subjected the erasures to different degrees of light and shadow, read with a high-powered
magnifying glass, took digital photos that he could enlarge on his laptop computer, and did word searches in the text of Moby-Dick
to confirm guesses about what a word or phrase might be.
"The moments of lightning striking were very few," Mr. Olsen-Smith says. "Recovery took a long time. It was letter by letter,
sometimes parts of letters." He has only recently completed the process. Not every mark could be deciphered, but he says he is
confident that he has recovered all that it was possible to recover.

That's right, squinting.  Who'da thought?  But seriously, I love scholars.  That's my kind of job.  Maybe not as great as John
Overholt's job (see Sunday's post), but I would gladly spend hours a day staring at erased marginalia, piecing together the
puzzle of notes that led to the creation of
Moby-Dick (repeat after me, the greatest novel of all-time).  Am I nuts?

Here's a link to Melville's Marginalia Online.  I'll be exploring this site in the days to come.  And I won't even have to squint.  

And while I'm on Moby-Dick (the greatest . . . well, you know), you can read online another book Melville used as a
source, Reverend Henry Cheever's
The Whale and his Captors.  I came across this link in Paul Collins' Weekend Stubble
blog.  Collins also spoke about Cheever on NPR a couple months back.  I really like this Collins guy.  NPR calls him their
Literary Detective.

Readers' Comments
John Overholt responded to my link on Sunday to his Samuel Johnson Catablog:
Ed-- Thanks for the very nice mention of the Hyde Catablog on your site.  I like to think that hard work did play some role
in getting the job, but you're right that I'm very lucky to have it; it's a spectacular collection. Stop by in 2009 (if not sooner);
we're hoping to do an exhibit for Johnson's 300th birthday. And just so you know, I'm going to try to pick up the pace on
the postings. I started the blog as something of an experiment, but response has been very positive, so I'm going to try to
spend more time on it.

John, I am overjoyed that you will try to post more often, but be careful.  Blogs have a way of taking over your life.  
Incidentally, I noticed that among the books and manuscripts of the Hyde Johnson collection is also Johnson's silver teapot.  
I have a copy of the sale catalogue of the collection of
A. Edward Newton, a rare book collector and writer (and
Philadelphian).  Newton's bookplate features a scene from Boswell's
Life of Johnson.  Page 18 of the auction catalogue lists:
                                                                         Samuel Johnson
                                      The great lexicographer's "Dictionary" (1755) in original boards.
                                                                       And his silver teapot.

                                          George III silver teapot by Parker and Wakelm, ca. 1765. By repute, it belonged to Dr. Johnson.
                                                                   Photograph courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard College Library;
                                                                                   ©President and Fellows of Harvard College

I'm pretty sure Newton wrote about his acquisition of the teapot in one of his wonderful books on book collecting.  I wonder
if the Hydes bought it at the Newton auction?  I also wonder how many owners this teapot has had?  I found a couple
articles on the Newton auction (
accessible from this page), but they make no mention of the teapot.

There probably won't be a post for tomorrow as today is not only Valentine's Day, but also my wedding anniversary.  
Hopefully my wife will keep me occupied.  Or the kids will.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, February 13, 2006
I just read that Anthony Hopkins is set to play Ernest Hemingway in a film called "Papa."  The IMDB gives this plot outline:

Set in Havana in 1959, it's the story of a young journalist searching for a father and family against the backdrop of the Cuban
revolution, and how he finds his own "papa" in the drunken, gun-toting Hemingway.

Hopkins has been playing such reserved, introspective characters for years now, it would be good to see him let loose.  
True, he was Hannibal Lecter, but he was such a civilized serial killer.  And there was that movie where he turned into an
ape.  But Hopkins needs to let loose, like he did in the old days when he was an angry, drunk Shakespearean.  Hope he
plays Hemingway like a boisterous, raging at the heavens King Lear.

But I am more excited about two films to start shooting soon:
"The Death and Life of Miguel De Cervantes" and "Miguel and William," the latter about a meeting between Shakespeare
and Cervantes.  In a bit of inspired casting, the actor slated to play Shakes is named Will Kemp.  William Kempe was a
great Elizabethan, comic actor and star of Shakespeare's early plays.  Kempe is even linked to Shakespeare in the

1595-3-15: Royal record. An entry in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber reads: "To William Kempe, William Shakespeare
and Richard Burbage, servaunts to the Lord Chamberleyne, upon the Councille's warrant dated at Whitehall XVth Marcij 1594, for
two severall comedies or enterludes shewed by them before her majestie in Christmas tyme laste part viz St. Stephen's daye and
Innocents daye..." (Public Record Office, Pipe Office, Declared Accounts No. 542, f. 207b).

In 1599 Kempe Morris-danced his way from London to Norwich (over 100 miles).  The trip took him nine days and he
wrote a book detailing the adventure,
Kemp's Nine Day's Wonder.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, February 12, 2006
For those of you wondering, "Who is this Prosit, Ed" (I've actually received email addressing me as Ed Prosit, which I kinda
like) and because readership of The Bibliothecary blog has increased so dramatically since its return (thanks to all who
provide links to my site), I've now added a
brief bio about myself.  I'll add a photo as soon as I can find someone with a
digital camera.  

A new weekly feature on the Bibliothecary blog:  I came up with a plan this year to watch 365 movies, one for every day.  
I've kept pretty close to schedule until this week, so I have a little catching up to do.  So far, I've watched 36 movies in 42
days. Most of the films I tape on the Turner Classic Movie channel.  My life would be bereft without it.  You can follow
progress here.  I'll update the page weekly.    

Famed modernist Le Corbusier needed a special binding for his favorite book, Don Quixote.  Hmmm . . . how about using
the hide of my dead pet dog?  
Pictures here. (via Weekend Stubble)

I just discovered this blog by John Overholt, whose job is to catalog every book in the Hyde Collection of Dr Samuel
Johnson.  The
collection was donated to Harvard in 2004 and Overholt has been keeping a blog about curious findings and
random thoughts since May 2005.  Overholt has the greatest job every given to mortal man.  Better than the taste tester at
the Guinness brewery.  Better than Santa Claus.  Lou Gerhig felt like the luckiest man on the face of the Earth?  Overholt is
the luckiest man on Earth.  Well, he probably worked pretty hard to get this position, but all the same, to get to handle every
book in this collection (more than 4000 books) most of which are about The Great Cham of Literature.  I am sooo envious.  
My only caveat is that he only posts a couple days a month.  Didn't take me long to blow through the archive.   

For your reading enjoyment today:

Seamus Heaney
on William Wordsworth.

Robert Pinsky gives us
a little Andrew Marvell.

And David Crystal,
according to his reviewer, argues for a little more pedantry.  Ahh, a man after my own heart.

For your listening pleasure:

Geoffrey Chaucer is
profiled on Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time.  Woo-hoo!  I live for radio lit programs, especially when they
are as good as Bragg's.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.