The Bibliothecary
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April 2006
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Friday, April 28, 2006
You could listen to John Betjeman read his verse the old-fashioned way or you could revel in his fat funkiness:

England's DJs, however, are saluting a less familiar side of the former poet laureate. Recently, rare Betjeman vinyl LPs have been
selling on auction site eBay - categorised as "funk/soul/R&B" and recommended for their "dope bass action", "exotic grooviness"
and "fat, funky basslines". The time, it seems, has come to boogie with Betjeman.
In 1974, at the age of 67, Betjeman launched an extraordinary new recording career. He released the album Banana Blush on the
Charisma label - then best known for Genesis and other prog-rock travellers such as Van der Graaf Generator. Banana Blush was
followed by three similar albums, with the poet reading his works over a musical backing that includes tea-dance jazz, brass bands,
rock guitar and, yes, the occasional fat and funky bassline.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, April 27, 2006
From Paul Collins, another strange book find, this one a "speech pathology novel" that tells the story of a 1939 stuttering
study:

Halvorson had long heard mutterings about the University of Iowa's "Monster Study," a 1939 project that disrupted speech in
orphanage children by misleading them into believing that they were stutterers. Having seemingly induced stuttering in healthy
children, UI graduate student Mary Tudor subsequently discovered she couldn't undo the damage. Her resulting thesis, overseen by
the respected speech pathologist professor Wendell Johnson, had been hushed up by colleagues concerned with its disturbing
parallels to Nazi experimentation.
Comments

Scholars have discovered a lost Samuel Beckett play:

"In what was surely a conscious decision by Mr. Beckett, the white, uniform, non-ruled pages, which symbolize the starkness and
emptiness of life, were left unbound, unmarked, and untouched," said Trinity College professor of Irish literature Fintan
O'Donoghue. "And, as if to further exemplify the anonymity and facelessness of 20th-century man, they were found, of all places,
between other sheets of paper."
Comments

Dan sent along this link to the perfect reading chair, the bibliochaise. Well, the perfect chair for getting rid of the piles of
books that surround me.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, April 23, 2006
Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince,  
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

In honor of the birth and death
day of Shakespeare (
today),
here's an interesting website
devoted to the study of Hamlet's
first meeting with the ghost of his
father,
Hamlet on the Ramparts.  
You can
watch a clip from the
Forbes-Robertson silent film
adaptation.  I particularly like the
ghost effect here, just a simple,
super-imposed negative, but the
whiteness of the ghost is so stark
that it is creepy. The
Reading
Room is especially well done, too.
You can compare texts,
manuscript images and illustrations
of different parts of the scene.The
Adaptations and Promptbooks
section is great as well.  Check
out the
Hamlet Travestie by
John Poole, 1810.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, April 20, 2006
A piece from the TLS on the evidence for Shakespeare's disappointments at social advancement:

Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing
Had’st thou not plaid some kingly parts in sport
Thou had’st bin a companion for a King,
And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
Some other raile, but, raile as they thinke fit,
Thou hast no railing, but, a raigning Wit:
And honesty thou sow’st, which they do reape;
So, to increase their Stocke which they do keepe.
Comments

James Morrow, author of the new The Last Witchfinder (see my Apr 4 post), gives his top ten list of books about witch
persecutions.  I was all excited to devour Morrow's novel, but I got sidetracked once again into reading a few more crime
novels.  Hopefully, I'll get to
Witchfinder in May.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I'm watching the Zeffirelli "Hamlet" with my wife and kids (you know, they're never too young to get a little Shakespearean
indoctrination) and my three year old, Sophia, says, "Think. Think. Think."  My wife asks, "What are you thinking about?"  
And Sophie says, about the character Hamlet, "When he gets so mad, he can't even believe himself.  That's what I'm thinking
about."  Three years old.  She was aptly named.  Kids can be sharp, huh?  Of course, this is the
Mel Gibson-Hamlet.  
Perfect for kids.  A sweaty Gibson makes a lot of pained faces and it looks sooo significant.  Like, he's really emotional.  My
eleven year old was astounded at what a great actor he is.  And she hasn't even seen "
Mad Max."
Comments

Here's a photo-essay from the Guardian, "Fallout: the human cost of nuclear catastrophe," a collection of photographs of
those affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  If you run your cursor over the each photo, you'll get descriptions of the
subjects.  But I warn you, this is really heartbreaking.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I really enjoyed this piece by Carolyn Nizzi Warmbold on how she read all 79 winners for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  
Number 80 was just announced yesterday.  I'm always setting up reading projects for myself, but I so seldom accomplish
them.  I like how Warmbold just succumbed to just reading the books instead of studying them, a lesson I often need to
learn.  
Comments

The Midnight Bell found a late 17th century plate commemorating William of Orange that bears a suspicious resemblance to
Beavis and Butthead (hit Zoom for maximum effect).
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, April 17, 2006
Sorry for the quiet.  I just haven't felt very bloggy as of late.  

Prosit,
Ed

Thursday, April 13, 2006
A review of a new book on William Blake's sex life.
Comments

Book designer Germano Facetti died last weekend.  Facetti was the genius behind all those great Penguin paperback
covers.  I wonder how many Penguin Classics I've read (and still own) with his design.  The Guardian
writes about him and
provides a
gallery of some of his covers.
Comments

James Fenton on a new edition of Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006
A good essay in Bookforum on Lillian Hellman's posthumous relationship with Dorothy Parker.  I was surprised to learn that
Parker left her entire estate, copyrights and all, to Martin Luther King, Jr,

a man she had never met but admired tremendously. In the event of King's death, it was to go to the NAACP.
When notified of the unexpected bequest, which amounted to around twenty thousand dollars excluding unpaid bills and burial
expenses, King was puzzled. He had no idea who Parker was.

Hellman was not pleased with the turn of events:

"It's one thing to have real feeling for black people, but to have the kind of blind sentimentality about the NAACP, a group so
conservative that even many blacks now don't have any respect for it, is something else. She must have been drunk when she did
it."

But the most surprising revelation is what happened to Dorothy Parker's cremated remains.  Great story.
Comments

And an endlessly fascinating dictionary of slang from 1811.  From the Preface:

The merit of Captain Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue has been long and universally acknowledged. But its circulation was
confined almost exclusively to the lower orders of society: he was not aware, at the time of its compilation, that our young men of
fashion would at no very distant period be as distinguished for the vulgarity of their jargon as the inhabitants of Newgate; and he
therefore conceived it superfluous to incorporate with his work the few examples of fashionable slang that might occur to his
observation.

Some of the entries I love:

PARENTHESIS. To put a man's nose into a parenthesis: to pull it, the fingers and thumb answering the hooks or crochets. A
wooden parenthesis; the pillory. An iron parenthesis; a prison.

PARINGS. The chippings of money. CANT.

QUEEN DICK. To the tune of the life and death of Queen Dick. That happened in the reign of Queen Dick; i.e., never.

RALPH SPOONER. A fool.

BLACK PSALM. To sing the black psalm; to cry: a saying used to children.

CHRISTENING. Erasing the name of the true maker from a stolen watch, and engraving a fictitious one in its place.

ZAD. Crooked like the letter Z. He is a mere zad, or perhaps zed; a description of a very crooked or deformed person.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, April 10, 2006
Stephen Greenblatt's review essay on Kit Marlowe biographies, Elizabethan writers, an East German spy/Shakescholar and
how espionage makes a good playwright.
Comments

Another quiz crafted by Sean from The Midnight Bell.  This one answers the question, "Which Famous Modern American
Poet Are You?"  My result:

You are Wallace Stevens. You love everything, especially the sound of things. Too bad you are so obscure that at times even you
don't understand what the hell you have written.

But I had to cheat on some of the questions because I so rarely write verse.  
Comments

The Library Company of Philadelphia is attempting to reconstruct the library of its founder, Ben Franklin, or at least catalog
the books that made up his personal collection.  I had the pleasure of seeing some of this collection a few years ago and I
actually got to hold one of the books in my hand.  But the thrill of holding a book that Ben had read has eclipsed my memory
of the actual title.
Comments

Melvyn Bragg talks about his list of Twelve Books (see my posts Mar 24 and 28) and addresses the lack of novels in his list:

'These books have made the world a different place, I think in all cases a better place. Now, can you prove that Jane Austen has
made the world a better place? Look what happened in the century after she wrote. Can you prove that Dickens made the world a
better place? What did Auden say in 1938? Poetry changes nothing.'
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, April 9, 2006
A piece from a couple weeks ago on No 84 Plymouth Grove in Manchester, once the home of Victorian novelist Elizabeth
Gaskell:

The house is a historical gem which sparkles with the memory of visits by glittering literary and cultural figures of the day. Charles
Dickens and his wife arrived unexpectedly at 10am one morning in 1852; far too early, as Elizabeth comments. He was already
commissioning her to write for his periodical Household Words, but in her tetchy note do we see their relationship starting to sour?
She later tired of his constant editorial demands, one of which was happier endings to her stories. Dickens once exclaimed to a sub-
editor: "If I were Mr G, oh heaven how I would beat her!"

Advocating domestic abuse?  Sometimes Dickens really warms the cockles of your heart.
Comments

I've posted before on anthropodermic bibliopegy, books bound in human skin.  Seems like you can now just find them lying
around in the road.
Comments

Man, those librarians are getting tough.  First they're battling the Serpent Brotherhood for the Spear of Destiny.  Then they're
taking on the nuns in a take-no-prisoners
spelling bee.  Now they're locking up the patrons:

Patron Receives Jail Sentence for Overdue Books
Brooke Marie Peckman received a one-year jail term after pleading guilty to failing to return $792 worth of overdue items (books,
tapes, and CDs) to the Davis County Library, UT. "This is the first case that has gone this far," library director Pete Giacoma told
the AP, saying that normally the threat of incarceration generally is enough to spur the return of overdue materials. At the time of
Peckman's arrest, the 23-year-old woman didn't have the library goods—Peckman told authorities she had lost all the items—but
was in possession of a controlled substance for which she received an additional sentence of zero to five years.

All they need is their own action figure.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, April 7, 2006
My kind of weather yesterday.  Books were raining down on me all day.  In the morning, I stopped at my former haunt,
Harvest Books, and picked up a slew of books for just a pittance.  Books are so cheap at the
Harvest Thrift Outlet that they
raised their prices and everything in the place is still just two bucks a book (every sixth book free).  My spree contained
mostly noir and crime: James Ellroy's
The Black Dahlia, Cornell Woolrich's Waltz into Darkness, Evan Hunter's The
Blackboard Jungle
, Caleb Carr's The Italian Secretary, and a curious book by Robert Poe, The Black Cat.  Robert
claims to be a descendent of Edgar A. and the novel is about a descendent of Edgar A. solving a crime similar to Poe's short
story, "The Black Cat."  Not very original, but I hope it is fun.  I also found a cool pulp Signet,
007 James Bond: a report
by O.F. Snelling, featuring this great text on the
backcover:

Here it is: the full fantastic lowdown on James Bond
Suave, sardonic bachelor with a penchant for
Turkish cigarettes and dangerous adventure
Expert with fast cars, firearms, and women
British secret agent licensed to kill
An extraordinary exposé
of the life and loves of
Agent Double O Seven

I hadn't realized how much I had in common with
Bond.  We both like Turkish cigarettes.


                                            But the fun doesn't stop there.  The harvest at
                                            Harvest also included a 1st Amer ed of Peter
                                            Ackroyd's
English Music in sparkling
                                            condition.  As I was about to leave I noticed
                                            another pulp pb on the counter,
The Curse of the
                                            Wise Woman
by Lord Dunsany, volume 40 in
                                            
The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult.
                                            What a treasure trove.
                                            
Comments






And the fun didn't stop there.  I had lunch with Philly crime writer Duane Swierczynski who loaned me a couple Ken Bruen
novels I haven't been able to track down in the many libraries I frequent,
Vixen and an advanced reader's copy of Calibre
which isn't due to be published until later this year.  That's so cool, getting a sneak peak at a new Bruen.  
Comments

And the fun still didn't stop.  Duane picked up the lunch tab (a swell guy), so I used my lunch money to buy more books.  I
haven't told the wife about this buy yet, but she'll probably read this blog post.  (Sorry, Kate, I couldn't control myself.)  At
Big Jar Books in Center City Philly I found
The Mystery of the Hansom Cab by Fergus W. Hume, a Dover reprint of a
novel printed in 1886.  The back cover notes that this was the best-selling mystery novel of the nineteenth century, but was
eclipsed by the fame of Sherlock and was soon forgotten.  The Big Jar yield also included a Shirley Jackson omnibus
(stories,
Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle), Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman and a
crime anthology,
Hard-Boiled, featuring a great line-up: Hammett, Cain, Chandler, MacDonald (Ross and John), Himes,
Goodis, Hunter, Thompson and many more.  I also got two Paul Collins books from the library,
The Trouble with Tom and
Sixpence House.  I'm delirious right now.  I may never go to bed.
Comments

Plug for the day: My good friend and Omnigatherum co-editor Dan will be playing music on the radio Saturday night (April
8).  You can listen
live online (no playback options, so you gotta tune in) at 10PM Central Time. That's 11PM for the East
Coast and I'm not going to figure out the times for the rest of you people.  Do the math.  The program is called Cocked in
the Chamber and is heard on the University of Texas-Dallas' radio station.  Dan and friend,
Nick Ippoliti, will play a couple
30 minute sets during the two hour program.  And joy for me, the program is a rap show.  Dan and Nick play a kind of
acoustic rock-bluegrass hybrid, so I'm not sure why they've been booked on a rap show.  But there you have it.  Listen.  It's
good for you.
Comments

May all your book-dreams come true,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Fine Books has a list of the Most Expensive Books, Maps & Autographs sold at auction in 2005.  I'm figuring the
Shakespeare First Folio will top this years list.  Items on the list I would buy if I were as rich as
Croesus: nos. 8, 65,
definitely
68 and 85, 172 and probably a Folio or two.  Of course, after some close investigation, I'd probably pick a couple
maps as well.  One can dream.
Comments

John Overholt tipped me off to a new 50 pence coin in
Jolly Ole England that commemorates Samuel Johnson's
Dictionary.  Language Hat mentioned it also.  Turns out
that it isn't the first
Johnson coin:  
Comments























A book after my own heart.  There just aren't many of us smoking advocates out there, so I'm even happy with irony: The
Easy Way to Start Smoking: A Step-by-Step Guide to Smoking Twenty Cigarettes a Day -- And Loads More in the
Evening
:

                                                    If you've gotten this far, you're ready to start
                                                    chanting some of the slogans from the Kick
                                                    Start PowerPhrase mantra: "I only REALLY
                                                    need one lung," and " I DO enjoy the taste,"
                                                    and "Who needs another 6 minutes anyway?"
                                                    Then it is on to "The Smoker's Pledge," all 12
                                                    steps of it, among them: "I know only that I
                                                    will smoke today, that I will smoke tomorrow
                                                    and do humbly place my destiny into the
                                                    hands of addiction," and, "I promise not to
                                                    bring smoking into disrepute by being seen in
                                                    public smoking and crying at the same time,"
                                                    and, "I will not attempt to teach my dog to
                                                    smoke."


Fire up!
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006
I just picked up James Morrow's new book, The Last Witchfinder.  I heard the author interviewed on Radio Times (you
can
download here) and there were reviews in the NYTimes and Wash Post.  Witchfinder is the fictional story of Jennet
Stearne, of a family of witchfinders, on a mission

collecting evidence, studying the latest scientific treatises and trying to compose an argumentum grande so lucid, so convincing, so
illuminating that it can finally demolish the witchcraft laws that sent more than half a million people to their deaths in Europe. It's no
easy task for a poor young woman alone in the world to take on the age's deepest fears, but she's an extraordinary blend of
curiosity and passion. Morrow drives her through a gauntlet of adventures, from Indian attack to shipwreck, from desert island to
jail, a grand picaresque tour of England and the American colonies.

Along the way she meets Isaac Newton and Montesquieu and has an affair with a young Benjamin Franklin in colonial
Philadelphia.  I just had to have this book and began reading it Sunday night.  The most astonishing thing about the novel is its
narrator: Newton's
Principia Mathematica.  Yes, a book narrates this book.  Here's how it opens:

                                 











May I speak candidly, fleshling, one rational creature to another, myself a book and you a reader? Even if the literature of
confession leaves you cold, even if you are among those who wish that Rousseau had never bared his soul and Augustine never
mislaid his shame, you would do well to lend me a fraction of your life. I am
Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, after
all — in my native tongue,
Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, the Principia for short — not some tenth-grade algebra
text or guide to improving your golf swing. Attend my adventures and you may, Dame Fortune willing, begin to look upon the
world anew.

Unlike you humans, a book always remembers its moment of conception. My father, the illustrious Isaac Newton, having
abandoned his studies at Trinity College to escape the great plague of 1665, was spending the summer at his mother's farm in
Woolsthorpe. An orchard grew beside the house. Staring contemplatively through his bedroom window, Newton watched an apple
drop free of its tree, driven by that strange arrangement we have agreed to call gravity. In a leap of intuition, he imagined the apple
not simply as falling to the ground but as striving for the very center of the Earth. This fruit, he divined, bore a relationship to its
planet analogous to that enjoyed by the moon: gravitation, ergo, was universal — the laws that governed terrestrial acceleration also
ruled the heavens. As below, so above. My father never took a woman to his bed, and yet the rush of pleasure he experienced on
that sweltering July afternoon easily eclipsed the common run of orgasm.

Twenty-two years later — in midsummer of 1687 — I was born. Being a book, a patchwork thing of leather and dreams, ink and
inspiration, I have always counted scholars among my friends, poets among my heroes, and glue among my gods. But what am I
like in the particular? How is the
Principia Mathematica different from all other books? My historical import is beyond debate: I am,
quite simply, the single greatest work of science ever written. My practical utility is indisputable. Whatever you may think of Mars
probes, moon landings, orbiting satellites, steam turbines, power looms, the Industrial Revolution, or the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, none of these things is possible without me. But the curious among you also want to know about my psychic essence.
You want to know about my
soul.

I am so excited to read more of this.  Let's hope the kids nap today.  Please, nap today.
Comments

And here's some Newtonian fun I found: Newton's Cannon
"This Java applet lets you shoot a ball from a mountain on the earth. Newton described the possible trajectories of a
cannonball shot from a tall mountain. Weaker shots fall in parabola, but soon the curvature of the earth becomes more
important and stronger shots orbit the earth in ellipses."
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, April, 3, 2006
Perhaps I should go into politics.  Apparently, they have quite a book budget.  Oh the books I could buy with $28,000.  I
wonder if I could get the taxpayers to foot my tobacco bill, as well.
Comments

The NYTBR has published a cento by David Lehman.  A cento is a collage poem using lines from other poems to make a
new one.  You can read it in a
PDF file here.  Lehman is the editor of the Oxford Book of American Poetry.  You may
recall his
contest to pick America's favorite poem (see my March 15 post).  "Prufrock" is still in the lead, 25% to "Song of
Myself" at 20%.  I think a last minute flurry of negative ads about Eliot could push Walt into the lead, although I'm not sure
he can win the poelectoral college.
Comments

More on the First Folio being auctioned.  Apparently this copy has been joyfully annotated by a former reader:

There are squiggles and circles and lines and words to test a Bletchley Park codebreaker. Dr Beal's hunch is that it is the work of a
clever student who, obsessed by the plays, wrote arbitrarily in the margins with no particular system.
He would mark certain phrases - to be or not to be - and then whole passages. Words like love, wit, honour, glory appear, and the
word simile appears over and again. "He starts marking off a page and then seems to get bored and marks the whole page," added a
delighted Dr Beal.

Included in the margins of the folio is this comment: "Best I desire the readers moughth to kis the writeres arse."  Now there's
a serious reader.  Ben Macintyre wrote a good
column on the joys of marginalia a couple of years ago:

Marginalia blurred distinctions between writer, reader and critic. Passed from one reader to another, the margins and flypapers of
some books became a sort of message board for this unique form of intellectual graffiti, with brief accolades, argumentative asides,
addenda and insults. Even the greatest writers could be deflated with a sharp jab from the margins. An anonymous reader who
rebelled against Samuel Johnson’s description of the weather as “gloomy, frigid and ungenial ” scrawled in exasperation: “Why can’
t you say Cold like the rest of ye world?” Quite.

When I read comments I've scribbled in the margins of books years before, I'm always a little embarrassed.  I thought I was
a more perceptive reader than the evidence usually suggests.  These days I satisfy myself with just a line or an X to mark
passages or words I find striking.  Although the other day I was reading a novel from 1938 that described the New Jersey
shore line as the "American Riviera."  I couldn't help but jot down in the margin, "New Jersey??!!"  I don't think the
European writer had ever visited.  Or maybe he had and I just failed to see the intended irony.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Saturday, April 1, 2006
Here's an interesting item.  A biotech firm is developing technology to genetically engineer dragons and other mythological
creatures:

This involves synthesising, with actual DNA, the genetic material that the computer models predict will produce the mythical
creatures. The synthetic DNA is then inserted into a cell that has had its natural nucleus removed. The result, Dr Fril and his
commercial backers hope, will be a real live dragon, unicorn or what have you
.
Comments

The Guardian has a piece on a recipe book compiled by Nostradamus in the 16th Century, including a recipe for an
aphrodisiac jam:

The recipe is contained in Nostradamus's third book, the Traité des fardemens et confitures. This "Treatise on Make-Up and Jam"
appeared in 1555, although the date on the manuscript is 1552. It's essentially a medical cookbook containing, as in many modern
examples of cookbooks, the recipes of other people. There is one for curing the plague, for example, which is something you won't
find in Nigella. Jamie Oliver would probably have a crack at it, were the government to ask him.
The book is based on knowledge acquired by Nostradamus (1503-1566) before he went to Montpellier to study for a medical
doctorate in 1529. Prior to this he was a wandering apothecary.

The Traité offers useful recipes for marmalade ("candied orange peel ... that will be excellently tasty"), cherry jam (after a year the
cherries are "just like they were on the day they were prepared"), quince jelly ("fit to set before a king") and pear preserve
("excellent enough to set before a prince").
Comments

The long lost Fourteenth Book of Euclid has been discovered:

"This is truly an astonishing document," says Duncan D. Umber of St. Patrick's College of Medieval Studies, who recently
examined the manuscript. "Euclid went much farther in his investigations than anyone had previously suspected. People continually
underestimate what the ancients were able to do. We will need to reassess Greek mathematics in its entirety."

The parchment manuscript was found by 12-year-old William Kelly, who was exploring a rocky cave on an island off the west
coast of Ireland. At first, Kelly thought that he had discovered a treasure map. But the Latin words stymied him and the fanciful
decorations reminded him of things he had seen in church. Kelly brought the packet to Seamus Donne, a local priest who happened
to have an interest in illuminated manuscripts. Donne quickly appreciated the value of Kelly’s find and contacted the foundation.
Comments

The Independent has a feature on celebrity couples including the little known love affair between Sylvia Plath and rock-n-roll
star Chuck Berry:

The archetypal rock'n'roller met the legendary poet at Smith College in 1955, when he and his band played at a summer
"homecoming ball". Berry was then 29 and tasting success for the first time with Maybellene, named after a line of cosmetics. His
band, the Sir John Trio, were No 1 in the charts and their hard R'n'B sound was a "cool" alternative, among progressive colleges, to
the soupy country and western fare generally heard at college "hops". Plath was 22, a senior student at Smith and in the process of
conquering her demons. After a failed suicide attempt, a period of electroshock and therapy, she had sailed through the final exams
and was about to graduate summa cum laude. In a mood to let her hair down, she danced through Berry's entire set and, through
the college ball committee, arranged to meet him backstage. They conversed for an hour about the underpinning of rhythm by the
human heartbeat and Berry invited the flushed and excitable Plath to join him at a nearby motel. College friends provided a cover
story for Plath in the next two weeks as she accompanied the band on a tour of Maine, New England and Maryland, occasionally
helping with cooking and washing duties, before returning to Smith. Berry fondly commmemorated their brief but passionate union
in Little Silver Dollar, while Plath immortalised her quondam lover in Berry Song ("Love set you ticking like a fat gold watch ...")
She was to meet and marry Ted Hughes in Cambridge only a few months later.
Comments

Prosit,
Ed

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.
Chapter
The
First
Introducing Our Heroine,
Jennet Stearne,
Whose Father Hunts Witches,
Whose Aunt Seeks Wisdom,
and Whose Soul Desires
an Object
It Cannot Name