The Bibliothecary
August 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006
At Studio 360 you can listen to a program devoted to the greatest novel of all time, Moby-Dick.  It's part of their American
Icons series.  I could have done without the plot summary in "dude" dialect.  Wow, that was original.  Who really thinks it's
funny to hear someone talk like Bill and Ted?  What was their second choice?  Valley Girl speech?  However the rest of the
show is pretty good, especially Andrew Delbanco on political resonance and
Ray Bradbury on channeling Herman Melville
while writing the script for the John Huston film version.

On the topic of John Huston, there was a good profile of him on NPR a few weeks ago.

And to maintain a film theme for today, here's Alex Cox on The Searchers:

The Searchers is an unusual film. Very few American films deal with race, and race hatred, in such unsentimental terms. . . .
No such complex film could be made by Hollywood today. In the absence of any truth-telling - about racial issues, about the easy
American bent for violence, about the homeland which seems to need that violence, yet won't cop to it - perhaps it's time to revisit
The Searchers.

James Ellroy writes a grim and powerful piece linking his murdered mother, Jean Hilliker and the famously murdered Black
Dahlia, Betty Short (a movie of Ellroy's novel,
The Black Dahlia, is about to open):

These women comprise the central myth of my life. I want to honor them both. I want this piece to redress imbalances in my
previous writings about them. I want to close out their myth with an elegy. I want to grant them the peace of denied disclosure and
never say another public word about them. . . .
I could not openly grieve for Jean. I could grieve for Betty. I could divert the shame of incestuous lust to a safe lust-object. I could
dismiss Jean with a child’s callous heart and grant a devotional love to Betty.
Jean led me to Betty. Betty led me to Jean. The initial fusing was sharply brief. The sustained process has been attenuated. It’s a
torch song with no crescendo and diminishing chords. It’s a near-fifty-year transit that demands these final words of explication.

And Richard Schickel reviews two new bios of Orson Welles:

If, as the saying goes, genius is defined by an infinite capacity for taking pains, then Orson Welles was no genius. If, as another
saying goes, God is in the details, then there was nothing godlike about him, either — despite the worshipful posturings of his many

Them's fightin' words, I say, in an acolytic posture.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Interesting piece in Philadelphia Magazine about the power of theatre critics.  Apparently, a lot of theatre people are angry
that Philly Inq critic, Toby Zinman, writes that some of their shows are terrible and, surprisingly, their tickets sales are
affected.  With 110 theatre companies in the area, I'm not at all surprised that some of these shows suck.  And suck badly.  
I've seen some atrocious productions in the area.  I've seen fewer good shows than bad ones.  The problem isn't that Zinman
wields such power; the problem is that she's the only critic with a broad readership.  But flogging the messenger isn't going to
solve anything.  Years ago, my wife and I went to see a production of
Twelfth Night (by one of the companies angry with
Zinman for savaging their show).  At the
opening speech, our jaws dropped.  And it got worse.  With every line of the play.  
This was easily the worst show we had ever seen.  We had seen better elementary school shows.  Delivery, costumes,
blocking, sets.  All of it, terrible.  But we had a problem: we couldn't leave.  We were seated in the middle of the theatre,
close to the front.  We both wanted to leave, but to do so would be very noticeable.  Our leaving would be a statement.  So
we stayed until intermission, then ducked out.  But oh what torture it was to sit through that half.  We couldn't even laugh as
much as we wanted because most of the funny parts weren't supposed to be funny.  Now we have a rule (although we've
never needed to implement it): if a show is really bad and we want to leave, no matter where we are seated, we will get up
and leave.  Flog on, Toby

More Philly stuff today: BibliOdyssey has posted some images of lithographs of Philadelphia (the Athens of America) in the
19th Century.  Some great stuff here.  You can see many more of the collection, 'Philadelphia in the Romantic Age of
Lithography: An illustrated history of early lithography in Philadelphia with a descriptive list of Philadelphia scenes made by
Philadelphia lithographers before 1866' by Nicholas B. Wainwright at
The Library Company website.  Check out the terrible
conflagration, T.E. Chapman Bookseller, a coffin warehouse, Lippincott and Co. where clothing is "Cheap for Cash," J.
tobacconist, Independence Hall, a Masonic Hall, and a bird's eye view of Allegheny Ave.  I like how these two
shots (
one and two)of Eastern State Penitentiary are foregrounded with bucolic, rural scenes, as if it is some country castle.  
The prison still stands.  
Visit it if you are in Philly.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes scathing comments from its critics.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Too late for Shakespeare week, but who cares?!  Every week can be Shakespeare week.  And for Anthony James West,
every week has been.  West has been compiling an extraordinarily detailed census of all surviving copies of Shakes' First
Folio.  Here's a short piece by Paul Collins on
West's Shakespearean quest:

"There are now 230," says Anthony James West, a senior fellow at the University of London.
If West seems surprisingly precise, it's for good reason. Only four books have had worldwide censuses—the Gutenberg Bible,
Audubon's Birds of America and Copernicus' De Revolutionibus are the other three—and the Folio's tally is by far the oldest and
most ambitious. While lists of Folio owners were made in 1824 and 1902, West has expanded the task into a monumental project:
examining the Folios and recording details of every page of every copy.
His work for the Oxford University Press series The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book may qualify him as the most
indefatigable pursuer of a single edition in literary history. Volume 1 charts the ups and downs—mostly ups—of what people have
been willing to pay for a First Folio, and Volume 2 tracks the ownership of each one over the centuries. Two future volumes, to be
published by Palgrave Macmillan, will identify the unique characteristics of each copy and include specialists' essays on Folio issues.

But what I find most inspiring is that West has been doing all of this on his own dime:

"I've nearly spent my life savings on this," he says a bit ruefully. He works from his home in the English countryside, but the effort
has sent him crisscrossing five continents.

Sounds like a great retirement job for me.  Forget your inheritance, kids.  I'm going book-huntin'.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, August 28, 2006
I wasn't going to post today, but this just too funny to pass up.  While researching for his biography of John Betjeman, AN
Wilson received what purported to be a love letter that Betjeman wrote to a hitherto unknown mistress.  The letter seemed
genuine, so Wilson included it in the new biography.  Last week, a journalist noticed that the first letters of each sentence in
the letter spelled out, "AN Wilson is a shit."  There is a suspect.  Bevis Hillier has also just published a book on Betjeman
and the two biographers
have been feuding.  Here's the letter (I've highlighted the embedded code):

Darling Honor,

I loved yesterday.
All day, I've thought of nothing else. No other love I've had means so much. Was it just an aberration on your
part, or will you meet me at Mrs Holmes's again - say on Saturday?
I won't be able to sleep until I have your answer.

Love has given me a miss for so long, and now this miracle has happened. Sex is a part of it, of course, but I have a Romaunt of
the Rose feeling about it too.
On Saturday we could have lunch at Fortt's, then go back to Mrs H's. Never mind if you can't make it
I am free on Sunday too or Sunday week. Signal me tomorrow as to whether and when you can come.

Anthony Powell has written to me, and mentions you admiringly. Some of his comments about the Army are v funny. He's
somebody I'd like to know better when the war is over.
I find his letters funnier than his books. Tinkerty-tonk, my darling. I pray
I'll hear from you tomorrow. If I don't I'll visit your office in a fake beard.
All love, JB

Pity it was discovered so soon.  This is the kind of thing that I wish were discovered years from now, after so much had been
researched and written about this particular affair.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments, especially if they contain disparaging coded

Sunday, August 27, 2006
A great story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Caretaker Wayne Irby was mowing the grass at Fort Mifflin this month when he was literally swallowed up by the history of the
place - up to his knees.
Irby "turned the mower loose" just as the ground collapsed beneath him.
Curious, he shoveled aside a few feet of earth over the next couple of days and made a stunning discovery: a tunnel and a two-room
jail cell recalling the sad tale of a decorated Civil War soldier, a murder, clemency pleas to President Lincoln, and the only execution
at the fort.
The barred cell at casemate No. 11 once belonged to convicted killer William H. Howe before he was hanged Aug. 26, 1864.
One hundred forty-two years later - almost to the day of Howe's hanging - Irby pointed a flashlight above a doorway and eyed, with
surprise, a name, both handwritten and printed:
W.H. Howe.
On a door nearby was another message: Shun this place, oh man, whom soever thou art.

That's a Dantean moment if ever there was one.  I'd be looking over my shoulder for Virgil to appear.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes those who enter here.

Saturday, August 26, 2006
Let's wrap up Shakespeare Week with these pieces:  

Simon Callow on Stanley Wells' Shakespeare and Co:

Books have distinct personalities - aggressive, manic-depressive,
ingratiating or manipulative. Shakespeare and Co, as signalled by
its Kiplingesque title, is warm, cheerful, generous and friendly: a
companionable book. Reading it is like spending a long and
lingering evening with Dr Wells as he shares his intimate and
curious knowledge of the period and the man, making us become
Shakespeare's contemporary, not he ours.

(I always have a hard time sampling a Callow review.  He's a
good writer.)  The cover of the book looks
great, as well, and, surprisingly, was not changed for the
American market.

From Project Gutenberg, another incisive commentary on the Bard, Shakespeare's Insomnia and the Causes Thereof by
Franklin H. Head (1887):

If, therefore, insomnia had prevailed in or before his time, in his pages shall we find it duly set forth. If he had suffered, if the
"fringed curtains of his eyes were all the night undrawn," we shall find his dreary experiences—his hours of pathetic misery,
his nights of desolation—voiced by the tongues of his men and women.

The scholar, Head, unearthed letters to Shakes from
Will Kempe:

In much tribulation do I write thee as to the contention which hath arisen among our stock actors and supes of the Globe. Nicholas
Bottom, whom you brought from the Parish workhouse in Stratford, is in ill humor with thee in especial. He says when he played
with you in Ben Jonson's comedy, "Every Man in his Humor," he was by far the better actor and did receive the plaudits of all;
despite which he now receives but 6 shillings each week, while you are become a man of great wealth, having gotten, as he verily
believes, as much as £100.

from John Lyly:

This is written to thee by John Lely, a clerk, in behalf of Nicholas Bottom, who useth not the pen, and who says to me to tell
William Shakespeare, fie upon him that he did order the aforesaid Bottom to be locked out of the Globe Playhouse. Hath he
forgotten the first play he, William Shakespeare, did ever write, to wit, "Pyramus and Thisbe," when a boy at Stratford, which was
played by himself and Nicholas Bottom and Peter Quince and others, in a barn, for the delectation of the townsmen?

and one from his wife, Anne, chastising him for his riotous London lifestyle:

Item. He doth report that you do pass among men as a bachelor, and, with sundry players and men of that ilk, do frequent a house
of entertainment kept by one Doll Tearsheet, and do kiss the barmaid and call her your sweetheart.

Item. He doth also report that you did give to the daughter of the publican at whose house you do now abide, a ring of fine gold,
and did also write to her a sonnet in praise of her eyebrows and her lips, and did otherwise wickedly disport with the said damsel.

Item. He doth further report of you that you did visit, with one Ben Jonson, on the Sabbath-day, a place of disrepute, where were
cock-fights and the baiting of a bear, and that with you were two brazen women, falsely called by you the wife and sister of Ben

Nag, nag, nag. No wonder she only got the second best bed.  And no wonder he couldn't sleep.  Ben Jonson probably beat
the hell out of him for that last comment.  To hear Anne tell a different tale (a quite bawdy one) of why she got the second
best bed you can listen to Robert Nye's play,
Mrs. Shakespeare on BBC7 (Listen Again option is good through Fri Sept 1).

Hope you enjoyed Shakespeare Week at The Bibliothecary.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes Shakespearean comments.

Friday, August 25, 2006
Some interesting Shakespeariana at Project Gutenberg::

Ever wonder about the Norwegian Shakespearean tradition?  Wonder no more.  Here's a 1917
dissertation by Martin
Brown Rudd,
An Essay Toward a History
of Shakespeare in Norway
, in which we learn Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy in Landsmaal, a literary language
(based on "best" dialects), created by Ivar Aasen in the 19th Century:

Te vera elder ei,—d'er da her spyrst um;
um d'er meir heirlegt i sitt Brjost aa tola
kvar Styng og Støyt av ein hardsøkjen Lagnad
eld taka Vaapn imot eit Hav med Harmar,
staa mot og slaa dei veg?—Te døy, te sova,
alt fraa seg gjort,—og i ein Sømn te enda
dan Hjarteverk, dei tusend timleg' Støytar,
som Kjøt er Erving til, da var ein Ende
rett storleg ynskjande. Te døy, te sova,
ja sova, kanskje drøyma,—au, d'er Knuten.
Fyr' i dan Daudesømn, kva Draum kann koma,
16 naar mid ha kastat av dei daudleg Bandi,
da kann vel giv' oss Tankar; da er Sakji,
som gjerer Useldom so lang i Livet:
kven vilde tolt slikt Hogg og Haad i Tidi,
slik sterk Manns Urett, stolt Manns Skamlaus Medferd,
slik vanvyrd Elskhugs Harm, slik Rettarløysa,
slikt Embæt's Ovmod, slik Tilbakaspenning,
som tolug, verdug Mann fær av uverdug;
kven vilde da, naar sjølv han kunde løysa
seg med ein nakjen Odd? Kven bar dan Byrda
so sveitt og stynjand i so leid ein Livnad,
naar inkj'an ottast eitkvart etter Dauden,
da uforfarne Land, som ingjen Ferdmann
er komen atter fraa, da viller Viljen,
da læt oss helder ha dan Naud, mid hava,
en fly til onnor Naud, som er oss ukjend.
So gjer Samviskan Slavar av oss alle,
so bi dan fyrste, djerve, bjarte Viljen
skjemd ut med blakke Strik av Ettertankjen
og store Tiltak, som var Merg og Magt i,
maa soleid snu seg um og strøyma ovugt
og tapa Namn av Tiltak.

I'd love to hear this.  Especially because Rudd is so passionate about its beauty:

This is a distinctly successful attempt—exact, fluent, poetic. Compare it with the Danish of Foersom and Lembcke, with the
Swedish of Hagberg, or the new Norwegian "Riksmaal" translation, and Ivar Aasen's early Landsmaal version holds its own. It
keeps the right tone. The dignity of the original is scarcely marred by a note of the colloquial. Scarcely marred!

Which, of course, begs the question, is the goal of a translation merely to "scarcely mar" its original?

Perhaps Norwegian literary dialects are not to your taste?  Then try Shakespeare and Precious Stones by George
Frederick Kunz, which is about exactly what the title says, "Treating of the Known References of Precious Stones in
Shakespeare's Works, with Comments as to the Origin of His Material, the Knowledge of the Poet Concerning Precious
Stones, and References as to Where the Precious Stones of His Time Came from."  How humankind was able to make it
without this knowledge I'll never know, but thank god for Kunz who
begins his study:

So wide is the range of the immortal verse of Shakespeare, and so many and various are the subjects he touched upon and adorned
with the magic beauty of his poetic imagery, that it will be of great interest to refer to the allusions to gems and precious stones in
his plays and poems. These allusions are all given in the latter part of this volume. What can we learn from them of Shakespeare's
knowledge of the source, quality, and use of these precious stones?

And here's the complete list of precious stones mentioned in the plays of Shakespeare, not to be confused with the stones in
poems.  Hamlet, this pearl is thine.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, August 24, 2006
Let's just make this Shakespeare week.  Shakespalooza!

For your viewing pleasure, via YouTube,
here are the Beatles doing the Mechanicals' Pyramus and Thisbe skit.  Paul plays
Pyramus; John, Thisbe; George, Moonshine; Ringo is the lion.

Even funnier is this Black Adder skit with Rowan Atkinson persuading Hugh Laurie as Shakespeare to trim the lines in
Hamlet.  And here's the skit's script if you are YouTube impaired.

But most enticing of all is this newsreel featuring Orson Welles' Voodoo Macbeth, which he directed in Harlem for the
WPA.  This clip features the final fight between Macbeth and Macduff and while the actors' delivery seems a little stilted, this
still looks like it would have been a fantastic show. You can find some
photographs here.  And check out this great poster.  
Oh, for a time machine.

But if you're looking for a little reading material, check out this NYTimes piece from last month on several new war-themed
productions of Shakespeare:

"A fun-filled evening of violence, gore and mutilation" is how "Titus Andronicus" is introduced by a toga-wearing cast member to
audiences at the Globe. This early Shakespearean work, dutifully modeled after the revenge tragedies in vogue in the late 16th
century, is notorious for its gross-out quotient, featuring assorted acts of onstage amputation and climaxing with a cannibal banquet
in which a mother unwittingly feasts on pies made from her dead sons. The Globe production is awash in stage blood and simulacra
of severed heads and hands, while the Ninagawa Company borrows from the pristine style of vintage Peter Brook, with an all-white
abstract set and red ribbons for stage blood.

It's good to see Titus
getting the
respect it deserves.  I
know, Shakespeare
doesn't really need any
puffing, but
Titus has
always been maligned
as  (read in your best
snooty voice) "coarse
and unbefitting such a
genius as Shakespeare."
I've always loved the
play and thought it
would be very moving
(and fun) on the stage.  
I'd love to see a production of Titus.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' coarse and unbefitting comments.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

                                                                  William Blake. Portrait of Shakespeare, c. 1800-1803

On Sunday two friends and I drove from Philadelphia to New Haven, Connecticut to see the Searching for Shakespeare
exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art.  Eight hours (four each way) is a long drive for only an hour or so of museum time,
but, my god, was it worth it.  What a knockout.  
Shakespeare's will, deeds and charters with his name attached, portraits of
lots of 17th Century writers and aristocrats.  And lots of books.  A
First Folio greets the show, along with a plaster cast of
fat burgher Willy from Shakespeare's tomb.  I was so tempted to rub the head of that statue.  I settled for a swipe along
his fingers.  Such idolatry.

High points of the show:

A Titus Andronicus ballad with some great woodcuts of the brothers getting their throats cut and their mother eating a tasty
The van Buchel drawing of the
Swan Theatre was surprisingly vivid.  
A bear skull that was excavated when digging for the
new Globe Theatre, a grisly reminder of Elizabethan entertainments
(although I just learned that
bear baiting still goes on).
The account of Edmund Tilney, Master of Revels, recording plays performed at court by one
The death's head memorial rings with their leering skulls.  

The miniatures were breathtaking:
Henry Wriothesley, Mary Sidney, Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh.  The vivid colors
and detail are just astonishing when you see them in person.

The portraits.  No reproduction in a book or online really does them justice.  
It was great to see
Richard Burbage up close with his massive, fleshy nose.
The portrait of Ferdinando Stanley, patron of Lord Strange's Men, with his big mole and the bags under his eyes.  No
beautifying here.  
Paint me ugly as I am. (Wish I could find a copy of this online)
Michael Drayton looked ghastly.  Pale and stern.  The laurel wreath seemed so out of place on his head. (only a poor black
and white online)
William Drummond looked fey and snooty, his smile a mocking grimace.
I was surprised at the size of the John Fletcher painting.  Looked like he suffered from short guy syndrome.  
Make my
portrait very large.
(another painting I couldn't find online)
And the best portrait of all (besides the Chandos) was
Ben Jonson with his "rockye face," looking like he could come out of
the wall and kick the shit of you.  

The Shakespeare portraits.
Flower portrait is so surreal with its swirls of bright colors in the background like some 60s psychedelic rock poster.
Sanders and Grafton portraits, hung alongside the Chandos, pale in comparison.  We so don't want Shakes to be either
one of those, especially when he could be the Chandos rogue, hair frizzy and earring gleaming.  And the earring does gleam.  
I was taken aback by its brightness.  But the face is so honest, unglamorous.  Easily the most thrilled I've been looking at a
painting.  I know, I know,
hero worship and all that.  Why should a "supposed" portrait of a writer matter so much?  Its
absence would not diminish the words.  But to see it, to imagine Shakes sitting for it.  To have a real face instead of just the
cartoonish Droeshout is thrilling to see.  

Not all of the pieces from the
National Portrait Gallery show travelled here.  Not present, but sorely missed:

The supposed
Christopher Marlowe portrait
John Donne in melancholic pose just purchased by the NPG (I've posted my feelings about this one before, Feb 5, and
Ben Macintyre has a
good piece on it here).
The manuscript containing a fragment of the Thomas More play.  It would have been thrilling to see what could be
own handwriting.
And I would have loved to have seen the
Henry Peacham drawing of the Titus performance.

I purchased the exhibition
catalogue (to help preserve my godawful memory) and a Shakespeare action figure (to keep
company my
Dickens, Sherlock and Poe).  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes literary idolatry.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Well, I'm preparing a little review of the Shakespeare show, but I probably won't finish it until later, so here are a few more

John Sutherland reviews some of the latest books in the
Shakespeare Wars:

Some critical industries are harmonious. Dickensians rub along happily. Shakespearians, famously, don’t. They launch books,
articles and editions at each other like Katyushas. Rosenbaum’s title The Shakespeare Wars - tasteless as it may sound when real
people are dying in real wars - is spot on. Rosenbaum himself, he is quick to remind us, is no warrior, but a distinguished reporter.
One commentator has gone so far as to call him “one of the most original journalists of our time”. Metaphorically flak-jacketed, he
is the Rageh Omaar or Christiane Amanpour of Shakespeare studies, and has resolved to visit the front lines of the 400-year war
and interview the combatants.

"Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war" (or literary skirmishes).

Or if you prefer your Shakespeare inspirational (lit crit battles rarely inspire), you can listen to this NPR piece on the film,
"Shakespeare Behind Bars":

In the play, hardened criminals find themselves trapped on a deserted island. They fight to survive, find meaning in their lives and
look for forgiveness from the people they have wronged.
At the prison, actor and director Curt Toftleland has been using the words of the Bard to teach inmates about hope, redemption and
maybe about themselves.
For a full year, documentary filmmakers followed the lives of Toftleland, inmate Hal Cobb and fellow convict thespians as they
prepared to perform The Tempest.

"Then, York, unloose thy long-imprison’d thoughts   
And let thy tongue be equal with thy heart."


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' imprison'd thoughts.

Monday, August 21, 2006
Hope to be back tomorrow to give you a review of the Searching for Shakespeare exhibit.  It was worth the eight hours of
driving.  Here are a couple links to tide you over until then:

Lucy Hughes-Hallett on the
many faces of Cleopatra.

And a review by Stanley Wells of
the new Arden editions of Hamlet, which include three very different texts of the play, the
First Quarto, the Second Quarto and the First Folio:

The note on 'groundlings' doesn't refer to Andrew Gurr's information that the word, new at the time, meant small fish living in mud
at the bottom of the water, an insult implying that spectators standing in the Globe's yard gaped up at the actors above them like fish
from the bottom of a stream, palliated perhaps by Q1's substitution of the more neutral 'ignorant'.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, August 20, 2006
I watched The Hobart Shakespeareans last night, a one hour documentary about a fifth grade elementary school class in Los
Angeles run by teacher Rafe Esquith.  If your local PBS station runs it (I caught it on the POV program), watch it, or find a
copy of it.  Absolutely inspiring.  What a program.  From the

Imagine the sight and sound of American nine- and eleven-year-old children performing Shakespeare's Hamlet or Henry V — and
understanding every word they recite. Imagine them performing well enough to elicit praise from such accomplished Shakespearean
actors as Ian McKellen and Michael York, and to be invited to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. Such a
spectacle would be highly impressive in the toniest of America's private schools. But what if the kids were the children of recent
Latino and Asian immigrants attending a large Los Angeles inner-city public school in one of America's toughest neighborhoods?

Why can't all grades be like this?  No dumbed down reading for these kids.  They read Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the
, Huck Finn, and Shakespeare.  Then they perform a Shakespearean play at the end of the year.  The kids in the
documentary were working on
Hamlet.  And the few scenes in the documentary were just jaw-droppingly good.  The catch
is that they have an exceptional teacher to guide them through it (and it doesn't hurt that they go to a year round school, July
through April).  But I guess it all operates on a simple formula:  if you fill a child's life with good stuff all day long, that child
will grow and bloom.  Now I have to go do the same with my kids.   

But first, I'm going on a road trip with a friend (perhaps two) to the Yale Center for British Art to see the
Searching for
Shakespeare exhibit that I've mentioned in past blog posts.  I'll give you all a detailed review.  Off to Yale.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Saturday, August 19, 2006
I came across this passage in the Oxford DNB's Life of the Day entry for an 18th Century poet, Robert Bloomfield:

In 1784, fearing prosecution by the Committee of the Lawful Crafts for illegally cobbling without having been officially apprenticed,
Bloomfield fled back to the sanctuary of his uncle Austin's farm.

"Hey, what you in for, man?" asks the burly, shit-besmeared cutpurse.  "Um, illegally cobbling," the poet mumbles.  Gonna
be a long night.

Here's a great online Sherlockian resource, Crime Scene Sketches:

Thomas F. Hanratty is a retired Forensic Investigator who wondered how the crime scene notebook of Sherlock Holmes would
have appeared.

                                           Can you name the story for this crime scene?

I'm always enamored of maps and blueprints of imaginary places and whenever a book contains a map, I consult it
assiduously while reading.  And sometimes I utilize maps to navigate places in historical works.  A favorites series of mine is
the John Fielding Mysteries by
Bruce Alexander and the action of these mysteries careens through the 18th century streets of
London.  But I follow along using the London map on the endpapers of Boswell's
London Journal (the one edited by Pottle
with a preface by Morley).  The map is the perfect size (you can see a
section here) and although not all of the streets are
labeled, enough are, so that I can follow the characters' wanderings.  I'm looking forward to using the Sherlockian sketches
while I'm re-reading the Canon.

In related news, the Hound of the Baskervilles has been killed . . . again.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, August 18, 2006
Some listening for today:
I enjoyed this short (15 min)
radio program from
BBC7 on Pound's
Cantos (Scroll down to find the
show Centurions.  The Listen Again option is good
until Mon Aug 21).  Especially good are the snippets
they play of Pound reading his poems.  I could listen
to him reading for hours.  He's my idea of an Anglo-
Saxon scop, weaving his spell by the warrior's fire.  
Salon has an mp3 of
Pound reading from Canto LXV.

And here's a very good program on BBC4 about The
Yeats Society of Sligo (Listen Again option is only
good through tomorrow, Sat Aug 19), featuring lots
of readings.  What a time that would be, to go to the
Yeats Summer School in Sligo.  Lectures, music, readings, pub crawls, and Evensong at Drumcliffe Church.  Yes, that would
be something.

But if you're feeling a little more active today, try some exercise.  I found this great swimming manual on Project Gutenberg:
Swimming Scientifically Taught, A Practical Manual for Young and Old by Prof. Frank Eugen Dalton. I tried to use it,
but the pages got all wet (ba-dum-bum).  Especially instructive is the chapter on
Swimming Like a Dog.  Here's the author
himself, ready for the pool:

And in a tragic accident, the author drowned when the weight of his medals pulled him to the bottom of the pool.  Thank
you, ladies and germs, you've been a great audience.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, August 17, 2006
You can watch a video interview of Poe Shadow author, Matthew Pearl, from the Globe at Home.  Too bad they let the
"news" guy ask questions.  I would have been happier to just have a conversation between Boston Globe book editor, Jim
Concannon, and Pearl.  And good news Matthew Pearl has offered an interview for the inaugural issue of
Omnigatherum this Fall.  You can find another interview with Pearl at Literary Kicks, but I'm afraid to read it before I come
up with my own questions.  And, Matthew, if you're reading this, I'll be sending those questions soon.

At Project Gutenberg, (drum roll, please) the Most Delicious of Nuts, in which we learn these interesting facts about the
English Walnut:

English Walnuts are not only a rare table delicacy, but may be utilized for catsup, pickles and oil.
One pound of walnut meat equals eight pounds of steak in nutriment—and is a far more healthful food.

Waiter, return that steak and bring me a dish of the most delicious of nuts!  From now on, when anyone says "walnut," chime
in "the most delicious of nuts."  Do that everytime.  It will enliven your life.

Now here's some crazy facial hair (via BibliOdyssey):

Empson's neckbeard still takes the cake for me.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes strange facial hair constructions.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Sean at The Midnight Bell posted on a book I've been hearing about lately and it's now on my must read list: The
Pendragon Legend
by Antal Szerb.  When I first saw this novel's title I assumed it was just another Arthurian novel and,
discovering it wasn't, I didn't investigate.  On reconsideration, it sounds too intriguing to pass up.  From the
Pushkin Press

AT THE END-OF-LONDON-SEASON soirée, the young Hungarian scholar-dilettante Janos Bátky is introduced to the Earl of
Gwynedd, a reclusive eccentric who is the subject of strange rumours. Invited to the family seat, Pendragon Castle in North Wales,
Bátky receives a mysterious phone-call warning him not to go. But he does, and finds himself in a bizarre world of mysticism and
romance, animal experimentation, and planned murder. His quest to solve the central mystery takes him down strange byways—old
libraries and warehouse cellars, Welsh mountains and underground tombs.

Szerb, it turns out, is not a contemporary novelist.  He was a Hungarian writer who died in a forced-labor camp in 1945.  
His novels have recently been republished by the Pushkin Press.  Nicholas Lezard
waxed rhapsodic about Pendragon and
Szerb's style:

The nearest English equivalent, I suppose, is Evelyn Waugh. This is a radically unsatisfactory comparison, for one would have to
imagine a Waugh who was kind-hearted, continental, religiously sceptical and quite prepared to make fun of himself. Their attitudes
to sex alone put them on different planets. (In fact, Szerb's attitude to sex is so urbane that English novelists didn't begin to catch up
with it until The Rachel Papers came out.) But there are points of comparison in their irony, the twists and turns of their stories, and
their deadpan technique. They're both alive to the delights of mingling with the upper crust, but Szerb is so much funnier about it

Murder, bibliomystery, Arthurian theme.  And funny.  I've got to check out this one.  

And how does this guy get an obit in the NYTimes:
Ken Richmond, 80, Gong-Striker Familiar to Filmgoers, Dies

However, I did learn some trivia about the great noir film,
Night and the City.  Richmond played the wrestler, Nikolas.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Saturday, August 12, 2006
No links today.  No books about cauliflower or peg-legged train romances.  Today is my wife's birthday.  She is all  to me.  
She makes me who I am.  And as I am but a poor poet, I offer to her today this WB Yeats poem and the sentiment
contained therein:

A very happy birthday to Kate, my ever better half.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, August 11, 2006
A banner new TLS issue features reviews of the new George Mackay Brown biography, the production of James Joyce's
only play, Exiles, that I linked about on July 30, the new Oxford edition of Shakespeare's Complete Works and the new,
book from Alistair Cooke.  That's lottsa reading.  I used to subscribe to the TLS, but let it lapse this year
(who'da thought kids were so damned expensive), so I only get to read the slim pickings that they post for free on the Times
site.  Usually there's only one (or none) that really interests me.  But four this week.  That's something.  

But if you're looking for something a little more
literary, something that just screams high-brow
intellectual, drop the TLS and check out
Cabbages and Cauliflowers: How to Grow
Them, A Practical Treatise, Giving Full
Details On Every Point, Including Keeping
And Marketing The Crop
by James J. H.
Gregory at Project Gutenberg.  Gregory, we
learn, is also "the author of works on squash
raising, onion raising, etc., etc."  Those et cetera                
are a real tease, aren't they?  We also learn "any               
   Long Island Beauty Cauliflower
manure but hog manure for cabbage" and the
Great Cham of literature himself was a
fan. "Wrote the great Dr. Johnson: "Of all the flowers of the garden, give me the cauliflower."   If it's good enough for Dr
Johnson, it's good enough for me.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, August 10, 2006
Some exciting Project Gutenberg finds today:

For fans of that crackling sub-genre, Train Adventure stories, there's
Danger Signals: Remarkable, Exciting and Unique
Examples of the Bravery, Daring and Stoicism in the Midst of Danger of Train Dispatchers and Railroad Engineers

(now that's a title).  You can read about
peg-legged romance on the rails, Mormon robbers and, in one chapter alone,
negligent operators, a convict and a plucky boy named Dick.  

                                            "It was a strange courting ... there on that engine."

But what I find most fascinating is the story told by just reading the illustrations' captions:

"Quick as a flash the Kid had my arm."
"I noticed his long, slim hand on the top of the reverse-lever."
"It was a strange courting ... there on that engine."
"We carried him into the depot."  
"He was the first man I ever killed."
"'Mexican,' said I."
"What seemed to be a giant iceberg...."  
"A white city ... was visible for an instant."  
Facsimile Of A Completed Order As Entered In The Despatcher's Order-Book
"Two of the men tied my hands in front of me."
"After many efforts I finally reached the lowest cross-arm."  
"One of them picked up the lantern, and swaggering over to where I sat all trembling...."  
"He looked at me ... then catching me by the collar...."  
"... Half lying on the table, face downward, dead by his own hand"
"See here, who is going to pull this train?"  
"Are you not doing it just because I am a woman?"  
"... Dennis, lying under the telegraph line, his left hand still grasped the instrument"

" "Mexican,' said I" ??

Maybe your tastes run to children's sci-fi adventure stories.  Then try Sabotage in Space, a Tom Corbett Space
in which we learn that "Space Academy, USA" still utilizes good old clock tower technology:

"Bong-g-g! Bong-g-g! Bong-g-g!—"

With a hollow booming sound reminiscent of old eighteenth-and nineteenth-century clock towers, the electronic time tone rang out
from the Tower of Galileo, chiming the hour of nine. As the notes reverberated over the vast expanse of Space Academy, U.S.A.,
the lights in the windows of the cadet dormitories began to wink out and the slidewalks that crisscrossed the campus, connecting
the various buildings, rumbled to a halt. When the last mournful note had rolled away to die in the distant hills, the school was dark
and still. The only movement to be seen was the slow pacing of the cadet watch officers, patrolling their beats; the only sound, the
measured clicking of their boots on the metal strips of the slidewalks.

Not the most exciting beginning, but I guess the author was striving for ominous.  You can also read a condensed version of
the story in the illustrations' captions:

Tom shot a hard right to his opponent's stomach
Tom swerved the jet car in front of the runaway truck
The men inside were tough-looking and steely-eyed
Tom saw that the Space Marines were watching the passengers very closely
"He's hanging on to the cleat over the main tube!"
"The projectiles blew Devers' ship into rocket dust!"

                                                            Tom shot a hard right to his opponent's stomach

Lesson to Dever: don't mess with Tom.  And for god's sake, hang on to that main tube's cleat!

Happy reading.

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Carlin Romano reviews a new book about a great city, Metropolitan Philadelphia:
Living With the Presence of the Past
by Steven Conn:

Incisive, quirky, wry and boosterish without pulling appropriate punches, Metropolitan Philadelphia combines the droll piecemeal
observations of excellent cultural journalism (William Penn became "simultaneously the city's founder and its first suburbanite") with
a synoptic view of local identity that recalls Digby Baltzell's Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia.
Instead of chronicling the region's history or bombarding us with figures (though he sprinkles hard info throughout), Conn
exchanges "the quantitative approach to American urban studies" for a focus on themes, noting that a region's life "is more than its
countable parts."

Sounds interesting, but Romano thinks the title is "clunky" and I agree.  How about, Philadelphia: Still the Athens of
.  That's catchy.

And Stuart Jeffries profiles a great filmmaker, Terry Gilliam, and his new film, Tideland:

Gilliam describes the film as Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho, which is a nice line for the billboards. It's also a fair description of
Tideland's dance between childhood innocence and the degrading tawdriness of adult desire. Like Lewis Carroll's novel, it features a
little girl plummeting through a rabbit hole into an intensely imagined fantasy world; like Hitchcock's film, it includes footage of a
bewigged parental corpse in a chair (an image that Gilliam lingers over longer than Hitchcock would have dared). But the line misses
Gilliam's insistence that this is the most tender film he has ever made.

Only Gilliam would make a "tender" movie that features a father and daughter heroin-cooking scene, as well as

a bedroom scene between a 20-year-old man with learning difficulties and a little girl; a rotting corpse that makes one relieved the
film doesn't come in smell-o-vision; a harrowing train crash; the disturbing sequence in which a troubled taxidermist (played by
Janet McTeer) guts and stuffs the corpse of a former lover and then lays out the mummified remains in a place of honour on the
bed. There is even a talking squirrel, which for some is the most disturbing thing in the picture.

Thank god there are no cyclopic horses (see Aug 3 post).  And check out the audio link to a conversation with Gilliam and
Tideland author Mitch Cullin from the Hay-on-Wye Book Festival (it's at the head of the article).


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, August 7, 2006
On Friday I watched the live webcast about the Archimedes Palimpsest (see my post last Thursday).  A particularly difficult
and important page was scanned.  The presenters went into great detail about the technology used, sketched Archimedes'
biography and gave the history of the manuscript.  All very interesting.  But I was disappointed that there was no live
translation.  That would have been great.  The Fine Books blog has
a great post about book-saving technology and the
importance of the Archimedes Palimpsest:

Archimedes lived 2200 years ago and was the greatest mathematician/scientist of his day. None of his own writings survive. He
probably wrote on papyrus scrolls, which were copied and recopied by scribes over more than 1,000 years. At some point, his
works were translated into Latin, which is how they came down to us. A hundred years ago, a mid-10th-century Greek manuscript,
once housed in a monastery library in Constantinople, turned up. Portions were published and it circulated quietly in private hands
until it sold at Christie's in 1998, when an anonymous buyer purchased it for $2.2 million and then loaned it to the Walters Art
Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
This is the only known Archimedes manuscript in the original Greek. Imagine if all we knew of Shakespeare were French
translations and someone discovered a copy of Macbeth in English. That's kind of what this is like. Only imagine that someone
erased the English Macbeth, wrote a catechism on top of it, and then painted some pictures on it for decoration.

And the FX Toole novel, Pound for Pound (see last Friday's post), was reviewed in the Guardian:

The best quality of Pound for Pound is that, like the stories in Rope Burns, it concentrates life into the fight world, as if reality is
something that only goes on where fighters meet. The advantage of this is the advantage of any good insider writing - effortless
authenticity of voice. On the other hand, the slightest brush with day-to-day existence leaves the book weltering in emotional cliché.

I thought this, too, while reading Rope Burns.  There were times when cliché ruled the page, especially in the title story.  
However, most of the prose just knocked me flat.  You can find my short review of
Rope Burns in my Newsletter Archive
from December 2004.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments, authentic or clichéd.

Sunday, August 6, 2006
Some very good reading in the papers today:

Simon Blackburn on the
enormous influence of Plato's Republic:

If any books change the world, Republic has a good claim to first place. It is commonly regarded as the culminating achievement of
Plato as a philosopher and writer, brilliantly poised between the questioning and inconclusive earlier dialogues and the less
compelling cosmological speculations and doubts of the later ones.

Nick Tosches has some interesting things to say about a new translation of Homer's Iliad:

That this fountainhead of Western literature begins, exquisitely, with the word “wrath,” just as the poem itself is one of “dismal
death” and “corpse-fire,” of “men killing and men killed,” of “vile things” and “vile destiny,” shows that, like other epic wellsprings,
such as the Old Testament, most of which postdates Homer, it is more knowing in its awareness of humanity’s most distinguishing
trait — inhumanity — than literature of later ages. What came to be called “psychology” more than 2,000 years after Homer has
been largely a degeneration from, rather than an advancement of, that awareness.

Joe Queenan writes about the voracious reading habits that induce him to concurrently read dozens of books:

Friends say that I suffer from a short attention span, but exactly the opposite is true. I do not stop reading books because I lose
interest in them; if anything, I have too long an attention span, one that allows me to read dozens of books simultaneously without
losing interest in any of them. Moreover, I have an excellent memory that allows me to suspend reading, pick up a book six months
later, and not miss a beat. A chess player once told me that a good memory is a cheap trick that creates a deceptive aura of
intelligence around an otherwise ordinary intellect. This is true.

I used to suffer from this same ailment.  I needed an unremitting cacophony of narrators.  I read by whim because I could not
resist new discoveries.  My problem was that I only finished a handful of the books I started.  These days I tend to read only
one at a time.  If I am unsatisfied with a book, for whatever reason (obtrusive style, inept plot), I give up and don't finish it.  
However, I am much more diligent in choosing what I read because each book read means one more book I can't read.  
There is only so much time in my life and that time will only allow me to read a finite amount of books.  This method strikes
me as a little too practical, like something Ben Franklin would come up with -- "A completed book increases the account" --
but I have had great success this year, my year of free reading.  I've already completed over fifty books, probably triple what
I would have finished in the past when I would have started a hundred and finished only a dozen.  Onward I read.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers comments.

Saturday, August 5, 2006
I'm smoking cigarettes in the kitchen and the air is so still that the smoke just hangs here, floating, gently flowing out the
screen door, a wispy brook.  There's a beauty in smoke that still mystifies me.  Here's some more smoking lit for today:

Kenneth Grahame's
Pagan Papers contains a little essay, "On Smoking" (as well as some other wonderful pieces: check out
"Loafing" and "Marginalia") that denigrates the cigarette to praise the pipe:

Concerning Cigarette Smoking: It hath been well observed by a certain philosopher that this is a practice commendable enough, and
pleasant to indulge in, ``when you're not smoking''; wherein the whole criticism of the cigarette is found, in a little room. Of the
same manner of thinking was one that I knew, who kept by him an ample case bulging with cigarettes, to smoke while he was
filling his pipe. Toys they be verily, nugæ, and shadows of the substance. Serviceable, nevertheless, as shadows sometimes be
when the substance is temporarily unattainable; as between the acts of a play, in the park, or while dressing for dinner: that such
moments may not be entirely wasted.

And on smoking a pipe:

there are certain halcyon periods sure to arrive -- Sundays, holidays, and the like -- the whole joy and peace of which are summed
up in that one beatific pipe after breakfast, smoked in a careless majesty like that of the gods ``when they lie beside their nectar, and
the clouds are lightly curled.'' Then only can we be said really to smoke. And so this particular pipe of the day always carries with it
festal reminiscences: memories of holidays past, hopes for holidays to come; a suggestion of sunny lawns and flannels and the
ungirt loin; a sense withal of something free and stately, as of ``faint march-music in the air,'' or the old Roman cry of ``Liberty,
freedom, and enfranchisement.''

Today I've begun a separate page on literature devoted to the pleasures of smoking, Pipe and Book.  I have included
Grahame's entire piece and will add more to this page as the smoke drifts on.

And if smoking brings a frown to your face, here's a sanctimonious anti-tobacco screedfor your reading pleasure, Vanity, All
Is Vanity, a lecture on Tobacco and its effects:

TOBACCO EATERS! Is the most appropriate name for the users of Tobacco; as much so as the vile disgusting loathsome green
worm that swallows the poison leaf into its stomach. For the poison of the quid and the smoke is taken up by the blood vessels and
absorbents of the mouth, and carried into the circulation, even in a more virulent form than if introduced by the stomach.

In Vanitas,

The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments

Friday, August 4, 2006
To show you how current we are at The Bibliothecary, how "in tune" we are with what's going on in our fragile world, we
present you with some
breaking news on the Samuel Johnson Dictionary story:

According to new research by a leading expert on the dictionary, rather than working slowly but steadily with his assistants on the
dictionary for the full nine years, Dr Johnson became completely bogged down in the work, realised he would miss his deadline,
and simply abandoned the job, ignoring increasingly frantic messages from his commissioning editors. . . . In the end, she contends,
he finished the dictionary in just over two years with only two assistants.

What does this mean?  It means Johnson is an even greater lexicographer than we thought.  He worked on the dictionary for
two years with six assistants, then finished it in two years with two assistants.  He wrote the dictionary in four years.  That's
FOUR YEARS!  How long did it take the
French Academy to write their dictionary?  And the delightful footnote to this
news?  While avoiding the dictionary project, Johnson was busy writing
The Rambler (anonymously):

"The melancholy tone of the Rambler has often been commented on, and the early volumes are full of essays about idleness,
indolence and guilt over work undone."

I just found out there is a posthumous F.X. Toole novel, Pound for Pound.  Toole's collection of stories, Rope Burns,
including "Million Dollar Baby," was so fantastic that when I finished, I turned back to page one and read it all again.  I had
no idea he had finished a novel before his death.  Apparently he brought his 900 page opus to the hospital with him just
before he died.  It has, thankfully, been edited and released.  Maureen Corrigan
reviewed it on NPR.  And Toole also left
behind a
trove of writings that have yet to see the light of day.  You can hear another NPR piece about Toole from 2000 and
interview on Fresh Air.

And more breaking news:

They looked the picture of innocence. But behind the scenes of The Wizard of Oz, the actors playing the munchkins were said to be
indulging in drunken orgies. Now Irvine Welsh has turned their story into a play - and sparked a storm

Three words: munchkin drunken orgies.  How can you not read this piece?


The Bibliothecary always welcomes comments about its breaking news coverage.

Thursday, August 3, 2006
Some spectacular images at this site:
The Fantastic in Art and Fiction.  The
Possession and Insanity
illustrations are
especially unsettling, such as the "Attaque
Demoniaque" on the right.  And the
Freaks, Monsters and Prodigies
contains the beauty below:

                                                             Cyclopic horses have always been a
                                                             particular fear of mine.

And be sure you practice your ancient Greek for tomorrow.  Via PhiloBiblos comes a report that the Archimedes Palimpsest
will be unveiled in a
live webcast tomorrow, 4 pm PDT.  For more on the Palimpsest you can listen to this report from
NPR's All Things Considered, "A Prayer Book's Secret: Archimedes Lies Beneath."  Of course, the Palimpsest has its own
website, as well.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006
The Yale Alumni Magazine interviews three scholars about the contents of Shakespeare's will.  Harold Bloom had this to say
about the enigmatic "second best bed" bequest:

"I gyve unto my wief my second best bed"
Harold Bloom:
It is the most debated bequest in literary history. The speculation arose because theirs was a shotgun marriage, as all the world
knows. Susanna was born six months after the marriage was legally recorded. One can surmise, surely, that it was not a flaming
love relationship. He goes off to London to seek his fortune, and he seems to have averaged several trips home a year. But whatever
the difficulties had been, if they existed, the two were reconciled by the end of his life: he was living at home with her. And as
impish as he could be, it is hard to believe that, in a will, one would include such a palpable irony.

The online edition of this article doesn't include the illustrations, but you can see jpgs of all three pages of the will here, as well
as a transcript. Yale is hosting the "
Searching for Shakespeare" exhibit, which I posted about earlier this year.  I'm hoping to
make a day trip with a couple friends this month.  I'd love to see the
Chandos portrait.

And to keep alive the funerary theme of the past couple days, check out Huggable Urns, stuffed animals or pillows that hold
the ashes of the deceased.  But no teddy bear for Big Daddy:

Please note: The Teddy Bears, Dog and Cat are made to hold smaller portions, where as the pillows will hold the remains of an adult.

I'm not sure what my ghost would be more upset about:  my toasted remains stuffed into a cuddly "Cocoa Angel Teddy
Bear" or my cremated bones stuffed in a pillow on the second best bed .


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' last requests.
The Omnigatherum

The Bibliothecary

Pipe and Book
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Crime scene sketch of "the cabin"
at Woodman's Lee, near Forest Row in Sussex
Friday, July 5, 1895
Stasys Eidrigevicius' poster for a Polish
production of
Titus Andronicus