The Bibliothecary
October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006
For your Halloween pleasure:

The Little Professor has
some great links to 19th Century horrors.

And Paul Collins has written a fascinating piece in The Believer, "The Molecatcher's Daughter," about the Red Barn Murder
of 1827, focusing on the London journalist James Curtis' coverage of the murder of Maria Marten by William Corder:

Curtis was the original shoe-leather reporter, with an encyclopedic intimacy with the streets of London and its denizens that came
from an absolute horror of any form of locomotion save walking; he utterly refused to use a horse or coach.

Curtis was the Capote of his day, getting into the head of the murderer, so as to better tell the story:

Curtis had hired out the very inn room that William Corder had been kept in overnight after his arrest. “I had only to withdraw the
milk-white curtains of my bed of down, to behold the canopy which lately surmounted the head of that guilty man on the last night
he ever saw his natal village. I had heard of his groanings and tossings to and fro, and in imagination I heard them re-echoed, and
the chain which fastened his murderous arm to the bedpost seemed to clank in my ear.” He could hear
Corder’s voice in his ear because he really had been
hearing Corder’s voice. Along with interviewing local
families and witnesses, Curtis had befriended the
accused himself. Slowly, as Corder sat in his
wretched cell and began to trust the reporter, his story
began to emerge.

You can find a lot more information about the
murder and its trial
at this site, including pictures of
a bust of Corder, a piece of Corder's scalp and
(very creepy) a book containing Curtis' account of
the murder BOUND IN CORDER'S SKIN.  
There was also an
NPR piece on Collins' Believer
essay and a link to
this broadside ballad, "The
Murder of Maria Marten:"

I went into her father's house the 18th day of May,
Saying, my dear Maria, we will fix the wedding day.

If yon will meet me at the Red barn, as sure as I have life,
I will take you to Ipswich town, and there make you my wife;
I then went home and fetched my gun, my pickaxe and my spade,
I went into the Red-barn, and there I dug her grave.

With heart so light, she thought no harm, to meet me she did go,
He murdered her all in the barn, and laid her body low;
After the horrid deed was done, she lay weltering in her gore,
Her bleeding mangled body he buried, under the Red-barn floor.

And perhaps the creepiest detail of all, after Corder murdered Marten and moved to London, he placed a personal ad in the
papers seeking a wife.  Paul Collins
provides the ad and several of the responses Corder received:

I reply to your advertisement in the Sunday Times. I take the liberty of informing you that I am of a respectable family; my papa
having seen a reverse of fortune, has occasioned my mamma to enter into a boarding-house at ——, which, if it meets with your
approbation, will thank you to call tomorrow evening between four and five o’clock, as it will be the most likely time of seeing me.
I have a sister at home with me, who is twenty-one; my age is twenty-two. I must beg to excuse this bad writing, as it is done in

Little did she know how well-founded was her fear.

More creepy horror links tomorrow.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, October 29, 2006
It's my birthday today, 39 years old, last year to not be forty.  I'm not complaining, though.  Youth was nice, but I've always
wanted to be
older.  Age suits my temperament much better.  And I was so dumb when I was young (not that I'm such a
genius now).  If nothing else, I'm so much smarter.  Not sure if I'm any wiser yet, but time will tell.  My wife surprised me
with a new car today (although we pick it up tomorrow), which I've been wanting since mine died in July on our trip to the
shore.  And I guess you know you're getting old when a new
minivan is totally exciting, exactly what I want.  The last few
months we haven't owned a vehicle that could fit everyone in our family (7).  So for my birthday today, I'd just like to thank
all of the wonderful bloggers and reviewers out there on the Wild World of Internet who keep me informed and entertained
day in, day out.  And thanks to all the readers who tune in here for whatever tidbits I scrounge from the web.  I'm currently
working on a new blogsite with all the blog bells and whistles (live comments, permalinks, RSS feed, etc) and hopefully it will
be up and running in the next couple weeks.  Stay tuned.

For your reading pleasure today, be sure to check out
this review by my friend Rich DiDio on 54 by Wu Ming, a collective
name for five Italian writers:

With farcical, nonsubtle subtlety, Wu Ming does introduce a plot device to help move the story along: the theft of a TV from an
Allied military base. The TV is a McGuffin Electric, which Wu Ming anthropomorphizes into a recurring character.
Written in very short, fast-paced chapters, 54's action is almost filmlike. At first I found the style jarring, and assumed the chapters
were individual contributions from separate members - five ultracompetitive authors in search of an editor. But I soon adapted to the
rhythm, and was pulled into the Wu Ming maelstrom, buying everything from Cary Grant's spycraft to a thinking TV, thanks to the
ultimate cohesiveness of the narrative.

You read that right, Cary Grant as a spy.  Hitchcock also makes an appearance, as do Tito, Grace Kelly and Lucky
Luciano.  This book sounds like a real trip.  You can check out Rich's website,
FractaLog, too, including more of his book

And for now, I think I'll just sit back, smoke a pipe and wait for the Eagles game to start.  Maybe a book will find its way
into my hands.  It's a good day for a birthday.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Saturday, October 28, 2006
I liked this excerpt from London: City of Disappearances by Marina Warner about the British history of the old hags and
shrews who inspired their folklore.  Used to be that pubs would bear the names of some of these women-- Old Mother Red
Cap and Mother Shipton-- but these names are disappearing from view and with them, their stories:

Does any of this matter? On the scale of things, hardly. But there are reasons for minding, apart from the general loss of memories
and stories that connect people and places. The new names have so little character compared to the old ones; when the old hags
drop from view, so does an idea of human vagaries and fates, of idiosyncratic and oddball people, with strange histories and
surprising fortunes - good and bad. Pub names and signs are some of the oldest surviving traces of exchanges and folklore in a
particular place. More and more names and phrases in the public arena are tied to adverts and commodities - global creep of
meanings for everybody and no one. They've gone because no pub owner wants to admit that there's any link between disreputable
winos and what they are selling. Perhaps they've disappeared, too, because we've become sensitive to the sight of derelicts with
their tins of Strongbow and plastic bagged bottles and don't want to be reminded. Perhaps the old hag is just too rude for the times.

And I love this.  The grandson of Ernest Hemingway has compiled a book of writers' drinking stories, Hemingway and
Bailey's Bartending Guide
, a sort of celebration of alcoholism, when alcoholics were still called drunks:

Robert Benchley chose orange blossoms as his poison. More gin, this time with fresh orange juice, simple syrup and a chunk of
fresh orange. One day when Benchley was sort of on the wagon, he started drinking the blossoms. F. Scott Fitzgerald, no shrinking
violet himself, warned his host that "Drinking is a slow death." Benchley, the king of wits, replied, "So, who’s in a hurry?"


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Another piece on Uncle Tom's Cabin in the NYTimes, this one a review by Edward Rothstein of the new annotated edition,
sides with the editor, Gates, in reminding readers of the many accomplishments of the novel:

“The failure of the protest novel,” Baldwin wrote — thinking, no doubt, too, of the ideological literature of his own era — “lies in its
rejection of life, the human being.” The protest novel wrongly insists that it is the characters’ “categorization alone which is real and
which cannot be transcended.”
Yet as the annotations point out, in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” the categorization is often meticulous. Conversations among slaves is
“very contemporary sounding and surprisingly accurate — almost anthropological.” Characters may reflect the era’s varied views
of slavery, but many of them possess distinctive voices as well. This is how Stowe writes a protest novel that is also moving.

When I finally read Uncle Tom's Cabin a few years ago, I was struck by its emotional impact.  It didn't bring tears to my
eyes, but I think that is only because I wasn't raised on the stylistic conventions of a 19th century sentimental novel.  
Contemporary novels achieve their emotional impact in different ways.  As for Uncle Tom, his Christ-like acquiescence to
abuse and injustice is very moving.  I don't agree with his attitude towards life's oppressors (nor Jesus'), but that doesn't
make his victimization any less tragic.  Of course, I'm not an African American fighting for my basic Civil Rights in segregated
America, as was James Baldwin and many others who criticized the book.  I'm not surprised that they would object to a
character like Uncle Tom.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, October 23, 2006
Peter Ackroyd has a new novel, The Fall of Troy, in which he has used Heinrich Schliemann as inspiration.  Barry
Unsworth writes an
interesting review of it:

It is Peter Ackroyd's remarkable achievement, in this complex and fascinating novel, to take a figure who was already a legend in
his own lifetime, and recreate him as a creature of myth; indeed, an epic hero, able to shape truth to his vision, to call on the powers
of the gods still residing among the ruins of the city. His Heinrich Obermann - a name for a demigod - has one unswerving goal: all
his being is concentrated on demonstrating to the world, in the teeth of general opinion to the contrary, that Homer's account of the
Trojan war is a true relation of events and that the Trojan warriors were Europeans, not Asians, and of noble race.

I've always loved the strange junction between fact and fiction in Ackroyd's novels, the authentic forgery of life.  

And check out this very interesting interview with Esther Schor on NPR.  Schor has written a new biography about Emma
Lazarus, the poet who penned the famous "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" lines at the Statue of
Liberty.  It really is a magnificent sonnet:

You can find more of her poems at
Project Gutenberg.  I had never read her stuff and didn't find much to like in Volume 1.  
Just the expected bombastic Victorian claptrap:

Vol 2, Jewish Poems: Translations seemed to be worthwhile.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, October 22, 2006
In the NYTimes, Henry Louis Gates revisits Harriet Beecher Stowe's character, "Uncle Tom," but also offers a sharp critique
of James Baldwin.  A fine piece.  If you read only one thing today, this is it:

When I returned to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” not long ago, it struck me as far more culturally capacious — and sexually charged —
than either Baldwin or the 60’s militants had acknowledged. Half a century after Baldwin denounced it as “a very bad novel” in its
“self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality” and promotion of feminine tears and anguish as a form of political protest, both the novel
and Baldwin’s now canonical critique are ripe for reassessment.

For some more fine Sunday reading, check out Michael Dirda's review of Goncharov's Oblomov in a new translation by
Stephen Pearl:

"Oblomov's Dream" makes up the whole of chapter nine, and was, in fact, published by itself (in a magazine) long before the novel
came out. Just on its own, this reminiscence of things past offers 37 of the most wonderful pages you will ever read. Oblomov's
memories of the sleepy summer days and cozy winter nights of his childhood waft us into an Edenic paradise of "placid and
unruffled calm," a world where nobody really does anything at all. After a heavy lunch, nearly every living thing falls into an
afternoon slumber until teatime, as if a fairy had passed a wand over the estate. People doze away the decades.

That all sounds so wonderful.  I've long promised myself that one of these years I'm going to take a few months and read
only Russian novels.  A more fanciful version of this promise is learning Russian and then reading the books.  "Perhaps one
day," is about all I
can promise.

And I have a review of Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons in the Philly Inq today.  Did I love it as did Michael Blake in the
LA Times ("rare in many ways and occupies a literary plane of such height that reviewing it is not really salient") or did I hate
it as did Stephen Metcalf
in Slate ("Really, what a disgrace").  Readers, wonder no longer.   


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Saturday, October 21, 2006
Saturday is a good day for adventure.  So today, I once again bring you . . . Pirates!  Over at Project Gutenberg, you can
find The Pirates' Who's Who, Giving Particulars of the Lives & Deaths of the Pirates & Buccaneers by Philip Gosse
(1924, I think).  From the Preface:

Surely pirates, taking them in their broadest sense, are as much entitled to a biographical dictionary of their own as are clergymen,
race-horses, or artists in ferro-concrete, who all, I am assured, have their own "Who's Who"? Have not the medical men their
Directory, the lawyers their List, the peers their Peerage? There are books which record the names and the particulars of musicians,
schoolmasters, stockbrokers, saints and bookmakers, and I dare say there is an average adjuster's almanac.

I dare say, damn those average adjusters.  Keel-haul 'em, the scurvy rogues!  Also included are these pirate rules, "the
articles drawn up by the crew of Captain John Phillips on board the

1.Every man shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full Share and
a half in all Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain and Gunner shall have one
Share and quarter.

2.If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he
shall be marroon'd with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small
Arm, and Shot.

3.If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game, to the value of a
Piece of Eight, he shall be Marroon'd or shot.

4.If at any Time we should meet another Marrooner (that is, Pyrate,) that Man
that shall sign his Articles without the Consent of our Company, shall suffer
such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.

5.That Man that shall strike another whilst these Articles are in force, shall
receive Moses's Law (that is 40 Stripes lacking one) on the bare Back.

6.That Man that shall snap his Arms, or smoak Tobacco in the Hold, without a
cap to his Pipe, or carry a Candle lighted without a Lanthorn, shall suffer the
same Punishment as in the former Article.

7.That Man that shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for an Engagement, or neglect
his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and suffer such other Punishment
as the Captain and the Company shall think fit.

8.If any Man shall lose a Joint in time of an Engagement, shall have 400 Pieces of Eight; if a limb, 800.

9.If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer present

Hey, what about always giving succour to women in distress.  Peter Blood would've had that rule.  And how about no. 8?  
How would you define a
joint?  Is it just a hunk of flesh?  You can also find a list of "Some Famous Pirate Ships, with their
Captains" at the end of Gosse's text.  My favorite ship names:  

de Soto's
Black Joke (that's just so cool)
Batchelor's Delight (what else would call a ship full o' lusty fightin' men)
Night Rambler (another totally cool one)
Sudden Death (how can you fight against Sudden Death!?)
Happy Delivery (Oh, goody, a Happy Delivery off the port bow!)  Caraccioli's Childhood (Huh?)

And if
Childhood isn't a strange enough name for a pirate ship, Caraccioli's entry in the Who's Who is even stranger.  Turns
out he was a renegade priest turned proselytizing atheist:

CARACCIOLI, Signor, alias D'Aubigny.
An Italian renegade priest, who became an atheist, Socialist, and revolutionist, and was living at Naples when Captain Fourbin
arrived there in the French man-of-war Victoire.
Caraccioli met and made great friends with a young French apprentice in the ship, called Misson, and a place was found for him on
board. The ex-priest[Pg 74] proved himself to be a brave man in several engagements with the Moors and with an English warship,
and was quickly promoted to be a petty officer.
Caraccioli, by his eloquence, soon converted most of the crew to believe in his theories, and when Captain Fourbin was killed in an
action off Martinique with an English ship, Misson took command and appointed the Italian to be his Lieutenant, and continued to
fight the English ship to a finish. The victorious crew then elected Misson to be their captain, and decided to "bid defiance to all
nations" and to settle on some out-of-the-way island. Capturing another English ship off the Cape of Good Hope, Caraccioli was put
in command of her, and the whole of the English crew voluntarily joined the pirates, and sailed to Madagascar. Here they settled,
and the Italian married the daughter of a black Island King; an ideal republic was formed, and our hero was appointed Secretary of
Eventually Caraccioli died fighting during a sudden attack made on the settlement by a neighbouring tribe.

Happy sailing,

The Bibliothecary always welcomes a Happy Delivery.

Thursday, October 19, 2006
A little break today to look at my favorite
songwriter.  At Snap Galleries in
Birmingham, England, there's an
of Eric Meola's photographs of Bruce
Springsteen, circa 1975.  Meola took the
shot on the cover of
Born to Run.  I can't
make the trip across the pond, but I can
look at the
images online.  There are some
great, great photos here (be sure to click on
the information button under each picture to
read about its creation), including the one
on the right which they eventually used for
Greatest Hits album cover (I have an
old poster of this shot used as an advert
for a show at the Bottom Line in the 70s),
but thank god they didn't use
this one for
an album cover.

Cosmo Landesman writes about the song,
Born to Run," in the London Times, but Landesman's story about his own conception during a threesome is a little too much
information for me.  Kind of creepy.  And it doesn't add to my appreciation of the song.

You can listen to Bruce talk about making the album on NPR.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Anthony Grafton writes in the New Yorker about the history of professors in his review of William Clark's Academic
Charisma and the Origins of the Research University

Not that long ago, universities played a very different role in the public imagination, and top academics seemed to glitter as they
walked. At a Berlin banquet in 1892, Mark Twain, himself a worldwide celebrity, stared in amazement as a crowd of a thousand
young students “rose and shouted and stamped and clapped, and banged the beer-mugs” when the historian Theodor Mommsen
entered the room

I, of course, still dream that this kind of intellectual adoration will happen again . . . to myself one day.

A very funny piece by Nora Ephron on how Steve Wynn poked his elbow through Picasso's painting, Le Reve.  A painting,
I might add, that Wynn had just sold for $139 million (that's $139,000,000 with all of its zeroes).  So what do you say when
you as rich as Steve Wynn and you poke a hole in a painting worth a kazillion (layman's term for a number with a lot of
zeroes) dollars:

"Oh shit," he said. "Look what I've done."
The rest of us were speechless.
"Thank God it was me," he said


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
J Godsey, who writes the indispensable Bibliophile Bullpen, has started to put together a blog of postage stamps that feature
literary figures,
Literary Stamps.  Of course, I love the Faulkner because he's smoking a pipe
(I wonder how many stamps feature someone with
a pipe?), but I also like the ones featuring Jane
novels, Tennyson, the Oscar Wilde ones
(especially the campy Dorian Gray), and this great
Robert Service stamp that commemorates
The Cremation of Sam McGee":

                                                                                           A couple months ago, there was
a piece on NPR about "Sam
                                                                                           McGee," including a reading of
                                                                                           the ballad.  But you have to listen
this reading of the poem by
                                                                                           the Man in Black, Johnny Cash.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, October 16, 2006
AN Wilson laments the loss of aesthetically pleasing books:

Do books have to be ugly? It is a question that poses itself almost every time one walks through one of the huge American-style
bookshops that are now the norm in this country, gazing with dismay at the heaps of ugly dust-wrappers and book covers.

He should see the books in American American-style bookshops.  However, I do think the artwork on many dustjackets
makes for a pleasing experience.  The problem is in the bindings, which are mostly just cheap cardboard with flimsy stitching
and glue.  It used to be (this is my cranky old man voice) you only got the cheaply covered ones from bookclub
subscriptions, so much so that used book dealers would warn buyers with "bookclub edition" when cataloguing their wares.  
Nowadays (young whippersnappers) most of the new trade editions are barely discernible from the bookclub editions.  Of
course, none of this matters if you're just interested in the content.  And I've bought plenty of crappy editions for this
purpose.  But I do get a charge out of finding a lovely edition of a new book (Susanna Clarke's
The Ladies of Grace
) or a finely bound copy of a used book.  Reading them is a distinctly pleasurable experience (especially with a pipe of
good tobacco).

Brian Appleyard looks forward to the POD (that's print on demand) revolution that is a-comin' soon:

With luck, within five years your local Waterstone’s will have shrunk roughly to the size of a branch of Snappy Snaps. Books will
be a lot cheaper, and you will be able to buy anything published anywhere in the world. In fact, you probably won’t bother with
Snappystone’s at all. You will go into Starbucks, slip your credit card into a machine, order a book and grab a latte, which you will
finish just as your book completes its printing and binding process.

So get on board, hallelujah!  For years now I've toyed with the idea of starting my own press because of print on demand
technology.  My plan is to make the books available online, but also available to order in paper format signed by the author.  
This wouldn't be very profitable (if at all), but I would enjoy it.  What excites me is that I can't be the only person with this
idea and the greatest thing that could come about from the POD revolution is the return of small specialty presses.  Perhaps
The Omnigatherum Press will be among them.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, October 15, 2006
John Keenan, one of my professors from college died yesterday.  I say he was one of my professors, but I never took a
course with him.  I was among a group of students who spent time with him at school and would also seem him at poetry
readings and book events.  But John Keenan was one of my professors because of just one class on one day.  It was a
British Lit survey course that started with the Romantics and ended in the 20th century (we used the Norton Anthology of
Brit Lit Vol 2).  The usual teacher was absent that day, but instead of the day off that we were expecting, John Keenan was
going to fill in.  We were covering Joyce's "
The Dead" and I think we all counted on the standard lecture.  Instead, John
Keenan opened the book at the lectern and started to read the story in a lilting Irish accent.  I don't think there was any
introduction.  He just opened the book and read the story.  It took the entire fifty-minute period.  And I was mesmerized.  
No lecture, no textual analysis, no theoretical pursuit could have brought home the beauty of Joyce's prose than that simple,
powerful reading.  That story has remained etched in my mind from that day.  Thanks, John Keenan.  
Obit in the Inq.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Saturday, October 14, 2006
At Slate Stephen Metcalf gives a withering review of Thirteen Moons, Charles Frazier's much anticipated follow-up to Cold

Never have I encountered a work of fiction less willing to levy any psychic tax on its readers. Sleep easy, dear reader, it assures us,
in all its orotund little murmurs. The past makes no claim on you whatsoever. Sex, food, real estate—they would still be joyful, if
not for all the lawyerly pettifogging of so-called progress. Spiced jellies—why, they grew on the forest floors, and the slaves, they
laughed like jays!

Really, what a disgrace.

That's a Poe-style tomahawking.  You can read my review of Thirteen Moons in the Philly Inq on Sunday, Oct 22.  Did I
like it?  Do I deliver a Metcalfian scalping or do I hoist Frazier on my shoulders in triumph?  You'll have to wait and see.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Friday, October 13, 2006
Hey, I reread yesterday's post and I sounded like such a snot about the Penzler quiz.  "I scored pretty well."  "I even came
up with alternate answers."  "I had to research questions."  What a jackass.  I sounded completely insufferable.  I'm really not
such a smacked ass in person.  Really.

So anyway, question No. 11 of the quiz was "Who is the detective known only by his first name? And who is the best-
known detective known only by his last name?"  Penzler's answers were
Uncle Abner for the first named detective and
Father Brown for the last named.  I would never in a million years of come up with Uncle Abner, but I did come up with
Father Brown.  My alternates were Brother Cadfael for a first named detective and both Spenser and Columbo for last
named detectives.  Columbo is in dispute because in an early episode of the series he flashes his badge and if you watch it on
DVD on a really good television and you pause the picture, you can just make out the first name, Frank.  Although Frank is
never used in the series or any of the movies (I'm not sure about the books), some would say this qualifies as a first name.  
But who knows whose idea it was to put it on the ID card.  It could have just been the prop guy.  The name "Philip" as
Columbo's first name has long persisted, as well, but it is false.  Check out
this story about "Philip Columbo." And you can
check out this
Wikipedia page for a shot of "Frank" Columbo's badge.  I know all of this sounds really geeky, but I'd rather
be a geek than the snot of yesterday's post.

Yesterday's BibliOdyssey had some fantastic images from a bookshop in Prague:

These are just so spectacular.  I want posters of these.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes snotty or geeky comments.

Thursday, October 12, 2006
In the NYSun Otto Penzler has put together a tough mystery quiz.  I scored pretty well on it (16 of 20).  I even came up with
alternate answers for No. 11 (which Otto Penzler has approved), but I'll wait until tomorrow to reveal them, after you've
already taken the test (and of course, feel free to send me any of your own alternate answers).  The answers to the questions
are at the bottom of the quiz, but yesterday they were not, so I had to research the four questions I couldn't answer.  Some
of them are very obscure.

In his Crime Scene column last week Penzler wrote about "Berlin noir" novelist Philip Kerr:

Even more remarkably, the setting was Nazi Germany in 1936, not exactly the place one would expect to read about a wise-
cracking, self-deprecating private eye. Bernie Gunther made his debut in this pastiche, which was titled "March Violets." Drawn into
a case while still drunk from a wedding reception, he walks into a rich man's mansion and the butler attempts to take his hat. "I'll
hang on to it, if you don't mind," he says. "It'll help to keep my hands off the silver."
March violets, by the way, is the derisive term by which long-time Nazis referred to new party converts. With the Munich
Olympics as a backdrop, Gunther, a former member of Kripo, the German criminal police force, investigates a murder that leads
him to the hierarchy of the Nazi party.

I picked up March Violets at Whodunit Books in Philly a few months ago, but it has languished on my shelf.  Hopefully, I'll
finally be able to get to it (in between the four books I'm reading for review right now).  Isn't this the life?

I did manage to squeeze in my first crime novel in over a month, Declan Hughes' The Wrong Kind of Blood.  Hardboiled
detective in Dublin, Ireland.  The plot becomes a little complicated, but it was worth the time.  Grim throughout, very sad at
the end.  And very bloody.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I couldn't pass up sharing this one: a musical of printing press pioneer, Johannes Gutenberg, Gutenberg!  It's a grand
comedy written in the style of
Spamalot (meaning the songs are also parodies of musical numbers).  The story opens with
Gutenberg mourning his dead baby.  Dead because he is illiterate and what he thought was medicine was acutally jelly
beans.  He then goes on to change the course of world literacy.  Hilarity ensues. You can download some of
the songs, too.




The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Monday, October 9, 2006
In London there's an exhibition of Mervyn Peake's artwork:

                                      Best known for his Gormenghast trilogy of novels, Peake was
                                      an artist and writer of remarkable vision and imagination. This
                                      is the first Peake show in ten years with rare new material
                                      from the family archive including illustrations for Dickens’s
Bleak House, thought by many Peake scholars to be his
                                      best ever work.

                                      Here are the Bleak House illustrations.  And here's the
Modern World's page on Peake.

    Lady Deadlock

I was delighted to find this blog post on pipe
smoking at Imlac's Journal, including this quotation
from Thomas Carlyle:

Tobacco smoke is the one element in which, by
our European manners, men can sit silent together
without embarrassment, and where no man is
bound to speak one word more than he has actually                      
and veritably got to say. Nay, rather every man is                                           Mr Guppy
admonished and enjoined by the laws of honor, and
even of personal ease, to stop short of that point; and at all events to hold his peace and take to his pipe again the instant he has
spoken his meaning, if he chance to have any.

And I was equally delighted to find this eclectic and well-written blog, although I must admit an inherent prejudice, as the
blog is named after a Samuel Johnson character
Rasselas.  Some good posts here.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, October 8, 2006
Over at the Chronicle, Jennifer Howard pisses on the Frost-poem-discovery-parade:

For instance, Mr. Richardson pointed out, "the Amherst College Library has for 30 years been issuing various unpublished
materials" of Frost's. Just this past spring, the Friends of the Amherst College Library put out a pamphlet containing two previously
unknown Frost poems. Like "War Thoughts at Home," those two works -- "The Inscription in the Desert" and "Gone Astray" --
were jotted by the poet in books given to friends or acquaintances.

"It was a very common thing for him to inscribe books," Mr. Richardson said. "You'll find -- in the flyleaves of books that he made
gifts of to people -- letters, quips, notes to remark a particular occasion, and, on somewhat rarer occasions, poems."

No, Virginia, there is no Poetry Claus(e).

Peter Ackroyd reviews London: City of Disappearances, edited by Iain Sinclair.  Although I'm not sure if Ackroyd
reviews it or he just waxes rhapsodic on his own beloved vision of the city.  Either way, it sounds good:

So the past is rarely visible in London. The city devours its former incarnations, leaving not a wrack or wraith behind. It buries its
dead, and forgets where they lie. That is the source of its strength and its power. The living will in any case soon enough pass into
darkness. The city itself will always rise again. It will be renewed when those who read these words have utterly disappeared and
been forgotten.

Ed Pilkington interviews Martin Scorcese for the Guardian:

'Good and bad become very blurred," Scorsese says. "That is something I know I'm attracted to. It's a world where morality
doesn't exist, good doesn't exist, so you can't even sin any more as there's nothing to sin against. There's no redemption of
any kind."

And there's also a
Scorcese quiz, which I thought was pretty hard (I scored only 10 of 16).  My favorite question:

7. Scorsese changed writer Paul Schrader's original ending for Raging Bull. What climactic scene did he elect to ditch?

A scene in which a weeping La Motta attempts to masturbate in his prison cell
A musical sequence in which a grinning La Motta dances on stage with Ginger Rogers and a pantomime horse  
A dream scene in which a decrepit Jake La Motta regains the middleweight title by defeating "Marvellous" Marvin Hagler  
A scene in which a drunken La Motta is beaten to a pulp by his vengeful wife  

Knowing Paul Schrader's films, I should have guessed this one correctly (but didn't).


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Saturday, October 7, 2006
Saturday, already?  This week just blew past me.  Battled a head cold for most of it (still not a hundred percent) and barely
cracked a book.  I did finish my review of
Thirteen Moons for the Inq and I'll let you know when that one will run.  Had
another pleasant visit with
Frank Wilson yesterday.  It's always a pleasure when a conversation reels from non-
representational paintings to Joyce's
Ulysses to Richard Dawkins to home-repair-homicide-mysteries.  Thanks, Frank.  It's
always good to get out of the house, but when the company is as good as yours, I wish I got out more often.  I'll also picked
up my next assignment for review,
The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Susanna Clarke's follow-up to Jonathan Strange & Mr.
.  It's a thin volume of short stories utilizing the faery world of Strange & Norrell.  Beautifully packaged, as well, in
dark grey cloth with embossed black lettering and pink flowers.  It's also illustrated by
Charles Vess.  Can't wait to read it.  
Also for review, I picked up
The Further Adventures of Beowulf, Champion of Middle Earth, edited by Brian Thomsen
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.  My life is a joy.

It was also a banner day for book acquisitions, meaning I brought home a stack of books that I have absolutely no time to
read nor space to shelve.  But, I CAN'T STOP MYSELF.  That is not a cry for help.  Sometimes the
bibliomanic beast just
bursts forth.  Here's my embarrassment of riches:

From Harvest Books:
The Blind Barber by John Dickson
Carr (one of his
Dr Gideon Fell
A Dangerous Thing by Bill Crider
(featuring a pipe smoking English
professor, I couldn't pass this one
Heart of Darkness by Joseph
Conrad (Norton Critical edition)
Ben Jonson: Selected Masques
(Yale Ben Jonson)
The Devil Is an Ass and other
by Ben Jonson (Oxford World Classics edition)
Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Moore (Astor edition, Crowell, 1895-- Moore wrote some poems on the landscape
of the Philadelphia environs when he visited here in 1804)
The Shorter Strachey edited by Michael Holroyd and Paul Levy (I bought it for the piece on Thomas Love Beddoes, "The
Last Elizabethan")

I also picked up some VHS tapes:
The Searchers (
Dirty Harry (
The Long Goodbye (
The Hit (
Zulu (

And here's the new book haul:
Coronado, stories by Dennis Lehane
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield
The Man Who Tried to Clone Himself (Ig Nobel Prizes 2) by Marc Abrahams
From Stonehenge to Samarkand, an anthology of archaeological travel writing by Brian Fagan

And bow your heads for a moment.  On this day in 1949 at five o'clock in the morning, Edgar Allan Poe died.  


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Thursday, October 5, 2006
Scott McLemee writes about the new Frost poem, "War Thoughts at Home," published in the latest Virginia Quarterly
Review, but the poem can only be described because

Frost’s estate will permit quotation of only four lines of it without special permission. As it happens, each of the seven stanzas is
five lines long — so any excerpt will be that much more fragmentary.

You can however read the introduction to the poem by Robert Stilling who discovered it:

In 1918, Robert Frost inscribed a new poem, “War Thoughts at Home,” in a copy of North of Boston, his second book. In the
eighty-eight years since, the poem never quite resurfaced—until now. Published here for the first time, “War Thoughts at Home”
embodies the stories of two great friends in Frost’s life. The first was Edward Thomas—who died in the trenches during World
War I—and the poem narrates Frost’s ambivalence about the war that claimed Thomas’s life. The story of the other friend picks up
where the first leaves off. It is the story of a new beginning for Frost in his friendship with Frederic G. Melcher, a rising star in the
book trade, and it was Melcher who preserved this lost passage of Frost’s poetic thoughts about the war. By placing the stories of
these two friends side by side, we may begin to put this lost poem in context.

I was hoping some adventurous rogue would post the poem online, but no such luck yet.  

But something you can read online is Irish noir writer Ken Bruen's short story, "Loaded," (from London Noir) in the
Barcelona Review.  Here's the opening:

Blame the Irish.
I always do.
The fuckers don't care, they're used to it, all that Catholic guilt they inherit, blame is, like, habitual.   Too, all that rain they get?   
Makes them amenable to bad shit

I also notice they have a
short story from Steve Earle, "Wheeler County."

And if you live in the Philadelphia area, be sure to pick up a copy of the City Paper out today (it's a weekly) in one of their
street corner orange boxes.  I have a short review of Michael Cox's
The Meaning of Night in their Fall Book Quarterly.  Or
you can
read it online here.   


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Some visual stimulation for today:

There's a
first-rate review by Vanora Bennett
in the London Times of the biography,  
Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man
Derek Wilson:

Portraiture didn't really exist in England until the
German painter Hans Holbein the Younger showed
up in Henry VIII’s London in 1526, bringing
Renaissance techniques from Europe and a genius
for revealing on canvas the depths of his sitters’

The bio coincides with a Holbein exhibition at
Tate Britain.  The Oxford DNB is featuring
many of the images (although not all are in color).  
If you click on the painting you can read the DNB
entry for the sitter.  



The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006
It's been along couple days.  Up almost all night Sunday reading and writing the review of Meaning of Night, then up until
after 1 AM last night because the Eagles were on Monday Night Football.  Okay, so I slept through most of the fourth
quarter, but they were still McNabbulous.  Today, the children call.  So all I got for you are a few quick poetry links.  But
first, thank you to everyone who wrote to congratulate me on my first published review.  My wife cut it out of the paper and
framed it for me.  Onward.

In the NYSun, David Yezzi
profiles poet Daniel Hoffman (Philadelphian, but summers in Maine).

In the New Yorker, Adam Kirsch
writes about poet Hart Crane.

In the NYTimes, David Orr
reviews Stephen Fry's guide to writing verse, The Ode Less Travelled.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' comments.

Sunday, October 1, 2006
My first review for the Philadelphia Inquirer was published
today.  You can
read it here.  It's on Malory: The Knight Who
Became King Arthur's Chronicler
by Christina Hardyment.  I
have been meaning to write a more expanded review (I have a
lot more to say about the book than I was able to include in the
review) and hope to post it soon.  In the meantime, I have been
busy working on more reviews (Isn't it wonderful to say
working when all I'm doing is reading books and writing my
opinions about them): the new Charles Frazier novel,
Thirteen Moons, for the Inquirer, and Michael Cox's gothic, neo-
Victorian thriller,
The Meaning of Night, for the
Philadelphia City Paper's Fall Books Guide.  The latter has sucked
up my entire weekend.  700 pages in two days and a 500 word review.  
Hopefully, it will be finished by tomorrow, so I can then finish the Frazier

But enough about me.  Here are some other fine pieces for your Sunday reading pleasure:

Claire Tomalin
details the last years of Thomas Hardy's life:

Punctually at 10 he was in his study. It was at the back of the house, looking east and well placed over the warm kitchen, and it
was always dusty because he would not allow the housemaids to touch his papers or books. The walls were a faded pinkish red,
and he had hung his violin on the wall and put his cello in the corner. Round the fireplace were hung a framed sketch of Thackeray
and prints of Tennyson and Meredith, and on his plain writing table was an inkwell given him by his old friend Mrs Henniker and a
perpetual calendar fixed on Monday 7 March, marking his first meeting with Emma, his first wife. Most of the day was spent at this
table, thinking, writing, thinking again.

Geraldine McCaughrean writes about how she approached writing Peter Pan in Scarlet, the new sequel to J.M. Barrie's
Peter Pan:

Somewhere between 1906 and the millennium, Peter Pan became cute. If he knew, I think J. M. Barrie would squirm at it. Not for
nothing did he name his boy after the woodland god who trailed pandemonium and panic in his wake. Barrie’s Peter is an anarchist.
He does not greatly care about the consequences of his actions, because he lives in the present moment and readily forgets. He is
the boy who steals your daughter from her bed. He is the boy who can do without his mother. Oh, and he kills people.

And 19 writers give their vote for a book that has been "unfairly neglected" (although I'm not sure fairness has anything to do
it).  I've only heard of three or four of these picks, but I guess that's one of the reasons why they're neglected.  And I've been
thinking of doing another theme week here because the Shakespeare week went so well and it just may be a week of
neglected books and authors (which really means, books that I really like, but no one else bothers to read).  Stay tuned.


The Bibliothecary always welcomes readers' unfairly neglected comments.
The Omnigatherum

The Bibliothecary

Pipe and Book
Erasmus, 1523
Oil on wood, 43 x 33 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
And here's a
great Flicker
slideshow of
some vintage
Penguin, Pelican
and Peacock
Lego Gutenberg
No more rum-gut. The pirate method for the
perfect abs.
The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset fates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Yea, she hath looked Truth grimly face to face,
And drained unto the lees the proffered cup.
William Corder's death mask