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Saturday
Nov222008

The Saturday Idler, No 7

If you're not at the Philly Poe House this afternoon listening to Rob Velella talk about the Poe-Longfellow War, then here are a few things you may find enjoyable:

Burkhard Bilger writes in the New Yorker about the brewing of exceptional beer.

Michael Dirda in the NYRB on Paul Auster.

Michael Wood in the LRB on Franz Kafka's "Office Writings."

Tony Perrottet in The Smart Set on the Holy Guide to Coital Positions (hilarious).

Christopher Benfey in TNR on Thornton Wilder's letters.How to idle on a Saturday

And thanks to Swierczy for passing along the time-consumingest website of all time, the Life Magazine photo archive.  Millions of photos to browse.  I searched pipe smoking for the image on the right.

So if you can't be in Philly for an Edgar Allan Poe lecture, then put up your feet, fire up that pipe and enjoy some reading. 

Saturday
Nov222008

Let me hear you, Books

A little Bibliaudio goodness for your Saturday:

Over at CrimeWAV, you can listen to Sarah Weinman's story, "Blooming," read by Mae Breakall, or Dave White read his own "Limp Puppets" and lots more.

Lots of interesting podcasts from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, like Spring Heeled Jack, Boudicca, Charles Isham (inventor of the garden gnome), James Murray, Ian Fleming, Alice Liddell (Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland), Helene Hanff, Jimi Hendrix and Dr Crippen. 

 David Reynolds talks about his new book, Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson.

The Price of Fear hosted by Vincent Price is being rerun on BBC7 Radio.

Poetry from the Front Line reveals the new Wilfred Owens in an exploration of the verse written by soldiers and their families about the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Sunday
Nov162008

Christopher Darlington Morley

Three, count 'em three, Christopher Morley mentions on the web in the last week:

In Mobile, Alabama, John Sledge profiles the great American writer who has had a bookstore named after his novel, The Haunted Bookshop.

And Morley's first novel, Parnassus on Wheels, has inspired "Ezra the Bookfinder" (be sure to click on the photo atop the story) to roam the roads of Oregon selling books. This country needs more mobile bookstores.

And Scott Monty, who has recently begun posting again on his excellent Baker Street Blog, writes about Morley along with links to his appearances on an old radio program, Information Please. I'm looking forward to listening to these as I've never heard Morley's voice.

Some more Morley links for your enjoyment:

BooksDavid Terry's cover for the Common Reader edition

Morley books on Project Gutenberg, including my favorite, his Shandygaff essays.

Chimneysmoke (poems)

Sites about Morley

Michael Gilleland has put some of Morley's essays online.

The Morley Family Papers at Haverford College Libraries, which has a "Morley Alcove" in its Magill Library.

The Robert E Bason Collection of Christopher Morley at UC Santa Barbara.

The Christopher Morley Knothole Association at Bryant Park in New York.  The Knothole was the little shed behind Morley's home where he wrote.  It has been restored and moved to the park as a memorial. 

Morley, a man who knew how to drink, provided this drink recipe for So Red the Nose:

Swiss Family Manhattan Cocktail
2/3 Rye Whisky
1/3 Italian Vermouth
1 Dash Absinthe
Stir and Serve Excessively Cold

Whiskey, vermouth AND absinthe.  Now that's a serious drink!

And boy, would I love to have the Morley's The Book Detektive Kit. You can see more photos here.

Sunday
Nov162008

BSRB No 7: Drink up!

The Bibliothecary Sunday Review of Books brings you an afternoon of fine book reviews for your reading pleasure: unnecessary translations, decadent rock gods, Little Nell and drunken episodes.  Drink up!

Thank you, Alexander Theroux, for your review of Burton Raffel's new dumbed-down "translation" of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

For all of you like me who avidly read Stephen Davis' Hammer of the Gods as teenagers, Robert Sandall reviews When Giants Walked the Earth by Mick Wall, a new rockbio of Led Zep.

Peter Ackroyd plunges into the Sick City: 2,000 Years of Life and Death in London by Richard Barnett.

Joe Queenan writes about book reviews that are "unjustifiably enthusiastic."

AS Byatt rereads Dickens' Little Dorrit, which is being dramatized anew on the BBC.

Nicholas Lezard reviews a new edition of Boccaccio's Decameron.

David Orr waxes poetic over Ted Hughes' letters.

Bel Mooney on Dennis O'Driscoll's Heaney interviews, Stepping Stones.

David Flusfeder reviews yet another biography of Arthur Conan Doyle (like Shakespeare, there are never too many Doyle bios).

And speaking of new Shakesbios, here's Richard Eyre on Jonathan Bate's new one, Soul of an Age.

Daniel Mark Epstein writes about the American Bard, Walt Whitman and his brothers in Robert Roper's Now the Drums of War.

Maureen Corrigan includes Dave Zeltserman's Small Crimes in her noir roundup.  I'm hoping to get to Zeltserman's new one soon, as well.

Steven Rea on a book that looks fascinating, The Oxford Project by Stephen G. Bloom and Peter Feldstein.

And lastly today, the Guardian rounds up ten of the best drunken moments in literature.  Prosit!

Saturday
Nov152008

This Week's Books

Books acquired this week

A couple gifts from Swierczy (the man has a bibliophilic heart):

A Kiss before Dying by Ira Levin, a Pan Books pb with some really bizarre cover art.  I wonder what went through the artist's head when he decided that the gun, arrow-pierced heart dripping blood, high-rise building and clouds weren't enough and he needed a rainbow, as well.

The Spirit: Femmes Fatales by Will Eisner, a brand new reissue of 23 episodes from The Spirit comic strip.

I also finally picked up Shelley Costa Bloomfield's The Everything Guide to Edgar Allan Poe.  I was on the Poe panel with Shelley at Bouchercon and she was just terrific.  I'm looking forward to reading her book. 

From the library (I love my library card!):

The Dark Barbarian: the Writings of Robert E. Howard, a critical anthology edited by Don Herron.  Now that we've all heard Barrack Obama was/is a fan of Conan comics, maybe Conan will get some respect. 

Saturday
Nov152008

The Saturday Idler, No 6

It's a warm drizzly day here, perfect for just idling around. Firstly, let's look at some pictures:

Sarah sent this link to Grapefruit Moon Gallery, Original Art from the Grand Age of American Illustration, and it's just, well, grand. I could spend all day paging through these.

If history is your game, Bloomsbury Auctions has a catalogue flash version of their Jay T Snider collection, featuring the History of Philadelphia and Important Americana. This stuff goes up for sale next week.

Or on Google Earth, you can download their Ancient Rome 3D and roam the streets of the Caesars.

But enough of these pictures, let's do some reading on a lazy Saturday afternoon:

In Sept, David Gessner wrote about being a writer in captivity, that is, the captivity of Academia, as more and more writers find havens as professors.

Joanna Weiss wrote about the lack of conflict or strife in contemporary princess fairy tales. As a father of five daughters, this has been all too obvious to me.

And Katherine Mangu-Ward writes a fascinating piece on sci-fi publisher, Tor Books.

But what's really needed today is a good book about literature, so how about we settle down with a little Edmund Gosse: Some Diversions of a Man of Letters. Just check out the Table of Contents, some worthwhile reading in the company of Gosse:

Preface: On Fluctuations of Taste 1
The Shepherd of the Ocean 13
The Songs of Shakespeare 29
Catharine Trotter, the Precursor of the Bluestockings 37
The Message of the Wartons 63
The Charm of Sterne 91
The Centenary of Edgar Allen Poe 101
The Author of "Pelham" 115
The Challenge of the Brontës 139
Disraeli's Novels 151
Three Experiments in Portraiture—  
I. Lady Dorothy Nevill 181
II. Lord Cromer 196
III. The Last Days of Lord Redesdale 216
The Lyrical Poetry of Thomas Hardy 231
Some Soldier Poets 259
The Future of English Poetry 287
The Agony of the Victorian Age 311

That's all for me.  In a little while I'll be heading up to New York to have dinner with my oldest daughter.  In the meantime, enjoy your pipe!

Saturday
Nov152008

The Book Trib

The Book Trib is a new litblog that attempts to serve as a clearing house for all book-related news and reviews:

BookTrib is a full service portal dedicated to bringing all the news, blog, sites, and information about books, writers, and readers under one link. One place to stay up-to-date about the world of books and everything related to them. If it's about books, it's on BookTrib. The first and only book-o-sphere. Read, watch, listen, and click to minute by minute updates from all over the web, find out about new releases, and contribute your own commentary. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If it’s getting blogged about or reported on it’s all here.

Looks good so far, but they don't have a link yet for The Bibliothecary.  Huh?  What's a book-o-sphere that doesn't include a blog with a fancy sounding name like Bibliothecary?

Saturday
Nov152008

The Last Dickens

From Matthew Pearl, a preview of his next novel, The Last Dickens, to be published early next year:

THE LAST DICKENS.

Boston, 1870. When news of Charles Dickens's untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields & Osgood, partner JAMES OSGOOD sends his trusted clerk, Daniel Sand, to await Dickens's unfinished novel. But when Daniel's body is discovered by the docks and the manuscript is nowhere to be found, Osgood must embark on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel that will save his venerable business and reveal Daniel's killer.

Danger and intrigue abound on the seaward journey to England, for which Osgood has chosen Rebecca Sand, Daniel's older sister, to help clear her brother's name and achieve their singular mission. As they attempt to uncover Dickens's final mystery, Osgood and Rebecca find themselves racing the clock through a dangerous web of literary lions and drug dealers, sadistic thugs and blue bloods--and competing members of Dickens's inner circle. They soon realize that understanding Dickens's lost ending is a matter of life and death, and the hidden to key to stopping a murderous mastermind.

... THE LAST DICKENS will be published MARCH 17, 2009 in the US and a few weeks earlier, in February 2009, in the UK. I consider the novel as the thematic finale for THE DANTE CLUB and THE POE SHADOW. As some readers of THE DANTE CLUB will remember, James Osgood, the protagonist of the new book, was a minor character in THE DANTE CLUB. Look for other appearances from characters of THE DANTE CLUB and important ties to THE POE SHADOW, too.

 You can see the cover art for the US version here and the UK version here.  Of course, I love the UK one with its Victorian-like illustrations.  I wish the book itself contained these illustrations, but maybe that's asking for too much. 

Saturday
Nov152008

"the pale student of unhallowed arts"

I was thrilled to read these two pieces about one of my favorite novels, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Charles E. Robinson has painstakingly assembled the author's original version of the novel from her notebooks. And when I say painstakingly, I mean it. It took Robinson two years to slowly unweave the editorial additions of Mary's husband, Percy, to reveal the text that Mary first wrote. I can't wait to read it:

All told, Robinson identified about 3,000 words that Percy wrote into Mary's draft. Add that tally to changes that Percy is known to have made later, during the run-up to publication, and you have a total of about 5,000 words of Percy's in a 72,000-word novel . . .

To figure out on the minutest level which changes were Percy's and which were Mary's, Robinson got down to the DNA of the handwriting, a process he began more than 10 years ago in his work on the facsimile edition of the Notebooks.

He determined, for instance, that the writing couple had distinctively different ways of writing the letter W. "Mary's had a shorter medial upstroke than Percy's," he says. "Mary's only goes halfway up." The couple often used different kinds of lines to strike through words, too. How could Robinson tell? "The proof lies in the fact that the pen and the ink are the same as in the places where Percy is making word changes."

Read more about Robinson's edition, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, The original two-volume novel of 1816–1817 from the Bodleian Library Manuscripts by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (with Percy Bysshe Shelley) in "The Birth of Frankenstein" by Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle Review and "Who Wrote the Original Frankenstein" by Lynda Pratt in the TLS.

Sunday
Nov092008

BSRB No 6: the Plethoric Edition

A plethoric edition of the Sunday Bibliothecary Review of Books today.  Imagine a book review section bursting with all these delights.  You would do nothing else with your Sunday but read, and then rush out to buy some of them.  And then read all night. 

Sarah Weinman reviews Louis Bayard's new historical mystery, The Black Tower, featuring the iconic detective, Eugène François Vidocq. I've been dying to get to this one.

Tom Shippey reads the immense new novel from Neal Stephenson, Anathem.

Adam Kirsch delves into Roberto Bolaño's final novel, 2666 for Slate and Jonathan Lethem does the same for the NY Times.

Ben Ratliff reviews Ted Gioia's Delta Blues:The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music.

Peter Stevenson on Donald Halls' memoir, Unpacking the Boxes. I used to read a lot of Hall, but have neglected him the last few years. Time to get reacquainted.

Wyatt Mason writes about how Tennessee Williams' plays are so strong that they overwhelm the film directors of his work.

Janet Street-porter reviews Michael Deeley's tell-all memoir of his movie-producing days in Blade Runners, Deer Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off.

Jack Lynch on Fred Kaplan's Lincoln: the Biography of a Writer. Lincoln, you know, loved Edgar Allan Poe's works. I wonder what Obama thinks of Poe.

Josephine Hart waxes rhapsodic about poetry to Melissa Katsoulis. Imagine if poetry held a central place in American culture. Never happen, I wept.

Michael Dirda reviews the epistolary friendship of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.

Eric Brown's capsule review of Memoirs of the Master Forger by William Heaney makes me want to pick this one up right away.

Oliver Taplin goes on a mythical journey with Robin Lane Fox's Travelling Heroes: Greeks and their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer.

Simon Callow on his love affair with books and the London Library.

And don't miss Dennis O'Driscoll's interview with fellow Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. A clip:

How important is experiment to you?

Each poem is an experiment. The experimental poetry thing is not my thing. It's a programme of the avant-garde; basically a refusal of the kind of poetry I write. The experiment of poetry, as far as I am concerned, happens when the poem carries you beyond where you could have reasonably expected to go. The image I have is from the old cartoons: Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse coming hell for leather to the edge of a cliff, skidding to a stop but unable to halt, and shooting out over the edge. A good poem is the same, it goes that bit further and leaves you walking on air.

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